Universiteit Leiden

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Materialising Prehistoric Societies in Western Asia

Monday 27 March 2023
Van Steenis
Einsteinweg 2
2333 CC Leiden

In recent decades the study of prehistoric societies of Western Asia has been increasingly dominated by scientific breakthroughs, such as residue analysis, DNA, isotope analysis, which have added exciting new data about Neolithic and Chalcolithic communities. However, the energy devoted to these science based approaches has also detracted from the study of how prehistoric societies were socially constituted, arguably the central object of research in archaeology. Reconstructions of past societies remain anchored in meta-models in which past societies are pressed into broad types and narratives and the wealth of new data that has been amassed in recent decades through systematic and high quality field work has not been used to rethink the constitution of past societies.

How did past practices, as evidenced through new field work data, produce and reproduce social groups and institutions. What can recently obtained evidence at well excavated settlement sites such as Çatalhöyük, Tell Sabi Abyad, Aışıklı Höyük, Balıklı Höyük, and Palloures tell us about how societies were produced through shared activities of various types, such as co-residence, the sharing of food, labour projects and investment in supra-household facilities, and networks with communities beyond the site? Can we map out past societies as a series of nested social collectivities on that basis (and if so how were these configured)? What role did social networks crosscutting social groups based on shared practices have in these prehistoric societies? How institutionalised (or structured) were these societies? The idea of this mini-symposium is to address such questions on the basis of empirical data obtained in recent years, and see whether we can start develop understandings of these early societies emanating from archaeological data rather than from neo-evolutionism.  


10:00-10:30 | Mihriban Özbasaran (Istanbul University) & Günes Duru (Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University)
Two Early PPN Neighbouring Communities in Central Anatolia: Aşıklıhöyük and Balıklı

10:40-11:20 | Peter Akkermans (Leiden University)
The Dynamics of Neolithic Societies: A View from Tell Sabi Abyad

11:30-12:00 | Ian Hodder (Koç University & Stanford University)
The Devil is in the Details: Confronting Generic Models at Çatalhöyük

12:10-12:40 | Victor Klinkenberg (Cyprus University)
Houses and Society in Chalcolithic Cyprus: A Palloures Perspective

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