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Hierarchies, Heterarchies, and Urbanization Processes: The View from Bronze Age Cyprus

Issue: Vol 9 No. 2 (1996) December 1996

Journal: Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology

Subject Areas: Ancient History Archaeology

DOI: 10.1558/jmea.v9i2.211


Neo-evolutionist models of the rise of civilizations have attracted increasing criticism because the hierarchical, centrally organized politico-economic systems which they posit (i.e. chiefdoms and states) are not always evident in the archaeological record of societies in transition to urbanism or other modes of social complexity. Alternative models based on the concept of hierarchy, or complexity that is not necessarily associated with highly centralized socio-political hierarchies, offer a new way of analyzing and interpreting such cases. In this paper I consider urbanization processes in Late Bronze Age Cyprus, which diverge from the paradigm of hierarchy inasmuch as they seem to have begun in the absence of prior 'chiefdom' societies and culminated in the emergence of a number of autonomous regional polities with a diversity of hierarchical and hierarchical characteristics. I discuss the differing patterns of internal organization which these polities display and explore the possible reasons for those differences, focusing on variations in local settlement histories and geographical or logistical factors such as proximity to important copper resources.

Author: Priscilla Schuster Keswani

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