In the middle of the corrupting sea: cultural encounters in Sicily and Sardinia between 1450 - 900 BC

Russell, Anthony (2011) In the middle of the corrupting sea: cultural encounters in Sicily and Sardinia between 1450 - 900 BC. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Archaeological investigations of pre-colonial contacts in Sicily and Sardinia during the Middle and Late Bronze Age (15th – 10th centuries BC) often represent such encounters as both systematic and highly influential in the development of islander societies. Discussions of the involvement and impact of Aegeans and Cypriots dominate these investigations of cultural encounters. Such studies typically discuss networks of exchange from the extrainsular
perspective, focussing on trade routes and provenience analyses, which almost always involve mobile foreigners coming to these islands to establish economic relationships with passive, receptive, and stationary islanders.

The dominance of these ‘acculturation’ interpretations, while understandable within the context of the history of Mediterranean archaeology, is nonetheless unfortunate, as
eastern Mediterranean material consistently represents only a small fraction of material assemblages throughout the region. Often it is assumed that foreigners controlled such
contacts, based on the assumption that members of a more complex society will dominate those of a simpler one. There seems to be little room, however, for interpretations which
involve mobile, enterprising or self-aware Sicilians and Sardinians during this timeframe, even when it is recognised that trade networks (e.g. of Sardinian obsidian) had existed in the region since the Neolithic period. Similarly, local motivations for establishing or maintaining contacts are often ignored.

My thesis employs a postcolonial perspective, even though dealing with a precolonial period. Postcolonial archaeology, however, need not be exclusively concerned with re-analysing the archaeology of colonisation, but also re-assessing the scholarship which is a by-product of the colonialist representations, such as the over-representation of contacts with eastern Mediterranean peoples, and their supposed cultural superiority. Instead, three themes of representation are employed: (1) the investigation of materials from a local, consumption-based perspective; (2) the abandonment of simplistic dualist paradigms; and (3) the recognition of the hybrid productions and practices which result from these material connections. These perspectives give a more accurate assessment of local agency, illuminate the involvement of other possible participants in the central Mediterranean, and analyse how the consumption of foreign and hybrid materials affected the development and promotion of islander identities. There is an active separation made between the presence of foreign objects and that of foreign peoples, and as a result, the cultural encounters described are interpreted as instances of object diasporas, rather than physical encounters.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Middle Bronze Age, Late Bronze Age, Sicily, Sardinia, culture contact, hybridisation, postcolonial theory, central Mediterranean, object diasporas, consumption, material identities.
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Bernard, Prof. Knapp and Peter, Prof. van Dommelen
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Mr Anthony Russell
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2670
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:58

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