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Title: Signs of shared complexity : glyptic and large scale transformations in the 4th-3rd millennia Near East
Author: McCarthy, Andrew
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2003
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Important social transformations took place during the late 4th - early 3rd millennia BC in the greater Near East. These changes were reflected in the archaeological record, but a component of these transformations was the result of interplay between cognition and material culture. A few key concepts are approached in this thesis in an attempt to understand the relationship between ideas and their material expressions, and the way that this interaction resulted in social change: simultaneity and diffusion in archaeological analysis, emerging complexity and in particular, what has been termed the "Urban Revolution" near the end of the 4th millennium, and the nature of identity in the formation of social settings. Glyptic artefacts (seals and seal impressions) from the 4th - 3rd millennia greater Near East are examined stylistically and statistically in order to elucidate these key theoretical concepts. Cylinder seals are perhaps the perfect artefacts with which to trace emergent complexity because through these materials one can track economic transactions and inter-regional exchanges; but they were also works of art, and through an analysis of the glyptic styles, political, social, religious, and ideological characteristics can be interpreted. From the glyptic analysis it can be determined that the social transformations that took place were the result of a change in perception of identity, from identity of smaller-scale groups with more permeable boundaries to more rigid regional state-level identities. These identities became established not through stimulus-diffusion from a core to a periphery; rather the identities were formed as a response to a complex Network of interacting, "more-or-less peer" agents. Early states were defined by a sense of 'same' and 'other' that could have only come about through individual and group interaction on many different levels. In this study, a general survey of prehistoric external symbolic storage devices will be approached. The nature of the Near Eastern Network that resulted in these large-scale social transformations will be elucidated through a description of the materials used to exchange information in prehistory. Secondly, it will be shown that the glyptic styles in multiple regions in the Near East began to fragment according to the individual circumstances affecting the respective regions, reflecting the establishment of state-level identities. Through calibrated radiocarbon dating, it appears that these changes did not take place in a definable sequence, but rather happened so quickly that we ought to regard them as having occurred simultaneously. Finally, incipient writing and its equivalents as expressions of identity can be seen in many different locations in the 3rd millennium, and evidence will be provided that the so-called "peripheral" communities exhibit qualitative similarities to the traditional "core" communities, such that they can truly be identified as possessing state-level identities. This further underscores the simultaneous nature of the formation of early state society, and the need to understand the way cognition and information exchange relates to the material record.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available