Why are there no Neolithic mega-sites in the Anatolian Euphrates basin? A socio-archaeological approach to the marital structure of early farming societies

Cédric BODET

Arkhaia Anatolika 2. Sayı

Arrival Date : 16.01.2019 | Acceptance Date : 10.05.2019

DOI : 10.32949/Arkhaia.2019.7 | Release Date : 29.5.2019 19:15:03


The appearance and disappearance of Late Neolithic mega-sites in Central Anatolia are poorly understood. These huge agricultural settlements are all the more puzzling that they seem to be unknown from Southeast Anatolia, the area where the mixed-farming economy (along with its social counterpart, the Domestic Mode of Production) appeared first. In order to tackle these enigmas, the mere reading of the archaeological data will fall short of any convincing explanation. It seems necessary to adopt a sociological point of view, necessarily backed by the appropriate ethnological analyses. From this perspective, it must be acknowledged, before anything else, that the adoption of farming modifies deeply, in the long term, the internal structure of hunter-gatherer societies: the lineage becomes the relevant social unit, while marital alliances are more likely to be contracted with the outside world than within the kinship group. Moreover, this internal adjustment is heavy and slow, and this seems to be the reason why, in a context of lengthy diffusion, mega-sites are not seen equally everywhere.

The social reaction to the new mode of production led to the advent of exogamic segmental lineages all over South-West Asia. This process seems however to have taken a markedly different path whether farming slowly came out independently, like in the Euphrates basin, or whether it was rapidly adopted by hunter-gatherers, like in Central Anatolia. The traditional social structure of the latter communities seems to have stood still long after farming began: the reciprocal marital practices (endogamous) appear to have prevented people from leaving the village, leading in time to an accumulation of population. On the contrary, the Euphratean societies, which witnessed the advent of sedentary life and agriculture from the beginning, had a millennium or so to adjust themselves to the Domestic Mode of Production; it is the resulting matrimonial flexibility that arguably allowed small farming sites to spread slowly over Northern Mesopotamia all through the later Neolithic, preventing the concentration of population at any one particular site.

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C. Bodet, “Why are there no Neolithic mega-sites in the Anatolian Euphrates basin? A socio-archaeological approach to the marital structure of early farming societies”, Arkhaia Anatolika 2 (2019), 21-51. DOI: 10.32949/Arkhaia.2019.7