DISCUSSING COLONIZATION IN ARCHAEOLOGY: THE CASE OF HELLENISED CYPRUS (ONCE MORE)
Anastasia Leriou, University of Athens
Introduction: colonisation, archaeological theory and terminology
Regardless of their theoretical background, archaeologists have always considered colonisations to be cultural developments of immense importance; this is also the case for migrations and invasions.1 On the other hand, the ways in which archaeological material may be employed, in order to substantiate such movements, frequently already known through written sources, have been the subject of great debate that has followed the development of archaeological thought throughout the course of the 20th century. This debate is closely connected to the on-going epistemological argument regarding the complicated relationship between the archaeological record and past cultural groups.2
Although the archaeological interest in ethnic studies might seem relatively fresh, the earliest attempts to employ ancient remains in the identification of past peoples date from as early as the Renaissance period. This phenomenon was generalised during the 19th century as a result of the growing nationalism and emphasis on ethnic identity promoted by the developing European nation-states and lead to the development of culture-historical archaeology or, more simply, the direct equation between artefacts—usually pots—and peoples. Culture-historical archaeologists regarded archaeological cultures as the material manifestations of ancient groups of people with a distinctive ethnic identity. Thus, the determination of the geographic distribution of a particular archaeological culture would equal the identification of the area that was occupied by the corresponding population. Furthermore, the presence of foreign cultural elements within the specified area is generally viewed as the result of colonisation, invasion or migration.3
Culture-historical archaeology determined European and North American archaeological thought during the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. It was dismissed during the 1950s-60s partly as a result of its systematic exploitation by Nazi ideology4 and most importantly due to the development of processual archaeology, commonly known as New Archaeology, which shifted the discipline’s focus from the description (when and where) of ancient cultures and their movements to the explanation (how and why) of cultural change.5
Since the descriptive identification of archaeological cultures and their distribution through time and space was considered a totally inadequate means of explaining the archaeological record, the reconstruction of past peoples and, consequently, ancient migrations, invasions and colonisation was somehow marginalised. Cultures and ethnic groups were identified with the empirical/ descriptive level, while other aspects of society were thought to contribute to the constitution of a dynamic cultural system. Prehistoric archaeologists avoided alluding to past peoples, while their colleagues researching historical archaeology could not follow accordingly due to references to specific ethnic groups and their movements in ancient written sources. The association between archaeological cultures and specific populations, although severely criticised, was not altogether abandoned. Some processual archaeologists believed that, although ethnic/cultural groups should not be included in the functional aspects of material culture, style, that is to say the non-functional aspects, was thought to include important information regarding the ethnic identity of past peoples. Thus, it could be somehow be employed in the reconstruction of past peoples’ movements. Moreover, many researchers regarded the normative concept of archaeological culture (description, typology) as an indispensable tool for the necessary preliminary stage of classifying the events (simple narration) prior to the process of explaining them.6
The principles, methods and goals of New Archaeology have been challenged during the last thirty years by post-processual archaeologists, who rejected the potential of developing explanatory models on the basis of the uniqueness and diversity that characterises each and every society. Moreover they declared that objective explanation is totally impossible as there is no single way of interpreting material culture.7 Furthermore, while criticising the processual distinction between empirical description (style) and social explanation (function), the great majority of post-processualists focused on symbolic and ideological systems and neglected a reconsideration of the interpretation of ethnicity in archaeology.8
The complicated relationship between past material cultures and ethnic identities would have remained poorly theorised if it were not for a small group of social anthropology-inspired archaeologists, who maintained that the ethnic identities should not be viewed as a passive reflection of cultural norms but as an active social process involving the development and maintenance of cultural boundaries as a result of interaction between groups of people. This approach towards ethnicity in the past instigated research focusing either on its role in the construction of economic and political relationships or the association between material culture and ethnic symbolism. 9
In the following discussion, I do not intend to further explore the above issues, since the main point of the present paper is how archaeologists speak about colonisation, migration and invasion, in other words the terminology they employ to describe the cultural phenomena they identify within the theoretical frameworks discussed above. In contrast to science, the vocabulary employed in humanistic disciplines such as archaeology, history and sociology has a highly subjective character and a dynamic, ever-evolving nature. Thus, it can create fixed images, cause inconsistency and misconception and provoke theoretical discussions and reassessments. This is due to the rhetorical nature of humanities.
Adorno maintains: “in philosophy, rhetoric represents that which cannot be thought except in language”.10 Archaeology depends largely on texts. After having uncovered, recorded, classified and studied their material, archaeologists are expected to produce texts about it. Publishing excavated material is an essential task that facilitates its communication to an audience, as well as data recording and storage. As such, it is quite technical in nature.11 Consequently, the terminology employed in it has resulted from a consensus reached among researchers and may be described as more or less objective. Indeed, plenty of archaeological discussion has been devoted to terminological issues in association with certain classes of material, mostly ceramics. Besides publication, this type of standardised terminology is generally utilised in classificatory studies and stylistic analyses.
In contrast to archaeological publications and other classificatory-stylistic discussions, the choice of vocabulary that one employs in texts aiming at the archaeological record’s interpretation and the reconstruction of the past is much more complex. This is so since putting together an archaeological narrative constitutes the object of a procedure incorporating social, political, ideological, cultural and emotional parameters reflecting the context in which it took place.12 As such, it may be approached by means of narrative analysis drawn from literary theory, philosophy and sociology.13 In their editorial to the proceeding of the conference entitled Narrative Pasts/Past Narratives, which took place at Stanford during February of 2001, Jackman and Witmore refer to the philosophical perceptions of Ricoer and White14 and maintain that archaeological narrative may be viewed as a:
disursive index through which, and by which, historical events are mediated. Beyond simply delineating events, narrative actually simulates that which it refers to, because it is an outcome of the same type of occurrences as those that lie behind the events and experiences that are accorded a place in history. The way in which archaeologists go about writing up the objects and events of archaeology is caught up within this same process. In dealing with a past that is absent, archaeologists constitute the material worthy of representation.
Moreover, they claim that “the narrative act, which we take as the process of discursive mediation, is that of interpretation, manipulation, and construction.”15
In the light of these observations, the construction of narratives of past colonisations, migrations and invasions seems a highly complicated process due to their radical, rather dramatic character. The endeavour becomes much more intricate if the archaeologists engaged in the narrative’s production originate from a geographical region that has received migration waves or been invaded or colonised in the past, recent or more distant; this is particularly so when the narrative under construction concerns that very same region. An analogous, though not identical, situation may be observed with regard to researchers originating from areas that have acted as initiators of processes such as those mentioned above.16
I propose to illuminate the decisive role ascribed to the terminology employed in the narration of extreme processes such as colonisations, migrations and invasions within the framework of the widely established archaeological narrative of the Mycenaean colonisation of Cyprus. I chose this narrative as a case study, as its earliest appearance goes back to the middle of the 19th century. Consequently, its development through the last sixteen decades reflects all major stages in the development of theoretical archaeological thought.17 Moreover, the turbulent political situation of Cyprus during the second half of the 19th and throughout the 20th century has allowed plenty of space for manipulation, subjectivism and, consequently, misunderstanding and inconsistency.18 Besides proposing an alternative set of terms for the archaeological narrative in question, the ultimate purpose of this paper is to contribute to the development of a certain level of attentiveness regarding the choice of words describing cultural phenomena of diachronic value.
Setting the stage: the archaeological narrative of the Mycenaean colonisation of Cyprus
It has already been mentioned that the earliest version of the narrative generally known as the Mycenaean colonisation of Cyprus goes back to the first half of the 19th century. Since then, it has been gradually developed, modified and refined in the light of new archaeological discoveries and as a result of novel research methods and theoretical approaches.19 The currently available version, a brief overview of which follows, was consolidated during the 1990s. Despite the objections and criticism expressed by many scholars lately,20 this narrative remains widely accepted, while only a limited number of researchers have produced differentiated versions.21 As these have not made it to the handbooks, popular or academic, on Cypriot22 and Greek ancient history,23 they will not be included in the present discussion. Before continuing with the narrative’s brief overview,24 it should be stressed that, when referring to it, the term colonisation does not reflect my actual opinion regarding the character of the Aegean movement to Cyprus. It is used in a purely conventional manner, as it constitutes the earliest and most widely used term employed by historians and archaeologists in order to define the cultural phenomenon in question.
The current, ‘official’ version of the archaeological narrative of the Mycenaean colonisation of Cyprus advocates two successive influxes of Aegeans in Cyprus. The first one occurred immediately after the fall of the Mycenaean palaces during the 12th century and is substantiated by considerably large quantities of locally produced MycIIIc:1b style pots. The second, definitely more extensive Aegean wave took place during the first half of the 11th century and is thought to be attested by:
- The introduction of a new tomb-type bearing close affinities to Mycenaean graves.
- Many Mycenaean elements in the shape- and decoration-repertory of the of the Proto-White Painted ceramic style, that appeared at the beginning of 11th century (Late Cypriot IIIb).
- Various artefacts/architectural features of Aegean origin or inspiration (figurines of the goddess with uplifted arms, D-shaped fibulae etc).
- The introduction of the Greek language.
The first wave of newcomers has been associated with the activity of the Sea Peoples, which is thought to be substantiated by a series of destructions in almost all Late Bronze Age centres. Furthermore the newcomers are held responsible for the subsequent establishment of new sites during the 11th century. These coincide more or less with the capitals of the ancient kingdoms of Cyprus, which according to a set of foundation myths were founded by Greek heroes that came to Cyprus after the Trojan War. Consequently, the 11th century has been regarded as the beginning of a long and extremely significant procedure: the hellenisation of Cyprus.25
Colonisation versus migration
The archaeological narrative in question is characterised by remarkable terminological inconsistency, which has caused much confusion concerning the character of the alleged movement of Aegean peoples to Cyprus around the end of the Late Bronze Age. Some scholars refer to it as colonisation26 while Greek-speaking archaeologists use αποικισμός.27 Migration and immigration (French: migration, German: Einwanderung) appear quite frequently28 although the Modern Greek equivalent μετανάστευση is not at all used. The Mycenaeans are usually called immigrants29 but never μετανάστες. On the other hand, the term colonists is not very popular,30 while its Greek equivalent άποικοι is widely used.31
The establishment of the term colonisation goes back to the 19th century when historical writing, lacking support from the underdeveloped discipline of archaeology, was almost exclusively based on ancient literary sources. The earliest reference to the Mycenaean colonisation of the island dates as early as Herodotus’ Historiae: in book V it is mentioned that the kingdom of Kourion was founded by people from the Argolid (5.113). Some seven centuries later Pausanias reported that Paphos was established by Agapenor, the legendary king of Tegea, who was driven to the western coast of Cyprus by a storm while on his way home after the sack of Troy (8.5.2-3). Several similar references describing the foundation of the Cypriot kingdoms by Greek heroes after the Trojan War may be found in the texts of various Greek and Roman authors the latest being Stephanos Byzantios.32 Both the ancient authors as well as their ancient and medieval commentators regarded the movement of Aegean peoples to Cyprus as analogous to the organised Greek colonisation of the Archaic period and consequently employed the same terminology in the narration of both historical phenomena. Thus the Greek heroes, who established (οἴκισαν, άποίκισαν33 or ἔκτισαν34) the Cypriot city-kingdoms are called οἰκισταί or ἄποικοι35 and their establishments κτίσματα.36 Moreover the colonists’ place of origin is usually referred to as their metropolis.37 Mythological information was corroborated by linguistics, as soon as the existence of Greek dialect in Classical Cyprus was detected by means of epigraphic evidence. Thus, 19th century historians described the Aegean movement as a colonising one and the cities established by the newcomers as colonies.38 These scholars had been born and educated during a period characterised by the strong and ever-growing European fascination by Greek antiquity. Thus, they viewed ancient Greeks as superior, highly civilised humans, who would be more than able to “visit” less sophisticated peoples in remote places like Cyprus and establish colonies.39
These terms became popular among early researchers of Cypriot Archaeology, e.g. sir John L. Myres and Max Ohnefalsch-Richter, undertaking excavations on the island during the final decades of the 19th century.40 As they located plenty of material bearing strong Aegean stylistic influences, they established that the mythological information outlined above reflected actual historical events.41 The terms in question were established more firmly through the publications of the members of the Swedish Cyprus Expedition, who thoroughly investigated Cyprus by means of excavation during the late 1920s.42 One cannot avoid considering that the colonising activity of Great Britain, which had reached its peak during the course of the 19th century, must have provided plenty of inspiration and possibly motive for the use and establishment of such terminology. It is the very same activity that had seriously affected both the political conditions and the development of the archaeological discipline in Cyprus during the final decades of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. After all, most of the excavators of Cyprus during the last quarter of the 19th century were of British nationality.43 Moreover, the Germans, the British and the Swedes had been receivers of analogous hellenocentric education, which constituted one of the most fundamental characteristics of the Western world, during the second half of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th century. As a result, these researchers believed deeply in the superiority of the Greeks, which would have made the colonisation of Cyprus a simple venture. Consequently, they paid special emphasis on the Aegeanising material, the presence of which was attributed to the Mycenaean colonisation of the island, by that time a widely established historical fact. Einar Gjerstad, the head of the Swedish Cyprus Expedition has outlined the basic characteristic of the post-colonisation society as follows:
The Mycenaean colonists and conquerors were the lords of the country, but the descendants of the Late Bronze Age inhabitants, whom we may call the Eteocyprians, formed the majority of the population, and for some time parts of the island still remained entirely Eteocyprian. No foundation legends refer to cities in the interior of the island or to places on the south coast between Kourion in the West and Salamis in the East. In the interior of the island there were “barbarian”, i.e. Eteocyprian cities at least down to the Classical period.44
Further discoveries in Cyprus, as well as Greek finds associated with the fall of the Mycenaean palaces at about 1200 BC and the subsequent Dark Age in the Aegean during the 1950s and 1960s challenged considerably the concept of the domination of the newcomers over the native population that the Swedes had proposed.45 Nevertheless, the large amounts of Aegeanising material could not be ignored: the Aegeans had definitely arrived. As they could not have possibly been mighty conquerors, they must had come as refugees fleeing the disasters in the Aegean. Thus, the term immigration was introduced.46 Subsequently, archaeologists started developing a strong interest in the interaction between the newcomers and the native population. This was evident in the appearance of many studies investigating classes of material characterised by a fusion of Aegean and LBA Cypriot stylistic elements.47
Nevertheless both colonisation and immigration carry plenty of ancient as well as modern political connotation and thus attribute very specific meanings to the Aegean movement. Many researchers, therefore, tend to use more neutral terms like occupation, settlement/εγκατάσταση 48 or the even more general arrival.49 Consequently the newcomers are called settlers 50 and lately refugees fleeing the disasters in Mainland Greece51 although very rarely πρόσφυγες.52
It has already been argued that no term can be neutral enough. This is particularly so, as almost none of the researchers discussing the Aegean presence in Cyprus has so far explained the reasons for choosing any term over the others and subsequently defined this particular term in an exact and clear way before dealing with the actual narrative.53 Meanings are taken for granted and sometimes overlooked as two different terms may appear in the works of a single researcher, even in the very same text.54 Associations between scholars’ social, political and academic preconceptions with their preference for a particular term are called for. Greek-speaking archaeologists, for example, favour terms like αποικισμός and άποικοι. On the other hand, they seem to avoid the somehow demeaning μετανάστευση, μετανάστες and πρόσφυγες. The strongly political hellenisation/ Hellenisirung/ εξελληνισμός is used by most Western European as well as Greek and Cypriot researchers when referring to the whole procedure of the settlement of the Aegean peoples on the island.55 Similarly, the newcomers are often called Greeks/Έλληνες. The use of this characterisation has been more systematic since the early 1980s, when an 11th century inscription in Greek was discovered at Palaepaphos;56 it constitutes the earliest example of the Greek language on the island.57 The introduction of hellenisation goes back to 19th century historical writing and the age of classicism and idealisation of ancient Greece.58 It was re-introduced during the 1970s by Vassos Karageorghis, a Greek Cypriot with a strong hellenocentric identity and the most vehement supporter of the Mycenaean colonisation hypothesis.59
Other terminological inconsistencies
The “colonisation” of Cyprus is usually described as Mycenaean/ Μυκηναϊκός,60 although the characterisations Achaean/Αχαϊκός are also very common.61 Researchers seem to treat these characterisations as completely synonymous and use them in order to describe anything associated with “the Late Bronze Age peoples of eastern and southern Greece and related areas, who shared the same culture and language.”62
This is a more or less standard definition for the archaeologically constructed cultural group of the Mycenaeans.63 The term Achaeans, on the other hand, has not been invented by archaeologists. It is the name that Homer gave to the Greeks in his epics and is thus considered to be the name, by which “the Greeks of heroic times (i.e. the inhabitants of Mainland Greece during LBA) spoke of themselves.”64
Some Aegean prehistorians consider the Achaeans as a Greek-speaking population who established themselves in Mainland Greece at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age. Their interaction with the native population resulted in the development of the Mycenaean civilisation.65 Consequently, the mythological term Achaean should not be confused with the purely technical Mycenaean. Moreover, the former’s Homeric origin has ascribed it with strong ethnic connotations, on the basis of which Catling has described it as “emotive”.66 Furthermore it should be emphasised that the term Achaeans does not appear anywhere in the ancient sources that report the foundation of the Cypriot kingdoms by Greek heroes and their people, who are generally mentioned there by their toponyms, i.e. Salaminians, Arcadians, Argives.67 Thus, other researchers have adopted the geographic people from the Aegean, which is more neutral and allows the inclusion of people from the island of Crete. 68
The main reason, however, for the terminological inconsistency outlined above is the insufficiency of the archaeological material. Excavated remains from the 12th-10th centuries are fragmentary and rather limited, thus allowing ample space for assumptions and hypotheses.69 Furthermore, the invalidation of the direct association between material evidence and peoples undermines the establishment of archaeological labels such as colonists and immigrants. This is particularly true for the terms ethnicity, ethnic identity and ethnic group/ element, which have entered the discussion about the Mycenaean colonisation of Cyprus during the last decades of the 20th century.70
Sherratt has recently summarised the difficulties that lie in both the general and the archaeological usage of these terms. She maintains that ethnicity is employed by most researchers to describe a certain level of group identity, which is usually vaguely defined and therefore unclear. Furthermore when archaeologists or anthropologists do attempt to define these terms, their definitions slide into the essentially political concepts and preoccupations of relatively recent history. Sherratt’s arguments are supported by a brief outline of the semantic history of the terms έθνος and εθνικός from the age of Homer until the present day that
reveals the kinds of earlier contexts in which successive Greek and later Europaean notions of ‘ethnic’ definition and distinction were formed, and brings out the gradual crystallisation of the essentially political principle of ‘otherness’ which still informs much of their modern usage.71
Epilogue: an alternative set of terms and other suggestions
The above discussion has illustrated how the terminology employed in archaeological narratives of colonisations, migrations and invasions constitutes the result of the very same theoretical considerations and socio-political conditions that generated them. At the same time, however, terminology seems to actively contribute to the narratives’ modification and development through the creation of preconceptions and ideas. As a result, I would like to conclude this paper by stressing the need to take some time and clarify our terminology, before starting to use it, and most importantly, before putting any of it in print. Moreover, a combined and systematic effort to establish a widely-accepted set of terms in regard to the discussion of peoples’ movements such as colonisations and migrations would by all means benefit research, despite the fact that it would remain essentially fruitless. As objectivity is practically impossible to obtain within the field of a humanistic discipline (made by people, for people) like archaeology, providing a clear definition for each of the proposed terms will (I hope) leave no space for confusion and misunderstanding.
In regard to the Mycenaean colonisation of Cyprus, my attempt to produce and utilise a well-defined set of terms enabled me to work through the complex semantic web that was outlined in the previous sections; moreover, it allowed me to adopt an alternative, much wider point of view. My ideas concerning the nature and extent of the Aegean movement to Cyprus at the end of the Late Bronze Age have been presented elsewhere.72 Suffice here to say that they are in full agreement with none of the hypotheses discussed in the previous sections.
As far as the actual terms are concerned, I believe that colonisation and immigration/migration should be replaced with movement or arrival that are meant to describe the mere physical transference of groups of people from the Aegean to Cyprus. On the other hand, politically charged terms such as occupation, or the even more explicit hellenisation have to be altogether abandoned. Furthermore the use of settlement should be strictly confined to the designation of the establishment of people as resident at a particular place and not extend as far as processes like community or colony formation after migration. Consequently, characterisations such as colonists, immigrants, refugees may not be used when referring to the people, who are generally thought to have moved to the island of Cyprus around the end of the Late Bronze Age, while the use of the term settlers should be in accordance with the above definition for settlement. Moreover, terms such as newcomers, incomers or arrivals are by all means preferable.
When it comes to determining the origin of the incomers the ethnic characterisations Greek/Hellenic should be totally avoided, due to their close connection with contemporary politics and complicating effect when mentioned in contexts associated with Aegean Prehistory.73 Similarly, the mythological name Achaeans is quite confusing because it has a Homeric origin and consequently multiple interpretations. Therefore the geographic Aegean people, where Aegean includes the Aegean archipelago and the surrounding lands, namely mainland Greece, Crete and the western coast of Turkey74, seems more appropriate. Finally, the archaeologically constructed term Mycenaeans, whenever used, should be meant to designate the bearers of the material culture which was typical in Mainland Greece during the period 1600-1050.75 Last but not least, the highly perplexing ethnic group may be replaced with cultural group, which is thought to define the producers and/or consumers of a particular archaeological culture.
3 Trigger 1989: 148-50; 161-86; 1995: 266-70; Sherratt 1992: 316-17; Shennan 1994: 5-11; Diaz-Andreu 1996; Diaz-Andreu and Champion 1996; Hides 1996; Jones 1997: 15-26; Jones and Graves-Brown 1996 and Hall 1997: 1, 128-31.
25 This summary is based on Karageorghis 1990a; Karageorghis 1990b; Karageorghis 1992; 1997: 255-85; Karageorghis 2000b; Karageorghis 2002a; 2002b: 71-141; Iacovou 1989; Iacovou 1994; Iacovou 1995; Iacovou 1998; Iacovou 1999a; Iacovou 1999b; Iacovou 2001 and Iacovou 2003.
44 Gjerstad 1948: 429, italics mine. For the Eteocypriots see Leriou 2002: 15-16 and Given 1998; moreover, see the various comments and responses to Given 1998 by Y. Hamilakis, P. Van Dommelen, N.A. Silberman and P. Saint-Cassia in Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 11(1): 107-24.
56 Gjerstad 1948: 433; Hill 1949: 82; Marinatos 1961; Fortin 1980; 1984; Karageorghis 1985; Demetriou 1987; Vanschwoonwinkel 1994; Maier 1996; Iacovou 1999a; Reyes 1994: 11-13. Demetriou (2001) has gone as far as stretching this term to describe the cultural assimilation of the Phoenicians by the supposedly fully hellenised population of EIA Cyprus!
60 Evans 1900; Gjerstad 1948: 429, 432; Dikaios 1962; Spyridakis 1963; Desborough 1964: 196-205; Desborough 1973; Hood 1973; Nicolaou 1973; Maier 1973; Karageorghis 1971b; Karageorghis 1973; Karageorghis 1976a; Hooker 1985; Kilian 1990; Pouilloux 1992 and Deger-Jalkotzy 1998.
72 Leriou 2005.
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