CRC 1266 - Scales of Transformation

Cluster E: “Pre-State and State Societies”

Graphic Cluster E

Cluster E is divided in two sub-projects (E1, E3 and E4). Providing research about societies with elaborated hierarchical organisation in terms of social and economic regularities, it is part of research focus 2 “Transformations of socio-economic formations”.

E3: Transformations in the Interrelation between Humans and Landscape between the 7th and 1st Centuries BCE in the Eastern Mediterranean

E4: Interregional comparison of Iron Age transformations: from Mediterranean Etruria to Baltic Denmark.

So-called pre-state societies are characterised by marked internal occupational differentiation, centralised settlement systems, and inheritable social status as part of elaborated hierarchical social organisation.

Following Max Weber’s definition, we expect territoriality and a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. As in state societies, social interaction and economy are regulated and organised; a task achieved by formalised, de-personalised institutions, rather than by virtue of individual persons or their actions. Whereas state societies generally use written accounts, pre-state societies are those societies who might have most or even all properties of states, but lack writing, which makes it impossible to prove the existence of all these properties. Pre-state and state societies thus show very different potentials for changes, and they also have different properties for coping with transformation. Additionally, with the presence of written accounts we can partly add an emic perspective to approaches towards other social formations.

In Europe, the first millennium BC is – with its process of a transition from prehistoric to historic and from tribal to state societies – structured by prominent transformations and represents a significant period in the history of mankind.

This process, starting in the Dark Ages (1200/1075–700 BC) in Greece and at the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age (800 BC) in Central Europe, involves various transformations which led to the emergence of pre-state and state societies. This process was not straightforward and homogeneous, but rather complicated and diverse. The role of different parameters can be discussed, but further research is necessary in order to understand the complex relationships between them. Social organization changed according to political developments. The period under consideration was a key moment for the development of new settlement forms which went hand in hand with changes in settlement patterns. The role of agglomerations may have been different at different times and in different areas. Consequently, it is a stimulating research question, whether central and/or urban agglomerations were involved in the development of state societies.

The three sub-projects in Cluster E discuss relevant ‘stages’ of this process. After the end of the Bronze Age palatial system with its specific social and political forms of interaction, ‘Dark Age’ Greece constituted the formation phase of the later polis society (E1). In some of its phenomena, it is structurally comparable to processes that later also occurred in Iron Age Europe (E2). Project E3 focusses on a late formative stage when state structures were fully developed: the 6th to 2nd century BC in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

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