Ch2 Kostas Kotsakis
2. Across the border: unstable dwellings and fluid landscapes in the earliest Neolithic of Greece Kostas Kotsakis
The 1960s was an outstanding decade for Greek Neolithic studies. For Greece as a country, it was the first period of relative prosperity and peace after a long epoch of turbulence and unrest. The difficult period opened with the Balkan Wars in the early 1900s and ended some 50 years later in a civil clash that followed the Second World War and lasted until well into the 1950s. In 1922, as a result of the defeat of Greece by Turkey, and the subsequent Treaty of Lausanne, one and a half million Orthodox Christians were moved to Greece from Asia Minor, Pontus and Eastern Thrace (Mackridge and Yannakakis 1997). Greece reached the middle of the twentieth century a very different country in many respects; economically, culturally, demographically and socially. For Neolithic studies in particular, the period of post-war stability meant a revival of a research track that was initiated at the beginning of the twentieth century with the groundbreaking syntheses of Tsountas (1908) and Wace (Wace and Thompson 1912). After that promising beginning, Neolithic studies retreated into a marginal backwater of research, almost eclipsed by the spectacular discoveries of the palatial centres in Crete and in continental Greece. As domestic and international audiences were grasped firmly by the grand quest for the Hellenic Bronze Age culture (and to a lesser extent society), the Neolithic was restricted to small-scale research which focused mainly on trivial issues of chronology and cultural affinities and which was undertaken sporadically as a by-product of major archaeological projects, as at Corinth or Knossos (Weinberg 1965). Research in Macedonia in the north of the country was just beginning to map the prehistoric past of that region, mainly via extensive archaeological prospection (Heurtley 1939). Too soon for detailed prehistoric research (let alone any focused on the Neolithic), the Neolithic retained a marginal role, dominated by a strong sense of otherness seen against the Aegean culture. This continued until late in the twentieth century (Fotiadis 2001; Kotsakis 1998, 47).
It was more than 50 years after Tsountas and Wace that independent research on the Neolithic period was resumed. Two central and influential figures of postSecond World War prehistoric archaeology in Greece, Demetrios Theocharis and Vladimir Milojčić took the lead. They initiated intensive, systematic excavations in Argissa Magoula (Milojčić 1960) and Sesklo (Theocharis 1957). Both scholars viewed the Neolithic as an independent phenomenon, and shared a common belief that the Neolithic of Greece was crucial for an understanding of the European shift to the Neolithic. In the meantime, the Neolithic origins of Europe had become an established concept as one of the defining features of a European identity (Zvelebil 1996). Partly because of the previous research, which had identified the importance of Argissa and Sesklo, and partly because of the fascination of archaeology of that time with central and key-sites, the two sites were judged by similar criteria and therefore had more similarities than differences. Both were tells, standing out in the landscape, indicating a long and uninterrupted habitation. Both had distinctive substantial architecture, with abundant material culture. Both could be described as central sites. Within the normative perception of culture that was dominant in the discipline at that time, these sites were understood to contain essential traits that were representative of Neolithic culture as a whole. Sesklo and Argissa, thus, were obvious choices for answering the central questions that were current in the discussion of the 1960s. In his comprehensive report on the work in Thessaly of the German Institute, Milojčić defined the aims along two dimensions: to follow the movement of peoples from north to south and from south to north, and to shed light on the permanence of settlement and on the adoption of agriculture (Milojčić 1960). In this report, Thessaly is perceived as a bridge which connects the south to the north, a contact point of the various cultures. Childean diffusionism is resonant here, and the culture-historical
Across the border: unstable dwellings and fluid landscapes in Neolithic Greece style is unmistakable. In fact, even before the excavations began, the broad conceptual dimensions of the Neolithic in Greece (including its emergence) had already been formed as a regional episode of the Neolithic Revolution. What followed, in terms of excavation, was more or less a technical clarification of particular aspects of that framework. Both Sesklo and Argissa (and later Otzaki) (Milojčić 1983) conformed neatly to this framework. Being longlived and prominent, the mounds of Sesklo and Argissa had already an emblematic significance for the Neolithic of Greece as focal places of sustained human interaction. They were soon to be recognized as typical. Argissa, next to the Peneios River, was strongly reminiscent of the major Balkan sites, like Vinča and Starčevo, with which Milojčić was closely familiar, being a Serbian himself, and having worked on his doctoral research in that area (Milojčić 1949). Argissa offered a direct (not simply conceptual) link with the Northern peoples. Sesklo, on the other hand, had a long-established reputation for being the key-site, a sort of flagship for the Thessalian Neolithic, an archetypic Neolithic settlement with distinctive material culture. It is no surprise, therefore, that the dominant archaeological perception of the Greek Neolithic was modelled on these two sites. The perception encompassed prominent tells, formed from long and continuous habitation (documented by deep anthropogenic deposits), advantageous natural setting next to rivers (in floodplains or within light arable land), relative self-sufficiency through successful subsistence economy, and, above all, early pottery of a distinct style. These essential traits, all fashioned after the model sites, were imperceptibly attributed to the early stages of the Neolithic as a whole (Demoule and Perlès 1993). For the emergence of the Neolithic in particular, the significance of Sesklo and Argissa was further asserted once both excavators reported the earliest aceramic deposits of the Neolithic in Greece. Although the presence of true aceramic deposits has been challenged, indeed almost dismissed, by the majority of researchers (Bloedow 1991; Demoule and Perlès 1993; Perlès 2001), the argument brought to the forefront deep notions of stability and permanence, of a continuous evolution towards the Neolithic as a result of the gradual adoption of typical traits, in particular, pottery, domesticated plants and settled subsistence economy, all achievements the Mesolithic people could not claim. In the meantime, the detailed sequences of material culture, standardized and formalized in a meticulous, central European fashion, enhanced this sense of stability further, and created a clearly and neatly categorized material culture, radically different from anything pre-Neolithic. Of course, we may now argue that this sense of neat stability, ascribed to the totality of the Neolithic, was an illusion, created in the 1960s and 1970s both through the pages of nicely illustrated books (Theocharis 1973) and by expanding selected traits from the type-sites to
represent the totality of the Neolithic. During the last two decades, an international archaeological discussion has become progressively more contextual and has gradually illuminated the subtle variabilities of the diverse and ephemeral Neolithic ways within Europe and the Balkans (e.g. Bailey 2000; Chapman 1994; Edmonds and Richards 1998; Tringham 2000). The power of the old model, however, which was deeply influenced by the readings of the post-war pioneers, was still powerful for the Neolithic of Greece, even well after the 1960s. Also, we know now that at least some of the proposed Neolithic traits are not as central as was thought in the 1960s. Recent research in Northern Greece has revealed that tells are just one type of site; flat extended sites form a significant part of the habitation pattern and in some regions are the dominant one (Andreou et al. 1996; Kotsakis 1994; 1999). The recent excavations at Makriyalos in Macedonia, Greece (Pappa and Besios 1999) and in Thessaly (Toufexis 1997) have confirmed this insight and provided factual evidence for the structure and development of flat, extended sites. Similarly, in view of the many one-period or short-lived sites that have been explored, the longevity and continuity of Neolithic settlements now seems less likely to be a recurrent feature. Moreover, long-term success and complex material culture as a whole is rarer than previously assumed once we depart from the stereotypes of the 1960s and the privileged regions, we see that the temporary, more mundane sites like Drosia in Western Macedonia (Kotsos 1992) and Kremastos in Grevena (Toufexis 1994) are common. In short, continuing research undermined the stereotypic approach that had been built on the research of the 1960s.
The central concepts The problems with the received view of the Neolithic, apart from their progressively poorer coincidence with archaeological evidence, become more critical when the defining traits inform the discussion of the beginning of the Neolithic as a historical process. This happens, for instance, when research into the earliest Neolithic focuses on regions and environments of later successful settlement (such as the eastern Thessalian plain) or alternatively, when the evidence for transitional material culture is sought in the deepest deposits of long-lived mounds (like Argissa). My argument therefore is that the way we understand, interpret and seek evidence for the process of Neolithization in Greece is still, to a large extent, conditioned by the early work of the 1960s and by the essentialist arguments that were put forward at that time on the content and character of the earliest Neolithic. A clear distinction between Neolithic farmers and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and foragers is instrumental to an essentialist understanding of the Neolithic and its emergence. The distinction is first and foremost about integrated subsistence modes, and it can be compared to
the adaptive processes put forward in the Near East (e.g. Redman 1978). The comparison indicates that the distinction is directly related to a tradition of normative archaeology which restricts explanation to defining successive historical stages. But in the case of Greece, a country with a strong classicist tradition in archaeology, an additional important factor needs to be considered. Ian Morris (1994; 2000) has stressed the deep and critical control of Hellenism on Greek archaeology and classical studies. Within this austere classicist context, alternative readings that stressed adaptation processes rather than subsistence modes were overtly neglected. The anthropological view of culture, as implied by an adaptation process, has always been considered more or less irrelevant, almost trivial for understanding classical civilization (Renfrew 1980). The sense of familiarity with subsistence as a rational response to the simple needs of a rural life, and a tacit notion of continuity going back to Hesiod certainly contributed immensely to this indifference (Fotiadis 1995). Coming from different directions, all these strands worked together to form a perception of break and discontinuity in the prehistory of Greece which has been firmly established in the literature. The break is not entirely implausible, in view of the numerous archaeological characteristics, some of which we have already discussed. Nevertheless, the influence of the 1960s’ work should not be forgotten; the excavations conducted at that time made a lasting impression, and the ideas formed within the context of Greek archaeology helped to establish a simplified view that equated Neolithic people with farmers and Mesolithic people with hunter-gatherers. Up to now, this clear distinction, plainly expressed in the work of Milojčić and Theocharis, has informed nearly all discussion about the beginning of the Neolithic in Greece. The arguments that elaborate the notion of discontinuity in early Greek prehistory refer to major aspects of prehistoric culture. The absence of a significant Mesolithic population has been presented as irrefutable evidence in support of a large-scale colonization of Greece. Similarly emphasised have been the absence of wild progenitors of domesticates and the discontinuities in Mesolithic and Neolithic material culture. All three arguments have been discussed since the 1960s (e.g. Theocharis 1967; 1973), and have been assigned varying degrees of validity (Kotsakis 2001; 2002; 2003; contra Perlès 2003). In the present paper, the issue is not the evidence that supports the narrative of the Neolithic, nor whether scattered immigrants, organized colonizers or just people were wandering in south-eastern Europe around the end of the eighth to the beginning of the seventh millennium cal. BC, carrying with them domesticates and ideas on how to produce distinct material culture. Rather the issue is the construction of research concepts, their context, their presumptions and their biases, if any. On further analysis, the issue could
also be the social content of the processes in which these scattered immigrants were engaged. My intention here, it should be obvious by now, is to anatomize the concepts that inform the discussion on the earliest Neolithic in Greece and propose some alternative views. To begin, we could attempt to identify common basic points which can be considered central to the traditional argument. Setting up of a border comes first to mind. Obviously the concept of the border is the flip-side of the disassociation between Neolithic farmers and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, which as we have seen, is prominent in the readings of the Greek Neolithic. In this case, however, the border does not simply refer to an abstract conceptual or cultural difference which possesses a metaphorical significance, to be applied to any form of cross-border cultural interaction, as Bohannan and Plog (1967) suggest. Rather, it involves a predominantly strong and concrete geographical aspect. Disassociation in this context becomes virtual dislocation and, in this sense, Aegean and Anatolian regions would stand apart: the former acting as the recipient of the Neolithic, the latter as the origin. The metaphoric border becomes a frontier, similar to other colonizing frontiers, familiar in anthropology and history, and deep-seated in European thought (Turner 1994). On closer inspection, it becomes a question of scale, within which archaeological investigation perceives the movement and relocation of people. For example, how extensive should an area be before the normal shift in habitation within it is considered population movement, let alone migration or even colonization? And how uniform, and in which terms, should this area be before the shift in habitation is considered usual and the population stable? A strong tradition of a frontier between Hellas and the East has informed most of archaeology, well into the twentieth century (especially classical archaeology). Historically, this idea goes as far back as Herodotos, where the definition of the Hellinikon was set against the oriental Other; also it can be traced in the discussion of orientalism and the perception of the Orient as a largely negative element of European identity (Morris 2000). Henry Frankfort’s 1926 Asia, Europe and the Aegean and their earliest interrelations is an eloquent testimony to the long tradition of this concept in Greek archaeology. Needless to say, we can ascribe to the same, orientalist notion the familiar concept of a bridge between the East and Europe which was so frequent in Childe’s writings and which, as pointed out by Ruth Tringham (2000), is still popular among modern versions of diffusionism (for example, the island hopping notion discussed by Perlès 2001, 58–63) However, what is lacking in this recurring perception of the frontier is the realization that there, in that zone, strong social processes are taking place. In discussing African political culture in relation to Turner’s notion of a frontier zone, Kopytoff gives the following general account for the social phenomena at work:
Across the border: unstable dwellings and fluid landscapes in Neolithic Greece …sweeping like a tidal wave or a succession of waves across a sub-continental or at least national landmass, such a ‘tidal’ frontier brings with it settler societies engaged in colonizing an alien land from a base in a metropolitan society…But in most anthropological usages, the frontier is a geographical region with sociological characteristics. …In this volume, we shall carry further this reduction in scale by making the frontier encompass even more narrowly local phenomena. The African frontier we focus on consists of politically open areas nestling between organized societies but ‘internal’ to the larger regions in which they are found – what might be called an ‘internal’ or ‘interstitial frontier’ (Kopytoff 1987, 8–9).
It is clear from this excerpt that Kopytoff rejects a linear notion of a single widespread frontier (a ‘tidal wave’) in favour of a far more dynamic and socially significant concept of many local frontiers where there is a constant restructuring of ‘bits and pieces – human and cultural – of existing societies’: For example the thesis sees the frontier as a natural force for cultural transformation. In this regard, our analysis stands Turner’s thesis on its head, for we suggest that the frontier may also be a force for culture-historical continuity and conservatism. The frontier perspective taken here is that of the local frontier, lying at the fringes of the numerous established African societies. It is on such frontiers that most African polities have, so to speak, been ‘constructed’ out of the bits and pieces – human and cultural – of existing societies. This posits a process in which incipient small polities are produced by other similar and usually more complex societies. This conception of political development is entirely opposite to those ‘evolutionary’ theories that see small polities as arising out of some hypothetical archaic bands roaming over a hypothetical pre-historic landscape. Whatever the virtue of such speculations about a pre-historic ‘in-the-beginning’ they have nothing to do with the formation of real historic African societies (emphasis added; Kopytoff 1987, 3).
The wave-of-advance model (Ammerman and Biagi 2003) is probably the closest analogy to what Kopytoff would call a ‘tidal wave frontier’, where hypothetical immigrants are roaming over a hypothetical, empty, prehistoric landscape. There is good reason to think that the situation described by Kopytoff for Africa has more points of theoretic contact with the Greek Neolithic than the geographical and cultural distance would seem to permit. Interestingly, this was also an idea of Theocharis, expressed in 1967, almost twenty years before Ammerman and Cavalli-Sforza stated their own model for the beginning of the Neolithic in Greece (Ammerman and Cavalli-Sforza 1984). Diffusion of the Neolithic is an element that exists within the Neolithic itself, mainly because it represents progress – and revolutionary progress at that – and progress is contagious. Less secure seems diffusion as a necessary consequence of a ‘sudden population increase’. Increase, and sizable at that, existed for sure, but we think that equally sizable was the potential for buffering… The crucial point however, is the way of diffusion: the theory of the single
centre or cradle forces us to assume a diffusion in the form of concentric circles… The relevant attempts, with maps of the consecutive zones of diffusion failed completely…It is clear, therefore, that in order to represent persuasively the rate of diffusion we have to consider…not only geographical criteria, i.e. the position of each place in relation to a hypothetical centre. Above all, however, we have to consider the amenability of each site or region, in other words the natural or the constructed conditions for the early acceptance and the successful transplanting of the idea of the new economy… It remains the issue of movement of population and ‘colonization’. We will not challenge here the role of migrations in prehistory…but population movements…do not leave to the miserable recipients any active part in the cultural process (my translation from the Greek text, emphasis added; Theocharis 1967, 68–9).
Clearly, from this excerpt, it is culture (the ‘constructed conditions’) as an independent phenomenon that commands first and foremost Theocharis’ attention. Implicit here are anthropological, rather than culturehistorical arguments. The rejection of diffusionist models rests on his unwillingness to consider any social activity outside human culture;1 it does not put forward logistical doubts about evidence or rates of demic diffusion and episodes of domestication. Had Theocharis expressed such factual concerns only, his argument would indeed be part of the typical indigenist paradigm, as the widespread opinion holds in the literature (e.g. Perlès 2001; Runnels 2003). Nevertheless, that opinion should be revised, not only to do justice to Theocharis’ theoretical thinking, but, more importantly, because it misses an important dimension of the discussion. A closer look at the previous quote reveals that the main issue focuses on the centrality of culture, the active role of human agency, and ultimately, we might add, its priority as a subject matter of archaeology. The critical disagreement with the diffusionists refers to their inherent predisposition to decontextualize events as taking place in a domain that is independent of culture and agency, as a linear function of time and space. Many years after Theocharis, this predisposition found its formal manifestation in the waveof-advance model, which, as a model (it should be pointed out) has no explanatory value; in Ammerman’s own words it ‘does not tell us what happened in the past’ (Ammerman and Biagi 2003, 8). It should be categorically stated, that the disagreement with decontexualization has nothing to do with movement of people as such. This is the same underlying theme of the dynamic multiple local frontiers that Kopytoff puts forward for Africa. Taking the lead from Kopytoff, I maintain that rather than replicating bipolar obsolete oppositions of the indigenism versus diffusionism type, the discussion should turn towards the multiplicity of culture and should explore at greater depth the social and cultural conditions of the earliest Neolithic in Greece. In other words, transition to the Neolithic should be considered as strongly culture-dependent (Kotsakis 2001; 2003). Multiple local frontiers offer a better insight on the
interaction active on the borders, not only between hunters and farmers, but also, and perhaps more frequently, among farmers of different social groups. Perlès has rightly observed that the material culture of the earliest Neolithic is heterogeneous and selective when compared to that of the Near East. However, if material culture is not considered as evidence of cultural relations or affiliations, but as elements of identity, the origin of the material cultural expression is no longer the essential aspect. Again, Kopytoff offers an interesting insight to this process: Rather, the frontier as an institutional vacuum was a place where the frontiersmen could literally construct a desirable social order. They came to the frontier not with a sociological and political tabula rasa, to be shaped by its forests and plains, but with a mental model of a good society… Thus the efforts to construct a new social order on the frontier were, from the beginning, informed by an ideal model that the frontiersman held – perhaps vaguely but certainly culturally… The American frontier (the West) allowed frontiersmen to apply the ideal model and produce a result that was indeed purer, simpler, more naïve and more faithful to the model that one could possibly have in the East (Kopytoff 1987, 13).
That simply means that there is an active social dynamic in the borders that transforms cultural reality, in ways that produce ‘a purer, simpler and more naïve’ version of the original cultural template, whatever that was. This is closely related to the defensive conservatism of the moving groups, which stick to the ‘ideal model’ they carry from home. The social dynamic of the multiple frontiers would account more convincingly for the selective and heterogeneous similarities with Near Eastern material culture, as would the idea that the adventurous individuals carried only a part of their technical and cultural heritage and that they were coming from different original homelands, following different pathways. Needless to say, that ‘simpler and more naïve’ version had to be related to interaction with other populations active on the frontier zone, each carrying its own cultural template, regardless of their being colonizers, indigenous, or transients. As Kopytoff points out, new social groups are formed from bits and pieces, human and cultural, of existing societies. This brings up the next central point that forms the perception of break and discontinuity, namely the idea of direction. Throughout the discussion on the Near Eastern origins, there is a strong sense of direction, from east to west, which is expressed quite clearly in the regular maps that are included in the relevant publications. The direction in these discussions, like the border we have seen previously, is completely essentialised. All temporality is suppressed, and what predominantly are the historically contingent results of agency are perceived as one decontextualized entity, within a framework of stability. In reality, directions (like frontiers) can be many and conflicting, and can reflect variable temporalities.
At times they can be stable, at other times shifting, reversed or eclipsed. There should not be a single privileged direction that could substitute the dynamic cleavage of human agency. As with the rigid border, however, the single direction is meaningless, unless the entities involved are definable and self-contained. We return thus to the dichotomy between farmers and foragers/hunter-gatherers that persistently appears in the post-1960s discussion. In fact, this dichotomy represents the third, and probably most important and complex concept that supports the perception of break and continuity. There is a vast anthropological literature on hunter-gatherer societies and their diacritical traits (so vast that it is impossible to reiterate here; see Bettinger 1991; Ingold et al. 1988; Kelly 1995; Myers 1988). Those who believe that hunter-gatherer societies share common traits (despite the wide variability observed ethnographically) stress their economic dependence on hunting, fishing and gathering and on residential mobility (Kelly 1995, 111–48; Zvelebil 1998). Few doubts have been expressed in the literature on the Neolithic of Greece about the differences between that subsistence mode and agro-pastoral farmers. As we have seen in the case of Greece, the earliest Neolithic settlement was modelled on the successful sites dug in Thessaly, where longevity and stability was strongly suggested; the full package of domesticates and the evidence of agriculture are often the main distinctive traits for a group to be characterized as Neolithic (e.g. Hansen 1991). However, to paraphrase Sigaut in his discussion of the concepts of agriculture and huntinggathering from their technological perspectives, we know so little about the earliest Neolithic agriculture that using it to define the Neolithic is a purely verbal exercise. Foodproducing activities need not be the privileged domain in our understanding of the earliest Neolithic groups (Sigaut 1994, 443). For example, the use of skins and fleeces for clothing was at least as important (probably more) as was meat producing. The same holds for mobility. Although we accept mobility as an obvious condition for hunter-gatherers we understand very poorly the possibility of logistical mobility for segments of the farming groups, if not for their entireties. Again, assuming that we understand from the start what Mesolithic mobility and Neolithic sedentism are, we are trapped in false common-sense assumptions. I would suggest therefore, that we should abandon the – still dominant – Childean tradition that conceptualizes these differing ways of life as predominantly economic subsistence categories. Instead, it might be preferable to consider them as places for the construction of collective and personal identities, of which food producing could indeed be one dimension (Hastorf 1999) but not necessarily the only one. In this respect, both foragers or hunter-gatherers and farmers (or Mesolithic and Neolithic groups) are not constructed as essentialist, dichotomous concepts and we avoid
Across the border: unstable dwellings and fluid landscapes in Neolithic Greece simplifying and objectifying the complexity and the social dynamics of agency that are involved.
Conclusions We are coming full circle to what we had identified as a place of historically contingent agency. This is a dynamic place of mutual exchange, where fluidity must have been prevalent and where identities and accompanying material culture expressions were constantly reformulated. Instead of the usual picture drawn in Neolithic studies depicting a Neolithic landscape winning over the Mesolithic, this process might have happened in a fluid landscape with multiple frontiers and conflicting directions, in a constant process of creating hybrid identities (Joseph and Fink 1999). The tensions created would offer a better basis for understanding the selective and heterogeneous cultural characteristics prevalent in the earliest Neolithic of Greece, which we have already discussed. Despite the conservative attitude prevalent in the frontier zone, we should not understand the earliest Neolithic as a pure and fixed allochthonous identity which is confronted by the native Mesolithic identity of the local hunter-gatherers. All actors in this drama were equally immersed in dynamic fluidity. It remains to be discussed where the actual place of this fluidity might have been. It seems reasonable that fluidity was less prevalent in the central, long-lived, Neolithic sites, such as Argissa and Sesklo. The complexity of their material culture and their overall spatial arrangements indicate that they represent the end of a long process rather than its beginning. In contrast to these sites, small experimental sites, established in the frontier during the earliest Neolithic, would be more likely to preserve the traces of the fluidity I am proposing here. These sites would be in areas outside the mainstream Neolithic landscapes, occupying varying, even marginal, environments, not necessarily those where successful mounds subsequently evolved and normalised their cultural idiom over 1000s of years. They would represent the initial steps, predominantly as places of interaction or nodes in extensive networks. On the basis of this hypothesis, it has been proposed that the mountainous area of Grevena (western Macedonia) would be one possible region for the existence of these earliest experimental sites (Kotsakis 2000, 177). Located on the western edge of the Thessalian plain, Theopetra could be a node in this extensive network (Kotsakis 2003; Kyparissi-Apostolika 1994; 1999); the increasing number of Mesolithic sites in Greece (Runnels 1995; Runnels and van Andel 2003) shows that where specialised field research is conducted, the interface zone in other parts of the country is quickly populated. In conclusion, the earliest Neolithic in Greece needs a radical re-appraisal. To do that we need to revise traditional models, the basic outlines of which were formed in the 1960s. The indigenist versus diffusionist
dichotomy is also part of the 1960s way of reading the Neolithic, or more generally culture, and it should be abandoned also as merely an essentialized, objectifying approach. We need to think outside dichotomous, essentialist categories, and we need to approach the historical contingency active in Greece at that time, in its details, looking at real people, with real identities and real lives.
Acknowledgements Some of these ideas were formed while I was at Stanford as visiting professor. I would like to thank Douglass Bailey, with whom I shared both an office at Stanford and our views on the Neolithic, as well as Ian Hodder, Michael Shanks and Ian Morris for their intellectual support. I would like also to thank Alasdair Whittle for giving me the opportunity to participate in the Cardiff symposium and present my views and Paul Halstead for the ongoing and stimulating discussion on the Neolithic of Greece. In particular, I need to thank Douglass Bailey for his patience.
Consider, for instance, also the following excerpt from Theocharis (1967, 4): The role of ‘science’ and ‘technology’ in archaeological research must be recognized, but should not be overrated. Culture is a human creation, not a creation of the environment, and in prehistoric archaeology the concept of culture is dominant, roughly similar to the concept of art in classical archaeology. As long as this essential restriction applies, the principal role in research will be held by the archaeologist who is responsible for the study of the cultural manifestations of man… It is unfortunate that even today, for some ‘cultures’, we know nothing more than pottery styles (my translation from the Greek text).
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