This paper is an analysis of the theoretical background of research into Aegean Postpalatial interconnections. I hold that presumptions about the Palatial period have stood in the way of a proper evaluation of these connections and argue that much can be gained from rethinking our interpretative frameworks. In particular, I contend that a network perspective on Aegean Postpalatial interconnections helps to rephrase our research questions.
Until recently, the period following the destruction of the Aegean palaces ca. 1200 B.C.E. was treated as an era of general decline and deterioration. However, it is increasingly realized that the impact of the destructions greatly varied between regions. It has been observed that the sites that had continuous occupation were often situated along the coast, still engaging in overseas contacts. This implies that for survival in the “crisis years,” it was crucial to remain connected. Past interpretations of how Aegeans succeeded in doing so depend heavily on existing models about the Palatial period.
Drawing on Wallerstein’s theory of world systems, many archaeologists perceive the Aegean palaces to form a more developed center that maintained asymmetrical relations with less complex peripheral societies. For the decentralizedworld after 1200, however, it is difficult to speak in terms of centers and peripheries. Most importantly, center-periphery interaction fails to explain how contacts could continue without the center to initiate them. As an alternative, I explore the potential of network theory.
One promising model is the so-called scale-free network. In this type of network, some nodes (“hubs”) show a high degree of connectivity, whereas most are connected to only a few others. As a result, the network is both robust and fragile: one failing hub will not cause loss of connectedness, but the network will disintegrate when more major hubs fail. By using the scale-free network model, I arrive at the hypothesis that the survival of nonpalatial hubs was key to the continuation of Aegean Postpalatial interconnections.
Network theory provides not only a new interpretative model but also the tools for interrogating the evidence. Particularly useful is the concept of network dynamics. It helps to rephrase the destruction of the palaces as a factor of dynamics on Aegean networks that could have potentially affected the dynamics of the network. I conclude with the observation that to investigate these network dynamics, we must confront the Postpalatial evidence with that of the final Palatial era.
7 Jan 2012
113th meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America