Theme 12: Interactions

Kristian Kristiansen (University of Gothenburg)

’Interaction’ is a covering concept for the multitude of ways prehistoric and historic communities stayed in contact, peacefully or violently. From travels to trade, from warfare to migration. To operationalize the concept we therefore need to specify the historical conditions that would either allow, constrain or stimulate various types of interaction. We also need to specify types of interaction, as each of them come with certain institutional demands: traders needs routes and protection, whether at sea or land, formed by political alliances and agreements. Thus, in order to reach a fuller understanding of ancient traveling and trading networks we need to study 1) the nature of ancient knowledge of the world (their cognitive maps, sometimes preserved in texts, more often not), 2) the nature of mobile technologies and their capacities (from ships to wagons and caravans, but also the infrastructures/logistics to support them), and 3) archaeological knowledge of the goods being traded, their origin and distribution. Finally, how do we identity the various types of interactions in the archaeological record: traders, warriors, sailors, colonizers? This is the last part of the theoretical and methodological exercise, and can be carried out once we have defined the historical contexts, the types of interaction and their institutional contexts. At a more local level interaction is also linked to an understanding of cultural boundaries, how they were crossed, and how they were maintained. At the macro level we may study how different social formations are linked together in ancient World Systems, formed by a multiple types of interactions.

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