Regional Approaches to Society and Complexity - Alex R. Knodell

Regional Approaches to Society and Complexity - Alex R. Knodell

9. Does Island Archaeology Matter?

Regional Approaches to Society and Complexity - Alex R. Knodell

Cyprian Broodbank [+-]
University of Cambridge
Cyprian Broodbank is Disney Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, where he is also Head of the Division of Archaeology and Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. He codirects the Kythera Island Project, and is author of An Island Archaeology of the Early Cyclades (Cambridge University Press, 2000) and 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).


Island archaeology is now a well-established field, but within the changing conditions of the twenty-first century AD, within and beyond archaeology, how can it best ensure its continued wider appeal and relevance? Three mutually compatible and far from exclusive responses are advanced here. The first emphasizes the intrinsic importance of understanding early island societies, both for the politics of identity among islanders today, and in order to contextualize the challenges they face in terms of current and future geopolitics and global warming. The second concerns the comparative insights into wider sociopolitical developments that we might gain from island archaeology, and suggests that this investigation requires a revision of questions if it is to prosper. The third argues for a new approach and agenda that explores the impact of island societies on deep global history. Preliminary indications suggest that with regard to the islands of the world’s three great oceans this is a relatively recent phenomenon, a millennium or less in age, with the possible exception of Indian Ocean transfers. Deeper time antecedents exist among some of the world’s inner seas, specifically exemplified from at least 5,000 years ago in the Mediterranean. Yet even amongst other such theaters there seems to be significant variation both in the roles played by islanders and the cultural dynamics of insularity, variation not entirely explained by differential surviving evidence. This prompts some final observations on the unusual dynamics of insularity that Mediterranean conditions encouraged, the extent to which approaches to islands first developed there as long ago as this region’s Bronze and Iron Ages became cumulatively globalized after AD 1492, and the consequent potential for a more historicized approach to comparative island archaeology.

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Broodbank, Cyprian. 9. Does Island Archaeology Matter?. Regional Approaches to Society and Complexity. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 188-206 Jan 2018. ISBN 9781781795279. Date accessed: 01 Dec 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.30812. Jan 2018

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