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The Cambridge Prehistory of the Bronze and Iron Age Mediterranean
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Book description

The Cambridge Prehistory of the Bronze and Iron Age Mediterranean offers new insights into the material and social practices of many different Mediterranean peoples during the Bronze and Iron Ages, presenting in particular those features that both connect and distinguish them. Contributors discuss in depth a range of topics that motivate and structure Mediterranean archaeology today, including insularity and connectivity; mobility, migration, and colonization; hybridization and cultural encounters; materiality, memory, and identity; community and household; life and death; and ritual and ideology. The volume's broad coverage of different approaches and contemporary archaeological practices will help practitioners of Mediterranean archaeology to move the subject forward in new and dynamic ways. Together, the essays in this volume shed new light on the people, ideas, and materials that make up the world of Mediterranean archaeology today, beyond the borders that separate Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.


'A magnificently multi-faceted, intellectually challenging collection of scholarly voices and interpretations that matches the complexity and dynamism of the Bronze and Iron Age Mediterranean itself. This book will be a stimulus to fresh thinking in and beyond the Middle Sea for many years to come, as well as an ideal point of access for the less familiar.'

Cyprian Broodbank - John Disney Professor of Archaeology, University of Cambridge

'The Cambridge Prehistory of the Bronze and Iron Age Mediterranean is ambitious, comparative, thematic, challenging, informative and bang up-to-date, helping readers to grasp the similarities and diversity of Mediterranean communities and societies in the last two millennia BC. The clarity of presentation makes it a pleasure to read.'

Bob Chapman - University of Reading

'Widely ranging knowledgeable syntheses of Mediterranean later prehistory that are also theoretically informed are rare; those seeking not to shelter in a regional ghetto but engaging with wider archaeology and history rarer still. This welcome volume is all of the above, and thus both important and special.'

Sturt W. Manning - Goldwin Smith Chair of Classical Archaeology and Director of the Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies, Cornell University

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Page 1 of 2

  • 6 - Late Bronze Age Sardinia: Acephalous Cohesion
    pp 96-108
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    This chapter addresses the development of Mediterranean island prehistory from Gordon Childe to John Evans's watershed papers, and charts the emergence of a comparative and explicitly quantitative island archaeology, heavily informed by biogeography, in the 1980s and 1990s. If the dominance of Childe's legacy into the 1960s explains the failure of an explicitly insular Mediterranean archaeology to emerge, then the breakdown of the diffusionist paradigm likewise played a decisive role in its development. The chapter outlines critiques of Mediterranean island archaeologies posed in the 1990s and 2000s. Essential to the development of maturity within Mediterranean island prehistory has been the recognition that many causal factors must be combined, in order to account for the development of island lifeways. The chapter also presents the practical and heuristic consequences of different paradigms, and suggests future areas of development in Mediterranean island prehistory using data from the period between the later Upper Palaeolithic and the Late Bronze Age.
  • Mobility, Migration and Colonisation
    pp 109-248
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    This chapter contrasts the remarkable scarcity of visual imagery during the Early Bronze Age (EBA) of the southern Levant with the wealth of such imagery in the Chalcolithic period. The change between these two periods is not only associated with the disappearance of visual arts, but is manifest as well in the abandonment of settlements and the formation of a smaller number of new ones, either in the same places or at other locations The chapter discusses two cases, the Judean Desert and the Golan, which coupled with the observations regarding the abrupt end of the Chalcolithic mentalité and the disappearance of visual expressions, suggest that this period ended with multiple iconoclastic events, followed by a major symbolic reformation. The violent iconoclastic events that took place during the transition from the Chalcolithic to the EBA paved the way for a new aniconic discourse adopted by the people of southern Levantine society for centuries.
  • 7 - Corridors and Colonies: Comparing Fourth–Third Millennia BC Interactions in Southeast Anatolia and the Levant
    pp 111-138
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    This chapter explores the cultural adaptations to the particular environment of the human groups that inhabited the Balearic Islands in the Bronze Age. Previous studies of the cultural dynamics in the early prehistoric Balearic Islands have mostly been based on architecture, artefact typologies and radiocarbon dates. First, the chapter offers an alternative approach based on metallurgical and faunal studies, which are recent innovations in Balearic archaeology. These shed light on local strategies for exploiting mineral and animal resources and on contacts within and beyond the archipelago. The chapter contributes to a more nuanced understanding of the major transformation of Balearic prehistory that heralds the so-called Talayotic period in Majorca and Menorca and that is not only defined by more complex social organization but is also characterised by as many similarities as differences between the two islands. The evidence points to two processes underway in the Late Bronze Age: a demographic growth and a slight increase in the external contacts.
  • 8 - The Anatolian Context of Philia Material Culture in Cyprus
    pp 139-156
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    Using the concept of the maritory, this chapter explores the degree, extent and social significance of material connections between the island worlds of the south-central Mediterranean in the Bronze Age. Of all the ways that islands make a difference in a study about ancient human mobility, two are the most important: first, that throughout prehistory, contact between the island group of the central Mediterranean and the rest of the world was entirely through the medium of maritime connections; second, that the sea was the medium which could both isolate the islanders from and bring them into contact with their closest neighbours. The chapter considers three principal cycles of object/human/knowledge mobility that touch on the central Mediterranean over the longue duree, conscious of the fact that the difficulty to pigeonhole archaeological data and processes in neat periodisation schemes should assist constructive generalizations.
  • 9 - Bronze Age European Elites: From the Aegean to the Adriatic and Back Again
    pp 157-177
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    This chapter deals with the specific forms of Sicily's interaction with Aegean and eastern Mediterranean groups who were consistently present and active in the central Mediterranean throughout the second millennium BC. The focus is on Sicily and the Aeolian islands. The chapter discusses the cultural differences between the main island of Sicily and the minor islands of the Aeolian group and Ustica throughout the Early Bronze Age. The Sicilian Middle Bronze Age is characterized by a formally homogeneous archaeological culture, the so-called Thapsos-Milazzese facies that was shared by Sicily and the Aeolian islands and that is also documented at Ustica, Pantelleria and on the Poro promontory of the Calabria coast. The label 'Ausonian I' was first used by Bernabo Brea to refer to the Late Bronze Age facies at Lipari. Throughout the Late Bronze Age, the Pantalica culture continued the local, long-established tradition of integration with Aegean groups who were still present and active in Sicily.
  • 10 - Greece in the Early Iron Age: Mobility, Commodities, Polities, and Literacy
    pp 178-195
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    The late second millennium BC on Sardinia is among the most dynamic and vital periods in the island's history, when Nuragic society undergoes massive changes. This chapter examines this perplexing period, drawing on the evidence of imports and the built environment to construct a picture of a still inward-turning society whose emergent elites were unsuccessful at overcoming a tradition of acephalous cohesion. The chapter focuses on the best provenanced and best dated of Aegean imports and imitations, Cypriot-style goods, amber, Iberian imports, the Aegean-style pots, the copper oxhide ingots, and two amber bead types such as the Tiryns and Allumiere beads. The Cypriot-style metals, for which it is virtually impossible to confirm if they are imported or locally made, belong to the twelfth and eleventh centuries BC, with some objects dating to the tenth century BC. While some Cypriot-style oxhide ingots have been found in the south, they cluster more in the central zone.
  • 12 - Colonisations and Cultural Developments in the Central Mediterranean
    pp 215-229
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    This chapter concerns the interactions of several east Mediterranean regions with their southern and northern neighbors during the formative period of literate civilization in the Near East, between the mid-fourth and mid-third millennia BC. These regions such as the Anatolian Euphrates valley, the northwest Levant, and the southern Levant, reside at the edges of the core regions of political and cultural innovation during this period of time. During the late fourth millennium BC, all of them came into early contact with one of the core cultures, Uruk Mesopotamia or Egypt, and all were affected, during the early third millennium BC, by the spread of the Kura-Araks cultural tradition, generally thought to have originated in the southern Caucasus and eastern Anatolia during the second half of the fourth millennium BC. Representing the southwestern extremity of the Kura-Araks cultural province, the southern Levant exhibits a chronologically truncated and culturally distant expression of the features described in more northerly regions.
  • 13 - The Iron Age in South Italy: Settlement, Mobility and Culture Contact
    pp 230-248
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    Archaeologists working in Anatolia have been underrepresented in the debates on the so-called Anatolianising of Philia material culture that marks the beginning of the Bronze Age in Cyprus. The great archaeological legacies of James Mellaart and Machteld Mellink include a kind of diplomacy in a country that continues to be exotic to the methodological mainstream of the Mediterranean Bronze Age. This chapter addresses the aspects of Anatolian societies including, Ceramic pottery technology and related concerns with food and drink consumption: production, exchange and consumption of metal; and reconstructions of secondary products industries and economies. Each of these thematic sections is divided into three parts: Philia significance; Early Bronze Age (EB) I-II; and transition to EB III. These themes are also among the most consequential for understanding the Anatolian scene during the EBA. Intensifying production and exchange of metal was both a cause and effect of increasing.
  • Hybridisation and Cultural Encounters
    pp 249-316
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    This chapter traces the emergence of ritual authority in Bronze Age (BA) Cyprus against a background of increasing sectional interests and growing economic and political interaction with the wider Mediterranean world. First, it focuses on the funerary domain as an arena of social and ideological negotiation. Early Cypriot period and Middle Cypriot period burial grounds at Vounous, Lapithos and Karmi on the central north coast provide an extensive body of data from a bounded geographic region. The north coast cemeteries provide a remarkable insight into an emerging ritual iconography. Whereas, the Late Cypriot (LC) period saw a rapid institutionalisation of ritual practice and the emergence of a coercive ritual ideology. Enkomi played a major role in the negotiation of authority and compliance on Cyprus in the early stages of the LC. A clear ideological link between cult and metallurgy, however, is apparent in the iconography of the 'Ingot God', recovered from the Sanctuary of the Ingot God.
  • 14 - Migration, Hybridization, and Resistance: Identity Dynamics in the Early Iron Age Southern Levant
    pp 252-265
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    This chapter confronts the systemic divide in modern scholarship that separates Aegean prehistory from Classical archaeology and considers its ramifications. In so doing, the problems of periodization, absolute chronology, and regionality are tackled. The relative chronology of the early Iron Age is based on painted pottery, the most abundantly preserved item of material culture that has been subjected to closest scrutiny. The chapter discusses four critical developments in the history of Greece during the early Iron Age that were to have an impact on the Mediterranean. Among these were overseas travel and settlement, exchange of commodities and the literacy revolution. The contrast between palatial and non-palatial Greece in the Bronze Age mirrors the contrast, in the early Iron Age, between the Greek polis, on the one hand, and the polis-less tribal states based on kinship, on the other. The chapter also presents the schematic language family trees of Naveh and Sass.
  • 15 - Cultural Interactions in Iron Age Sardinia
    pp 266-284
  • View abstract


    Two main and opposing models have typically dominated the interpretation of the Phoenician Archaic colonisation phenomenon. The first one is a Marxist and Polanyian model, which maintains that Phoenician colonization was an enterprise conducted by the palace of Tyre and Gadir, its representative in the far west, whose main objectives were to disperse the excess population from the Levant, and to exploit the Tartessian territory by a workforce from the indigenous elites. The second one is agrarian model. This chapter presents evidence of people or imports such as wheelmade pottery, Aegean-type ship in the Laxe Auga dos Cervos Petroglyph, the SW Warrior stele, and local handmade stroke-burnished and painted pottery, in the Eastern Mediterranean before colonization. Wheelmade pottery is known in Later Bronze Age (LBA) pre-Phoenician contexts, which could be placed between the thirteenth and mid-ninth centuries BC in Iberia.
  • 16 - Myth into Art: Foreign Impulses and Local Responses in Archaic Cypriot Sanctuaries
    pp 285-298
  • View abstract


    This chapter discusses Greek and Phoenician colonisation in the central Mediterranean as a historical activity. It presents the interactions between the colonising and existing local communities in Sicily and Malta as articulated through shared and modified practices expressed in the material culture record. Most contemporary Phoenician material in Sicily comes from Motya, an island site of Sicily's western coast founded by Phoenicians at the end of the eighth century. Late eighth-century Phoenician material also appears in the earliest graves of the Greek colonies. Finally, the chapter reviews the cultural and sociopolitical development of Malta and Sicily, both of which were geographically situated at strategic locales within a connected Mediterranean, to argue that their respective diverse developments resulted from their engagements with one another and the broader central Mediterranean. The permanent presence of Greeks and Phoenicians in the central Mediterranean led to the widespread exchange of goods, practices and ideas between these foreigners and the extant local populations.
  • 17 - Mobility, Interaction and Power in the Iron Age Western Mediterranean
    pp 299-316
  • View abstract


    In a study concerned with understanding the types of population and modes of contact in the multiple ecosystems of Iron Age southern Italy, ranging from the Greek poleis of the coastal flood plains to the Apennine mountain regions of Calabria and Lucania, it is necessary to examine the contexts carefully, as each culture and every region may react differently to contacts with other cultures. This chapter discusses three different contexts along the Ionian coast, namely L'Amastuola, Incoronata and Francavilla Marittima, where traditional reconstruction of the settlement dynamics, as proposed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, saw the presence of Greeks as a disruptive element which shattered a static indigenous situation and that led first to the conquest and subjugation of the indigenous inhabitants. Finally, the chapter focuses on the site of Torre di Satriano, where exceptional remains have been found in recent years.
  • Materiality, Memory and Identity
    pp 317-394
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    This chapter presents the main characteristics of cult activities during four succeeding phases of development of ethnoarcheological studies of ritual, including Early Bronze Age, Middle Bronze Age, Late Bronze Age (LBA), and Early Iron Age, in protohistoric central and northern Italy. The cult activities of the Early and Middle Bronze Age seem to recall the pre-religious phase of Lèvy-Bruhl, as the archaeological record has produced much evidence of rituals but none of a belief in superhuman beings. The LBA is characterised is characterised by a widespread appearance of cremation burials. The ritual importance of water is also evident from the complex of walls and altars around the Mittelstillersee, a lake in the Renon area north of Bozen. The second half of the eighth century BC saw the emergence of the first proto-urban centres and first civic-sanctuaries in many Etruscan and Latial proto-urban centres.
  • 18 - Sensuous Memory, Materiality and History: Rethinking the ‘Rise of the Palaces’ on Bronze Age Crete
    pp 320-336
  • View abstract


    In the southern Levant, the early Iron Age witnessed the end of Egyptian imperial control and the breakdown of the Canaanite city-state system that characterized the region in the Later Bronze Age. New social and cultural groups, Philistines and Israelites, appeared on the historical stage. Since both groups are known from the Bible, their emergence in Canaan has long been the focus of research by biblical archaeology. When critically examined, it becomes clear that Philistine and Israelite identities are dialectically related. A variety of processes visible in the archaeological record, including migration, interaction, border encounters, and separation, led to ethnic negotiation and demarcation. In particular, this chapter talks about, Aegean Migration, interaction and ethnic demarcation of Egyptians and Philistines, interaction of Philistine and Canaanites, Canaanite cultural resistance and Israelite ethnogenesis. The Canaanite population, the substratum upon which the new group identities were built, played a neglected yet highly important role in the processes of ethnogenesis.

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