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Book: The Black Sea in Prehistory

Chapter: Social Relations, Semiotics, and Emergence in Archaeology

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.24737


This book presents the results of a decade and a half of research into the archaeology of the Black Sea region prior to the period of Greek colonization in the first millennium BC. It presents both new data and a fresh theoretical perspective on the region, offering a synthesis of Black Sea prehistory from the Chalcolithic to Early Iron Ages, which illustrates a waxing and waning of regional connectivity linked to the Black Sea’s role as a counterpoint to trends in the Mediterranean in larger inter-regional dynamics. Using concepts of ‘emergence’ as well as the semiotics of cultural circulation to argue that decentralized networks of interaction may themselves engender new social forms, this book presents an analysis of regional pottery-making practices and other material culture between the 4th and 2nd millennia BC, identifying in particular an early phase of integration across the Black Sea during the Early Bronze Age. As the Bronze Age continued, however, this integration waned, only to re-emerge in almost cyclic fashion at the end of the second millennium. Through a presentation of the prehistoric Black Sea cultural sequences, the longer-term cycles of connectivity and dis-integration across the region are explained as likely occurring in long-term historical rhythms and as well as in response to interregional dynamics between the Near East, southeast Europe, and the Mediterranean, challenging a conventional view of Black Sea connectivity as first occurring with Greek Colonization. This book thus offers important insight for current understanding of the region, as well as comparative work on colonialism and the role of social interaction in the development and maintenance of communities.

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