The Role of Households at the Dawn of the Bronze Age

Contextualizing Social Organization


In-situ pottery assemblage of EBA 1 Çukuriçi Höyük (© ERC Prehistoric Anatolia, photo: F. Ostmann)

This DOC.team project is a jointly planned set of interdisciplinary dissertation projects with a common over-arching research interest. This research focuses on studying households, household activities and settlement organization as a primary source for discussing the emergence of social structures in Early Bronze Age, at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, in the Aegean and Western Anatolia. The main aim is to shed more light into the social organization of this period through the transdisciplinary approach of combining archaeological data and methods with anthropological methodology and concepts. In contrast to the usually rather “elite focused” Bronze Age research, this project is an innovative bottom-up approach with its main focus on the social structures. These sets of topics will be addressed by research cooperation between two archaeologists, one archaeozoologist and one anthropologist, linking knowledge of both humanities and natural science. Spatial analyses of two archaeological excavations, Platia Magula Zarkou in Thessaly/Greece and Çukuriçi Höyük in Western Anatolia, will provide data for detailed analysis on intra as well as inter-site spatial analyses.

Households as the smallest social entity comprehensible archaeologically and as a dynamic social process have to be defined within the two archaeological case studies. Our main goals are to test if and how individual households can be defined within the case studies, how these settlements were organized in a social and economic way and if these structures are uniform or rather diversified in a regional and supra-regional comparison. On a more theoretical level, our questions are about the social organization of Early Bronze Age societies within our research area. How can these societies be characterized on a socio-archaeological level? Is there a possible emergence of social complexity within this period and is there a shift of social organization? Do the archaeological outcome and its interpretations fit to the already known socio-anthropological models of social organization, such as chiefdoms or segmentary lineage systems in pre-state societies?

The comprehensive analysis of the two exceptional archaeological sites as well as the comparison of contemporaneous sites provides a broad data base, on which these theoretical concepts can be tested. Linking the archaeological case studies with contemporaneous comparative sites and anthropological theory should clarify if there are patterns of a uniform social organization or if the social structure is more diversified. The anthropological expertise will be primarily analytical, conceptual, and comparative to maintain a sound level of interdisciplinary sophistication and theorization that enriches the overall outcome of the entire project. Archaeozoological information on diet, butchery and cooking methods will inform on social behaviour. In detail, questions concerning the internal composition and the sphere of action of these social structures will be investigated.