The Development of Pre-State Communities in the Ancient Near East: Studies in Honour of Edgar Peltenburg. Edited by DIANE BOLGER and LOUISE C. MAGUIRE. Themes from the Ancient Near East, BANEA Publication Series, vol. 2. Oakville. Ct.: OxBow BooKs, 2010. Pp. x + 224, illus. $76. [Distributed by The David Brown Book Co., Oakville. Ct.]
This volume in honor of Edgar Peltenburg is more that a Festschrift. It is a compendium of modern archaeological studies and provides ample evidence that the archaeology of the ancient Near East is theoretically informed and theory-driven. The authors are former students and/or colleagues of Eddie Peltenburg, recently retired from his professorship at the University of Edinburgh. They pay tribute to their teacher and friend, who has significantly contributed to the understanding of small-scale communities, especially in Cyprus and in the Levant.
The red thread connecting the essays is a refusal to categorize pre-state societies as "simple" or "non-complex," or to classify societies--in what Cuyler Young used to call "anticipatory archaeology"--as representatives of abstract neo-evolutionary types or stages. The contributors, who live and/ or work in Scotland, Wales, England, Italy, Holland, Australia, Lebanon, Cyprus, Greece, USA, and France, consider the following issues that are obviously not limited to Near Eastern archaeology: domestic life, ritual, social identity, landscape, kinship and class, thing theory, heterarchy, symbols, meaning, agency, gender constructs, feasting, social memory, performance, ethnicity, style, cultural interaction, and more (as the editors outline in the introductory chapter). Authors cite copious crosscultural studies from the New World (especially from the American Southwest and from Meso - and South America) to East Asia. Writers study ceramics, mortuary deposits, artifacts, settlement patterns, flora, fauna, lime plaster, and other classes of data.
The editors have divided the chapters into live groups. the chapters are crisp (that is, not lengthy), to the point, and well illustrated. The editors are to be congratulated for making the chapters clear, and they have avoided typos and misprints; the publisher has produced a handsome volume in every respect, although it is not cheap. The following is an overview of the chapters in their groups:
The first consists of six chapters on "social organization and complexity in pre-state communities." Marc Verhoeven brings the topic of...