Arts and Humanities Research Board
University College London
University of Southampton
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The local context of exoticity amongst early farming communities in South East and Central Europe.

Dr. John Chapman
University of Durham

The decline of exchange studies based upon the processual notion of the correlation of social structure and spatial order has left a void in exchange studies, seen in the relative scarcity of research on this topic in recent European prehistory. This relative lack of research progress is seen in the comparison of the contents of that very processualist manifesto “Ranking, resources and exchange” (1982) and its younger sibling “Trade and exchange in prehistoric Europe” (1993), that barely flirts with post-processual ideas. It is only with the recent integration of insights into long-distance specialists, enchainment and object / person biographies that exotic material culture is beginning to take its rightful place at the heart of exchange studies.

It is well known that early farmers in South East and Central Europe supplemented objects obtained locally (bone and antler, clay and pigments, freshwater-shells and snails) by seeking out exotic objects, sometimes from long distances. But how were these things from “other worlds” incorporated into local networks of knowledge and social practice? Prehistorians frequently lack an understanding of the mid-life of these objects. Although there is a more direct access to acts of deposition involving exotic things, a study of such contexts can nevertheless provide useful indications of object biographies.

In this paper, an attempt will be made to create artefact biographies for the

exotic-as-everyday objects deposited in the mortuary and non-mortuary domestic contexts of early farming settlements in Central and South East Europe. By examining the “domestication” of the exotic, this study will shed new light on what Hodder (1990) once termed the domestication of the dead/ the domestication of society in these early communities.

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