Studia Antiqua et Archaeologica 27(2): 223-253

Cristina BARCINA


This article analyzes current theoretical discourses within the Neolithic and Chalcolithic research of
Southwestern Asia, which is still dominated by interpretations that assume a progression of increased
hierarchization. Whether explicitly or implicitly, social evolutionary thinking still pervades our scholarship, and
prevents innovative theory-building. This entails an inability to break with heuristics of ‘origins’ inherited from the
past (e.g. “from the origins of domestication to the origins of civilization”), even though old and new discoveries,
when integrated, are already pointing towards alternative research pathways. Sedentism, domestication, and
urbanism were all complex, protracted, non-linear processes. Yet, the visualization of an ‘Uruk phenomenon’
expanding over large areas of Mesopotamia during the 4th millennium BC, ridden with problematic inconsistencies,
still heralds the triumphal rise of civilization. Instead of relying on obsolete political and economic theories, or fake
economy/ritual dichotomies, the investigation of social intelligence and the articulation of the biosocial in the
landscape and within the prehistoric community should be a priority. The ‘agency’ of ‘elites’ is merely an
interpretive deus ex machina helping scholars deal with the many difficulties and uncertainties of their research.



elitism – domestication – Uruk phenomenon – hierarchy – heterarchy



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