Networks and Intermediaries: Ceramic Exchange Systems in the Late Bronze Age Mediterranean

by Christine Leigh Johnston

Institution: UCLA
Year: 2016
Keywords: Archaeology; Ancient history; Classical studies; Archaeology; Ceramics; Late Bronze Age; Network Analysis; Political Economy; Trade
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2068450
Full text PDF: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/5gz5b3hk


This dissertation explores trade and economic interaction between polities during the Late Bronze Age within the Eastern Mediterranean. This study reconstructs the trade systems extant during this period through a network analysis of Cypriot and Mycenaean pottery distributed throughout Cyprus, Egypt, and the Levant. The network data compiled for this analysis includes over 23,000 sherds and vessels recovered from 269 different sites that date from the terminal Middle Bronze Age to the end of the Late Helladic IIIB period. There are three primary goals of this dissertation. The first is to assess the structure of Late Bronze Age exchange systems through the distribution and consumption of ceramic imports across the three regions of study. The second is to quantitatively test the hypothesized intermediary role of Cypriot agents as suppliers of Aegean pottery to neighbouring regions of the Mediterranean. The final analytical goal of is to evaluate the efficacy of network analysis as a method for the quantitative assessment of trade systems, particularly with the aim of exploring broader questions surrounding the structural nature of trade systems and their associated political institutions. The network analyses of Cypriot and Mycenaean ceramics demonstrate a high degree of variability in consumption and import distribution systems across Cyprus, Egypt, and the Levant. Network centralization and density measures indicate diverging mechanisms for import circulation, suggesting the existence of contrasting political economies. A significant result of this study was the demonstration of competing political institutions in Cyprus, suggesting the absence of a centralized state with a governing core (i.e. a ‘Kingdom of Alashiya’ centered on Enkomi). The high overall network density, the diffusion of Late Helladic shapes across sites and contexts of differing scale, and the high network centrality measures of multiple competing polities refute the presence of a governing system core. The pervasion of Mycenaean vessels on Cyprus and the correlation between the circulation of Cypriot and Aegean vessels, as evidenced by the high affiliation frequency of vessel groups across ware types, support the hypothesis that Cypriot agents were active in the distribution of Mycenaean imports through a shared primary trade network.