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For many archaeologists this quote from Godelier encapsulates one of the main goals of our discipline. The formation of states and cities (one of the elements normally accompanying this form of societal organisation) cannot therefore be limited to the study of individual cases. Whatever the specific differences, these cases may, when interpreted under the light of well-founded hypothetical models, constitute a fundamental part in understanding the intercultural processes in the creation of new hierarchies. However, there is not widespread agreement on how this may take place. For some of our colleagues, the notion of ‘state’ (and perhaps the notion of ‘city’ as well?) is just a ‘Western’ construction, which does not have any significance in many other parts of the world. According to this constructivist point of view, the state simply did not exist in these areas.
This chapter investigates how the sociopolitical meanings and the practical significance of land were entwined in Bronze and Iron Ages Greece to shape landscapes and territories by approaching settlement hierarchies from a new perspective. It presents two case studies that cover the transition between the Bronze and Iron Ages. The first focuses on the area of Messenia, Pylos and Nichoria in the southwest Peloponnese of mainland Greece, the area of a major Bronze Age polity that changed radically in terms of its political and social geography during the Iron Age. The second focuses on the area around Mirabello Bay in east Crete, where the complex settlement record of the later Bronze and Iron Ages has been particularly well explored. There are two substantial excavated farmsteads in the Mirabello Bay region: Chrysokamino and Chalinomouri. For both, excavation and microlevel studies have been carried out on the houses themselves and in their immediate vicinity.
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