Household archaeology and the Uruk Phenomenon: A case study from Kenan Tepe, Turkey

by Foster, Catherine Painter, Ph.D., UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY, 2009, 423 pages; 3383066


This dissertation examines the household-level economic and social networks at Kenan Tepe, an ancient village community in the upper Tigris region of southeast Turkey, to incorporate the study of daily lives into broader examinations of state formation in Mesopotamia during the Late Chalcolithic (3600–3000 BCE). This was a period of fundamental social change that witnessed the rise of more complex economic systems of trade and exchange on an interregional level as evident in the proliferation of similar architecture, ceramic styles, and accounting practices across the Near East. In accessing the mechanisms behind this network of interaction, generally referred to as the "Uruk Expansion" or "Uruk Phenomenon," archaeologically the focus has remained on centralized institutions such as the administrators of temples, public buildings and storehouses that supposedly governed this overarching bureaucratic network. Notably the domestic economy, defined as the daily production and consumption activities of households, has been overlooked in favor of top-down theoretical approaches that place control of resources and labor in the hands of small elite factions or specialized trading guilds that monitored the flow of goods.

This dissertation instead highlights the important role that household groups play in the structuring of community and regional economies. As a microcosm of society at large, households and their daily activities are also shown to be a sensitive indicator of broader sociopolitical change. The domestic modes of production and consumption for four chronologically distinct fourth millennium households at the case study site of Kenan Tepe are identified through the analysis of domestic artifact trends and intensive microdebris sampling. These data are then interpreted within a framework of regional interaction methodology and household archaeology with a holistic focus on domestic dwellings and complex social systems at the village level. The results show shifts in domestic economies that reflect a unique combination of economic degradation, internal household decision making, and restructuring of household labor to subvert new economic demands instigated by emerging systems of exchange that fueled the Uruk Phenomenon.

AdviserMarian H. Feldman
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsArchaeology; Middle Eastern history; Ancient history
Publication Number3383066

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