This team tests and refines theoretical models from the social sciences for ancient evidence, integrating anthropological approaches to archaeology with sociological readings of textual and archaeological evidence.

Theory for local elite identity-formation

This team analyses texts and archaeology within a frame of social group identities and lifeways. The different interest foci (chronological and class) of the modern social sciences hampers direct application of existing social scientific models to the ancient Near East. Using their discourses, Team 2 innovates theory for local elite identity-formation in the ancient world. The issues of elites and minority identities within imperial realities will be addressed through engagement with three contemporary areas of research: (1) the study of relationships among elite group formation, authority, and agency; (2) the sociology of migrations and labour; and (3) the study of lifeways under empire. This team will engage with these discourses in the context of local responses to imperial processes, with a close look at both empire-specific and longue durée patterns through the first millennium BCE.

Team 2 will make its results directly usable by other historians and social scientists through synthesis of its work in a handbook and accompanying MOOC on integrating ancient history and the social sciences. Four methodological workshops are planned, on adapting social theory to the past (2018); population movements (2020); lifeways (2022); and elite identity construction (2024).

Summing it all up

Team 2 will specifically:

  • Analyse group formation and authority negotiation among local elites in Mesopotamia and the southwestern imperial fringe zone (modern Israel/Palestine and Jordan).
  • Assess the impact of large imperial networks on local social group identities and lifeways.
  • Compare the phenomena of forced migration and labour in each of the first millennium empires, through both textual and archaeological data.

Relationship to Work packages

Work package 1 concentrates on the core social group identities of these empires. Team 2 provides empire-specific analyses of forced migration and labour policies, as well as construct models for understanding authority and elite identity.

Work package 2 concentrates on marginal and marginalizing regions. Empires cannot exist without marginal regions, therefore understanding them is essential for imperial dynamics. This work package will compare marginal areas and former centres that became marginal, to explore how these local elites interacted with imperial systems differently from those in more central regions (WP1). Team 2 provides a bottom-up understanding of imperial-local dialectics, with a specific focus on the southwestern imperial fringe zone (modern Jordan and Israel/Palestine). Themes of labor and migration from WP1 will also be relevant for practical, local elite engagements.

Work pacakge 3 focuses on changes in the essential matters of livelihood (e.g., subsistence practices, access to water, change and continuity in religious practices) in rural fringe areas of these empires. Team 2 utilizes anthropological methods in three stages (data collation, analysis and theory testing, and synthesis) to investigate the slow shaping of daily social practice through time, providing an interpretation of Team 3’s results that can be integrated with the other WPs. Further, Team 2 integrates the results on (forced) labour and migration from WP1.

Work package 4 synthesises the results of the previous three WPs into a holistic view more useful to ANEE’s stakeholders. WPs 1–3 establish aspects of social group identities and lifeways in the urban centre and in rural margins. Yet, properly assessing the meaning of studies done in WPs 1-3 requires additional analysis that can explicitly interrelate the multiple methodologies employed. Team 2 will relate the results of the diachronic study of forced labor and migration to differential analyses of both objects and subjects of these policies. Its work on the dynamics of elites and authority will spur re-evaluation of interactions between central elites and non-elites. Moreover, its work on lifeways will seek to correlate the linguistic and archaeological results of WP1–3.