Asine and the Argolid in the Late Helladic III Period : A Socio-Economic Study
Abstract: The Late Helladic era of Greek prehistory has long held a fascination with archaeologists and scholars of Mediterranean ancient history. In the Argolid, which forms the north-eastern part of the Peloponnese, much attention has focused on palatial sites such as Mycenae and Tiryns. The fact that the imposing structures at these locations, and the Linear B material, tends to project an image of a highly centralised polity, has lead scholars to take for granted the existence of a redistributive economy to the exclusion of other modes of exchange.The notion of a centralised authority intent on redistribution of recourses and goods has increasingly become subjects of critique. However, while often well taken, like the received wisdom also the emerging critique suffers lack of comprehensive information of relevance to our efforts to understand the economy of Late Helladic Bronze Age Greece. This has a number of consequences for our ability to make sense of Late Helladic society, both as a whole and with respect to individual archaeological sites.Against this background, the present dissertation sets out to establish what can be said about the nature of exchange and economic organisation in the Late Helladic Argolid. By carefully re-analysing the published records of more than a century of excavations in the region, it attempts to define the limits of our knowledge and to assess the consequences with respect to our understanding of the regional economy and the position of the individual sites within it. Setting out from the case of Asine, and situating it within regional hierarchy of central places, settlement and tomb material is used to establish the extent to which redistribution and markets were used in intra-regional exchange. Taking the models of the Argive settlement system developed by Bintliff and Kilian as the point of departure, an analysis of exchange within a changing hierarchical system of central places is embarked upon. In order to achieve this end, the archaeological record is also sifted with a view of establishing relative rank of individual settlements. This is done by resource to an analysis of wealth and status that is conducted in parallel with the search for clues on modes of exchange.The main findings suggest that there is precious little to support the notion of redistributive economy of the Polanyian variety. As a corollary, it appears that much previous work simply impose the notion of a redistributive economy as a heuristic device without much evidence to support this assumption. This has in part been made possible by the propensity of previous scholars to collapse the entire Late Bronze Age into one homogenous period. Finally, it should be noted that other than existing sign of a division of labour there is little direct evidence that could be drawn upon to establish the extent to which the various conceivable modes of exchange were present. This is true of redistribution as of market and reciprocal relations.These findings are used as a major input to an alternative model of the Argive settlement system. In turn, this model can be drawn upon to assess the relative importance of individual sites within this Bronze Age economy. Being more sensitive both to the existence of lateral links and to changes over the period LH II-LHIIIC than are previous models, it suggests that the fortunes of individual settlements waxed and waned over this rather long period of time. The relative importance of the major sites Mycenae and Tiryns is less pronounced than previously thought, whereas Midea and Asine appear to have achieved prominence near or on par with the palaces at least for selected sub-periods during the Late Helladic era.
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