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Reviews

seems that every approach that attempts to general- The Making of Bronze Age Eurasia, by Philip L. Kohl,
ize/define the various aspects leads to a narrowing 2007. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press;
of the concept: a simplification of diversity into a ISBN-13 978-0-521-84780-3 hardback £48 & US$89;
manageable form’ (p. 2). Well…yes: that’s what science xxiii+296 pp., 112 figs.
— or analysis in general — does. While the approaches
advocated here do lead us to rich descriptions of indi- David L. Peterson
vidual cases, the big picture is lost, and comparisons
become very particularistic. One might argue that This book is very appropriately titled. Philip Kohl’s
the big picture has received far too much attention, account of the making of the Bronze Age in Eurasia is
but I do not think that eliminating it entirely is the largely based on the material practices through which
appropriate answer. The fundamental conclusion of ancient Eurasian societies, in a sense (and with a tip
these analyses is that all societies, of all time periods, of the hat to V.G. Childe), made themselves. While
are ‘complex’, and that to claim otherwise is demean- acknowledging that the work of archaeologists ‘is
ing to ancient and/or indigenous people: ‘…to regard necessarily constrained by the social context in which
complexity as a property common to all society and archaeologists must function’, among the author’s
human interaction is only possible within a scholar- objectives is to address the gap which developed during
ship that has embraced inclusivity and multivocality’ the Cold War era between Anglo-American researchers
(p. 7). The authors seem to be using a common-sense whose investigations centre on the Near East and west-
understanding of ‘complex’ to mean ‘complicated’. ern Europe, and those within the Commonwealth of
But, if everything is complex, then ‘complexity’ itself Independent States (and previously, the Soviet Union)
is not very fruitful to study. Demonstrating that all whose research is situated within Eurasia. In part, this
societies are complex leaves open questions about gap can also be attributed to the evidence with which
how societies are different, and which differences have researchers of the Bronze Age period in the Near East
been significant in the development of the ancient and and Eurasia respectively work; the former having a
modern world. view of the past that is heavily informed by the histori-
The editors and contributors have provided a cal evidence available from thousands of texts, while
legitimate, if somewhat repetitive, critique of simplistic the latter almost exclusively rely on material culture.
taxonomies (e.g. chiefdom/state or ranked/stratified) Figuring largely in Kohl’s account is the material
and unilineal models. They have foregrounded the evidence for developments that significantly colour
valuable point that lateral social relationships — e.g. scholarly views of the later prehistory of the areas of
kinship, gender, production, feasting etc. — play as Eurasia that are the province of the book: the Eurasian
important roles in daily life as vertical relationships, steppes, the Caucasus and the desert zone of central
and archaeologists should put effort into understand- Asia. These include early metal networks, modelled
ing the materialization of these lateral relationships. In according to E.N. Chernykh’s concept of metallurgical
addition, they have effectively emphasized that large provinces (Chernykh 1992 and elsewhere), wheeled
and differentiated social groups may share egalitar- vehicles, the domestication of the horse and camel, and
ian communal ideologies and practices as well as the development of nomadism.
hierarchical ones. However, in attempting to ‘socialize One thing that scholars and students of other
complexity’, they have thrown out the baby of broad regions may need to work past in approaching this
comparative patterning with the bathwater of Western book, or virtually any archaeological text on the
models of progress. The volume demonstrates creative regions it covers, is the ambiguity associated with the
analysis of rich sets of archaeological data. I hope that term ‘Eurasia’. By and large, ‘Eurasia’ has come to refer
the authors in the future will escape from their current to the area formerly encompassed by the Soviet Union,
polemics and also contribute to the big picture of the as well as closely adjoining portions of Southeast
development of human societies. Europe, Mongolia, and western China. This definition
will not satisfy those who may wish to include all of
Janet E. Levy Europe and Asia combined, but the majority of dis-
Department of Anthropology senters are likely be those whose primary interests lie
University of North Carolina at Charlotte far beyond the boundaries just mentioned. In support
Charlotte, NC 28223 of these admittedly fuzzy boundaries is the commonly
USA accepted terminology for the Eurasian steppes, which
Email: jelevy@uncc.edu
CAJ 19:1, 139–41 © 2009 McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
doi:10.1017/S0959774309000213 Printed in the United Kingdom.

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Reviews

lie in a broad belt from Hungary to Manchuria, and the East from the Caucasus to the Levant; the intriguing
historical ties between prehistoric steppe communi- settlements of the Middle Bronze Age Sintashta-
ties and those in neighbouring areas of central Asia, Arkaim culture; and the emergence and dissolution of
the Caucasus and western Siberia. As a geographic the oasis fortress civilization of the Bactria-Margiana
signifier, ‘Eurasia’ moves beyond politically loaded Archaeological Complex (BMAC). The amply detailed
designations that carry no significance for the ancient accounts of these phenomena, ample bibliography,
people in question, such as ‘the former Soviet Union’ and short, personal, biographies of leading researchers
(cf. Ancient Metallurgy in the USSR: Chernykh 1992). in several regions also make it an excellent gateway
It is also preferable to another imaginable alternative, resource to the ever-growing research on the Copper
‘Central Asia’, which is used increasingly in geopoliti- and Bronze Age in these areas, especially for those
cal (as opposed to archaeological) circles to refer not who read Russian, or are willing to learn how.
only to the Independent Republics of what used to Kohl’s overall aim for the book is the construction
be Soviet Central Asia, but the Caucasus as well. This of ‘a narrative account of the increasing integration of
would be unsatisfactory or worse to the archaeologists Eurasian steppe societies into the “civilized” literate
who work in these regions. Better to accept ‘Eurasia’ world of West Asia’ from the fourth to second mil-
and move on, keeping in mind that any problems it lennia bc. He is therefore ultimately concerned more
may pose have much to do with the urge to reconcile with the broader historical processes in which Eura-
the geography of past societies with the boundaries sian societies participated than with the individual
of modern nation states and federations. These are developments just mentioned. In this he consciously
not only in flux, but as the author reminds here and and critically partakes of aspects of both processual
elsewhere (Kohl & Fawcett 1995; Kohl et al. 2007), and post-processual archaeologies in the examination
they were never meant to coincide except for the most of ‘broad contours of large-scale historical develop-
deeply problematic reasons. ments’ that accompanied this trend. Although the
This is an important and much needed addition categories ‘processualist’ and ‘post-processualist’
to the small but growing literature on the Eurasian are of less and less relevance to Anglo-American
past that is readily accessible to English language archaeology, this is interesting given his past (Kohl
readers, including the volume by Koryakova & 1993; 1998) and present debates with processualists
Epimakhov (2007) also recently published in the and post-processualists alike. Whether or not (as he
same series by Cambridge University Press. In its sees it) these perspectives are linked to ‘provincialism’
detailed and synthetic treatment of a geographically and disinterest in ‘actual archaeological evidence’, it
and temporally broad portion of Eurasian prehistory, is hard to disagree with him as he cautions American
its lengthy bibliography, and numerous references and British archaeologists to pay greater attention ‘to
to Russian and other non-English sources, it should what archaeologists working within other traditions
quickly become a staple on the shelves of scholars of — and not publishing in English — are actually doing’.
ancient Old World civilizations, and graduate and However, I take some issue with the author’s use of
undergraduate reading lists alike. Kohl’s examination devolution to characterize alternative developments
of many and varied alternatives to urbanization from in Eurasia, such as the gigantic settlements of the
the fourth to the late second millennium bc also make Copper Age in western Ukraine, in comparison to the
this book a logical complement to standard texts on evolution of urban society in the Near East (especially
early Near Eastern history. (I should note, however, on pp. 10–15). I do not argue with Kohl’s intent with
that in my experience it is a challenging selection this, which is to counter some researchers’ unrealistic
for introductory courses on Old World archaeology claims that Cucuteni-Tripolye and Sintashta-Arkaim
and ancient history.) These alternatives include the settlements constituted urban states. However, to my
gigantic, non-urban settlements of up to 400 hectares mind the use of the term ‘devolution’ suggests that
that appeared during the Copper Age in Southeast we should hold developments in Eurasia up to a Near
Europe; the Carpatho-Balkan metallurgical province Eastern standard, which risks duplicating aspects of
of the fifth to fourth millennium bc, which joined the neo-evolutionism that the author himself criticizes.
communities in Southeast Europe with others that It is admittedly difficult to find the right words to
occupied river valleys within the steppes as far east as describe the qualitative differences between ancient
the Middle Volga; the agropastoral and pastoral socie- Eurasian societies and early Sumerian city-states.
ties associated with the Early and Middle Bronze Age He is not altogether comfortable with ‘devolution’
Circumpontic metallurgical province, especially those either, which, as he puts it, might perhaps be better
that made and used Kuro-Araxes ceramics, which are described as the ‘cyclical transformation of social
identified in Early Bronze Age levels across the Near complexity…rather than its continued growth’ (p.
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Reviews

257). As Koryakova (1996) has argued, this may in fact Koryakova, L. & A.V. Epimakhov, 2007. The Urals and Western
be what occurred in the steppes in the second and first Siberia in the Bronze and Iron Ages. Cambridge: Cam-
millennia bc. Moreover, the connotations of cyclical bridge University Press.
development are far different from devolution, and
in my opinion, less problematic.
While closely examining trajectories in the devel-
Native American Landscapes of St Catherines Island,
opment of metallurgy, wheeled vehicles and horseback
Georgia, by David Hurst Thomas, 2008. New York
riding in Eurasia through the end of the Bronze Age,
(NY): American Museum of Natural History
in keeping with the interest in interregional relations
(Anthropological Papers 88.); ISSN 0065-9452
that has occupied the author throughout his career to
paperback (3 parts) £66 & US$100; 1184 pp., 205
date, he ends by contextualizing them within patterns
figs., 209 tables
and processes in the later prehistory of West Asia. As
he points out, none of these developments, whether in
Eurasia or West Asia as a whole, occurred in isolation. Kenneth E. Sassaman
Although Philip Kohl is quick to acknowledge the
contribution of a legion of international researchers to St Catherines Island is one of several composite
his unique synthesis, in his overriding concern with barrier islands fronting the Atlantic seaboard of the
the relationships that were involved in The Making of Georgia Bight (USA). With a slowdown in postglacial
Bronze Age Eurasia, this book is a solid work of anthro- sea rise some 5000 years ago, the island approached
pological archaeology, something which is as yet still its modern configuration of beach ridges and salt
uncommon for research in this part of the world. His marshes surrounding an interior, Pleistocene core.
focus on the participation of ancient Eurasian societies The emergent mosaic of tidal creeks and marsh flats
in these shared developments also makes it important supported productive shellfish beds, notably oyster,
reading for scholars and students of the prehistory and as well as intertidal fishes. Complimented by the mast
early history of other parts of West Asia. and deer of its core habitat, St Catherines’ salt marshes
formed the economic basis of intensive human occupa-
David L. Peterson tion for over 4000 years. Knowledge of this occupation
Department of Anthropology has been shaped, often wrongly, by written accounts
Idaho State University of the Guale Indians who were missionized by Jesuits
921 South 8th Avenue in the sixteenth century. David Hurst Thomas and
Pocatello, ID 83209-8005 colleagues have spent the past three decades building
USA an archaeological case that not only reveals the limita-
Email: Peterson@isu.edu tions of these ethnohistoric accounts, but provides one
of the best empirical records of pre-Columbian native
References ecology ever assembled.
Native American Landscapes is the 1184-page,
Chernykh, E.N., 1992. Ancient Metallurgy in the USSR. Cam- three-volume treatise of one of North America’s
bridge: Cambridge University Press. premiere archaeological projects. Benefiting from the
Kohl, P.L., 1993. Limits to a post-processual archaeology (or, un­developed conditions of a 5670 ha sea island (includ-
The dangers of a new scholasticism), in Archaeologi- ing marsh) and the sustained generosity of its private
cal Theory: Who Sets the Agenda? eds. N. Yoffee & A. stewards, the project began in the mid-1970s with an
Sherratt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, assessment of the mortuary sand mounds scattered
13–19. across the island (Thomas et al. 1978; Thomas & Larsen
Kohl, P.L., 1998. Beyond caricature and polemics and
1979). The project quickly expanded to include an
towards a healthy archaeology. Archaeological Dia-
logues 5.1, 30–34. island-wide survey, as well as full-scale excavation of
Kohl, P.L. & C. Fawcett, 1995. Nationalism, Politics, and Mission Santa Catalina de Guale. The latter effort has
the Practice of Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge been thoroughly reported elsewhere (Thomas 1987,
University Press. among many), and now, with this behemoth of a report,
Kohl, P.L., M. Kozelsky & N. Ben-Yehuda, 2007. Selective the results of island-wide investigations are published,
Remembrances: Archaeology in the Construction, Com- some 28 years since most of the fieldwork was completed.
memoration, and Consecration of National Pasts. Chicago The long gestation of this report is hardly regret-
(IL): University of Chicago Press. ful. The prolonged time has witnessed more nuanced
Koryakova, L.N., 1996. Social trends in temperate Eurasia
during the second and first millennia bc. Journal of CAJ 19:1, 141–3 © 2009 McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
European Archaeology 4, 243–80. doi:10.1017/S0959774309000225 Printed in the United Kingdom.

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