At a time when archaeology has turned away from questions of the long-term and large scale, this collection of essays reflects on some of the big questions in archaeology and ancient history - how and why societies have grown in scale and complexity, how they have maintained and discarded aspects of their own cultural heritage, and how they have collapsed. In addressing these long-standing questions of broad interest and importance, the authors develop counter-narratives - new ways of understanding what used to be termed 'cultural evolution'. Encompassing the Middle East and Egypt, India, Southeast Asia, Australia, the American Southwest and Mesoamerica, the fourteen essays offer perspectives on long-term cultural trajectories; on cities, states and empires; on collapse; and on the relationship between archaeology and history. The book concludes with a commentary by one of the major voices in archaeological theory, Norman Yoffee.
Geoff Emberling is Assistant Research Scientist at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan. He has held positions as Museum Director and Chief Curator at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago and as Assistant Curator in the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has directed archaeological fieldwork at Tell Brak in northeastern Syria, in the Fourth Cataract region of northern Sudan, and is currently excavating at El Kurru, also in northern Sudan.
1. Counter-narratives: the archaeology of the long-term and the large-scale Geoff Emberling; 2. Social evolutionary theory and the fifth continent: history without transformation? Tim Murray; 3. Structures of authority: feasting and political practice in the earliest Mesopotamian states Geoff Emberling; 4. Counter-narratives and counter-intuition: accommodating the unpredicted in the archaeology of complexity Steven E. Falconer; 5. Inscribing legitimacy and building power in the Mekong Delta Miriam T. Stark; 6. The city in the state Carla M. Sinopoli and Uthara Suvrathan; 7. Cities and ideology: the case of Assur in the Neo-Assyrian period Peter Machinist; 8. City and countryside, image and text: balancing rural and urban values in third millennium Egypt John Baines; 9. Local courts in centralizing states: the case of Ur III Mesopotamia Laura Culbertson; 10. Writing collapse Severin Fowles; 11. Objects in crisis: curation, repair, and the historicity of things in the South Caucasus (1500-300 BC) Adam T. Smith and Lori Khatchadourian; 12. Leaving classic Maya cities: agent-based modeling and the dynamics of diaspora Patricia A. McAnany, Jeremy A. Sabloff, Maxime Lamoureux St-Hilaire and Gyles Iannone; 13. Settling on the ruins of Xia: archaeology of social memory in early China Li Min; 14. Anti-history Shannon Lee Dawdy; 15. The present and future of counter-narratives Norman Yoffee.