Graduate Program in Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology

ARHM002. Prehistory of the Eastern Mediterranean and Adjacent Areas. General Setting and Local Trajectories. Orlene McIlfatrick, Petranka Nedelcheva, Bogdan Athanassov, Ivan Gatsov

Online course, 30 hours, 3 credits


Aim of the course is the overview of the late prehistory of the Eastern Mediterranean (The Levant, Anatolia and the Aegean). Near Eastern and European archaeology is considered as well when a general approach is needed.

The course starts with a concise survey of the of the economy, art and social organization of hunter-gatherers in the Paleolithic. This first theme is crucial for the understanding of the transition to the Neolithic way of life. We avoid Gordon Childe’s term “Neolithic Revolution”, because we believe that the roots of this important change have to be found deep in the Epipaleolithic and what he labelled ‘revolution’ is rather a long process which took place over many centuries and hundreds of generations.


After the review of the Pre-pottery Neolithic and an important case study of Çatalhöyük the focus of the course switches from the Near East to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkan Peninsula. These areas play a crucial role in the spread of the Neolithic way of life (villages, productive economy) to Continental Europe.

Another important innovation we deal with is the early copper metallurgy and its economic and social consequences. The 5th mill BCE necropolises of Varna on the Western Black Sea coast with the earliest considerable concentration of gold finds and other metal prestige objects in human history will be one of our important case studies. We review the evidence on the mysterious abandonment of southeastern European multi-layered tell sites and the disappearance of the rich burial grounds by the end of the 5th mill BC. The study of the 4th mill BCE will follow. It is marked by crucial innovations such as the appearance of arsenical bronze, domesticated horses, plough, wheeled transport and wooly sheep and it prepares the way for the Near Eastern earliest state formation in human history termed by V. G. Childe ‘urban revolution’.

The emphasis of our survey of the Bronze Age is laid on the earliest Aegean civilizations in Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece with their Levantine, northern and western contacts. The course will end with the review of the collapse of the Eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age and the transition to the Age of Iron.


The participation to these course is beneficial not only for students interested in prehistory, but also to those who seek to better understand processes of change, innovation, development and decline. Most of the topics stimulate a broad approach to archaeological past which focuses on the shift between local and ‘global’ scales of investigation. Our wish to better understand the Eastern Mediterranean puts us on an intellectual journey from Mesopotamia in the Southeast to the Paris-basin in the Northwest. We emphasize also on the micro-scale and on the local which are crucial for the understanding of cultural variability and political borders.










Imagining the Eastern Mediterranean






Transition to the Neolithic and Early Farmers in the Near East



Çatalhöyük – the Earliest Urban Community?



Homo Faber: Neolithic and Copper Age Stone Tools


The Appearance of First Metals and the Copper Age in the Eastern Mediterranean and Southeastern Europe



Crisis and Collapse. The End of the Copper Age in Southeastern Europe and the ‘Creative’ Fourth Millennium BCE in the Near East, the Mediterranean and Europe. Early Urbanization in the Near East



The Early Bronze Age in NW Anatolia and the North Aegean. "Metals make world go around"



The Early Bronze Age in Continental Greece, the Cyclades and South Aegean. Mediterranean. Mobility of Objects, Ideas and People



Old Palaces on Crete



The Aegean in the Middle Bronze Age



Mycenaean Civilzation



Trade in the 2nd mill BCE Eastern Mediterranean



Continental Europe in the 2nd Mill. BC (B. Athanassov)



The Collapse of the Eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age World and the Transition to the Age of Iron (B. Athanassov)






Essential readings:

Algaze, G. 2008. Ancient Mesopotamia at the Dawn of Civilization. The Evolution of an Urban Landscape. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London 2008.

Banning, E. B. / M. Chazan (eds.) 2006. Domesticating Space. Construction, Community, and Cosmology in the Late Prehistoric Near East. Berlin, ex oriente, 2006.

Bietti Sestieri, A. M. / A. Cazzella / A. Schnapp 2002. The Mediterranean. In: Cunliffe, B. / W. Davies / C. Renfrew (eds.) Archaeology. The Widening Debate, Oxford Univ. Press. 2002, 411-

Bintliff, J. 2012. The Complete Archaeology of Greece. From Hunter-Gatherers to the 20th Century AD. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester 2012.

Blake, E. / A. B. Knapp. 2005 The Archaeology of Mediterranean Prehistory. Blackwell, Malden et al. 2005.

Broodbank, C. 1993. Ulysses without sails: trade, distance, knowledge and power in the Early Cyclades. WorldA, 24, 1993, 315-331.

Broodbank, C. 2000. An Island Archaeology of the Early Cyclades. Cambridge University Press.

Broodbank, C. 2013  The Making of the Middle Sea. A History of the Mediterranean from the Beginning to the Emergence of the Classical World. Thames and Hudson 2013.

Carter, Tr. 2007. Of blanks and burials. Hoarding obsidian in Çatalhöyük. In: Astruc, L. / D. Binder / Fr. Briois (ed.) Systèmes techniques et communautés du Néolithique précéramique au Proche-Orient, Antibes 2007, 343-355.

Chapman, J. 1990. Social Inequality on Bulgarian Tells and the Varna Problem. In: Samson, R. (ed.), The Social Archaeology of Houses. Edinburgh Univ Press, 1990, 49-92.

Chapmann, J. 2000. Fragmentation in Archaeology. People, Places and Broken Objects in the Prehistory of South Eastern Europe. Routledge, London et al. 2000.

Chapman, J. 2010. Houses, Households, Villages and Proto-Cities in Southeastern Europe. In: Anthony, D. W. et al. (eds.) The Lost World of Old Europe. The Danube Valley, 5000-3500 BC. Exhibition catalogue, Princeton and Oxford 2010, 75-89.

Chapman, J. / B. Gaydarska 2010. Introduction: from surface collection to past lifeways. In: Chapman, J. (ed.) From Surface Collection to Prehistoric Lifeways. Making Sense of the Multi-Period Site of Orlovo, South East Bulgaria, Oxbow Books, Oxford UK, 2010, 1-13.

Chapman, J. / T. Higham / Vl. Slavchev / B. Gaydarska / N. Honch 2006. The social context of the emergence, development and abandonment of the Varna cemetery, Bulgaria. JEA 9, 2006, 2-3, 159-183.

Düring, Bl. 2011. The Prehistory of Asia Minor. From Complex Hunter-Gatherers to Early Urban Societies. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Easton, D. F. / J. D. Hawkins / A. G. Sherratt / E. S. Sherratt. 2002. Troy in recent perspective. Anatolian Studies, 52, 2002, 75-109.

Galaty, M. L. / W. A. Parkinson / J. F. Cherry / E. H. Cline / P. N. Kardulias / R. Schon / S. Sherratt / H. Tomas / D. Wengrow 2009. Interaction amides Diversity: An Introduction to the Eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age. In: W. A. Parkinson / M. L. Galaty (eds.) Archaic State Interaction: The Eastern Mediterranean in the Bronze Age, Santa Fe, School for Advanced Research Press, 2009, 29-51.

Gamble, Cl. 1999. The Palaeolithic Societies of Europe. Cambridge University Press.

Gatsov, Iv. 1998. Technical and Typological Analysis of the chipped Stone Assemblages from Troia. Studia Troica 8, 1998, 115-140.

Gatsov, Iv. / M. Özdoğan 1994. Some Epi-Paleolithic Sites from NW Turkey. Anatolica 20, 1994, 97-120.

Gaydarska, B. / J. Chapman / I. Angelova / M. Gurova / Sl. Yanev 2004. Breaking, Making and Trading: The Omurtag Eneolithic Spondylus Hoard. Archaeologia Bulgarica 2004, 2, 11-34.

Harding, A. 2000. European Societies in the Bronze Age. Cambridge World Archaeology. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge 2000.

Halstead, P.  2014. Two Oxen Ahead. Pre-mechanized Farming in the Mediterranean. Wiley-Blackwell 2014.

Hansen, Sv. 2006. New aspects of Stone Age art. Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran und Turan, 38, 2006, 367-380.

Hansen, Sv. 2016. Beads of gold and silver in the 4th and 3rd mill BC. In: Körlin, G. et al. (eds) From Bright Ores to Shiny Metals. Festschrift for Andreas Hauptmann on the Occasion of 40 Years Research in Archaeometallurgy and Arhaeometry, Verlag Marie Leidorf, Rahden 2016, 37-48.

Hansen, Sv. / J. Renn / Fl. Klimscha / J. Büttner / B. Helwing / S. Kruse 2016. The Digital Atlas of Innovations: A Research Programm on Innovations in Prehistory and Antiquity. eTopoi 6, 2016, 777-818.

Harding, A. / H. Fokkens (eds)  2013. The Oxford Handbook of the European Bronze Age. Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology, Oxford, 2013.

Hodder, I. 2013. Things and the Slow Neolithic: the Middle Eastern Transformation. J Archaeol Method Theory DOI 10.1007/s10816-017-9336-0

Horden, P. / N. Purcell. 2000. The Corrupting Sea: A Study of the Mediterranean History. Oxford, Blackwell.

Jung, R. / M. Mehofer 2013. Mycenaean Greece and Bronze Age Italy: Cooperation, Trade or War? AK 43, 2, 2013, 175-194.

Knapp, A. B. / E. Blake 2005. Prehistory in the Mediterranean: The Connecting and Corrupting Sea. In: E. Blake / A. B. Knapp (eds.) The Archaeology of Mediterranean Prehistory, Blackwell, Malden et al. 2005, 1-23.

Kuijt, Ian (ed) 2002. Life in Neolithic Farming Communities: Social Organization, Identity, and Differentiation. Kluwer Academic Publishers, New York et al, 2002.

Leusch, V. / E. Pernicka / B. Armbruster. 2014. Chalcolithic gold in Varna - provenance, circulation, processing and function. In: Meller, H. et al. (eds.) Metalle der Macht - frühes Gold und Silber, Tagungen des Landesmuseums für Vorgeschichte Halle, 11, 1, 2014, 165-182.

Maran, J. 2007. Seaborne contacts between the Aegean, the Balkans and the Central Mediterranean in the 3rd Mill. BC: the Unfolding of the Mediterranean World. In: Galanaki, I. / H. Tomas / Y. Galanakis / R. Laffineur (eds.) Between the Aegean and the Baltic Seas. Prehistory Across Borders (Conference Zagreb 2005) AEGAEUM 27, 2007, 3-21.

Maran, J. 2015. Tiryns and the Argolid in Mycenaean times. New clues and interpretations. In:  A.-L. Schallin / I. Tournavitou (eds.) Mycenaeans Up to Date. Archaeology of the northeastern Peloponnese - current concepts and new directions. Stockholm 2015, 277-293.

Özdoğan, M. 1993. The Second Millennium of the Marmara Region. The Perspective of a Prehistorian on a Controversial Historical Issue. Istanbuler Mitteilungen 43 (1993), 151-163 (183).

Özdoğan M. 2003.  The prehistory of northwestern Turkey. A synoptic overview of the latest evidence. In: Grammenos, D. (ed.), Recent Research in the Prehistory of the Balkans, Thessaloniki 2003, 329-368.

Preucel, R. / I. Hodder (eds.)  1996. Contemporary Archaeology in Theory. Blackwell, Oxford et al. 1996, 206-219.

Runnels, C. 1995. Review of Aegean Prehistory IV: The Stone Age of Greece from the Palaeolithic to the Advent of the Neolithic. AJA 99, 1995, 699-728.

Sherratt, A. 1993. What would a Bronze Age system look like? Relations between Temperate Europe and the Mediterranean in Later Prehistory. Journal of European Archaeology 1993, 1, 2, 1-58.

Sherratt, A. 1997. Cups that cheered: the introduction of alcohol to prehistoric Europe. In: Sherratt, A. Economy and  Society in Prehistoric Europe. Changing Perspectives, Edinburgh 1997, 376-402.

Sherratt, A. 2004.  Fractal farmers: patterns of Neolithic origin and dispersal. In: Cherry, J. et al. (eds.) Explaining Social Change: Studies in Honor of Colin Renfrew, McDonald Institute Monographs, Cambridge, 2004, 53-63.

Sherratt, A.  / S. Sherratt. 1991. From luxuries to commodities: the nature of Mediterranean Bronze Age trading systems. In: Gale, N. H. 1991 (ed.) (1989), Bronze Age Trade in the Mediterranean. Jonsered 1991, 351-386.

Sherratt, A. / S. Sherratt 1998. Small Worlds: Interaction and Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean. In: Cline, E. / D. Harris-Cline. Aegaeum 18. The Aegean and the Orient in the Second Millennium, 1998, 137-146.

Shelmerdine, C. (ed.) 2008. The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age. Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Tartaron, Th. 2013. Maritime Networks in the Mycenaean World. Cambridge University Press.

Watkins, T. 1990. The origins of house and home? World Archaeology 21, 1990, 336-347.

Watkins, T. 2005. Architecture and 'theatres of memory' in the Neolithic of southwest Asia. In: DeMarrais, E. / C. Gosden / C. Renfrew (eds.) Rethinking Materiality: The Engagement of Mind with the Material World, Cambridge, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2005, 97-106.

Whittle, A. 1996. Europe in the Neolithic: The Creation of New Worlds. Cambridge Univ. Press.