«Our era excels in dismantling structures and melting models [...] randomly and without any warning» (Bauman 2001, 159. Personal translation of A. Babbi).

With these words the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman describes the magmatic post-modern reality arisen at the end of the ‘80ies from the dissolved political, social and economic powers of the second post-war period epitomized by the fall of the Berlin wall, as well by the breakup of both Yugoslavia and the Soviet block. The opportunity of a free and fast sharing of ideas and values, fostered by new technological breakthroughs (internet, digitalization of reality and increasingly sophisticated and powerful compression algorithms), has been a premise for the globalization and has helped to create a fluid society (Morris 2003, 43).

The series of relentless events that have been shaking the social arrangements of some important countries of North Africa and the Near East since winter 2011/12 can be perceived as a striking result of this phenomenon.

The above mentioned events reveal that the three concepts of mobility, connectivity, and decentring, which are at the core of recent historical/anthropological analysis of the Mediterranean (see now Horden and Purcell 2000), are illuminating for describing our era and bridging it to the past.As far as ancient history is concerned, the concept of modern ‘Globalization’ finds a good parallel in the so called ‘Mediterraneanization’ (Morris 2003), a view of the Mediterranean as a complex geographical dimension, as well as an area of experiences, both willingly and forcedly shared. There is a kind of syncretism between the Braudelian idea of the Mediterranean Sea, understood as regions with same problems and similar developments sharing the same destiny on the one hand (Braudel 1949), and a softer and more complex notion of the Mediterranean split in many different local realities, a «corrupting sea», as described by Horden and Purcell on the other (Horden and Purcell 2000).

As pointed out by Jan Paul Crielaard (1998, 2006, 2008), soon after the collapse of the Mycenaean and Near Eastern palatial society (12th-10th c. BC) an upsurge of commercial activities took place. It can be asserted that «society and culture» as «generative principles» were «re-assembled [...] in thought, discourse and practice» (Maran 2012a, 121).

As a matter of fact, if the socio-political fragmentation of the Mediterranean region made the previous long-distance interconnections system fade out, a «Mediterranean-wide web» blossomed, made up of «interlocked regional networks» and connected through «spheres of interaction» locally controlled by the indigenous ‘warrior’ élites (Crielaard 1998, 194).

As highlighted by the post-colonial studies of the last decades (van Dommelen and Knapp 2010; van Dommelen and Rowlands 2012), in these «spheres of interaction» or «contact zone[s] identities, values, and meanings were negotiated», and the social milieu turned into a fluid and dynamic entity which can not be described any more through a simplistic «clear-cut division between the ‘indigenous’ and the ‘outside’» (Maran 2012a, 121).


The idea of cultural diffusion has been the cornerstone of the cultural transmission theories during the first half of the 20th century. As a matter of fact, in the diffusionist model the highest importance was given to the temporal and spatial features of specific cultural phenomena. In the light of these features, the main issues of the investigation have been the origin, the way of transmission and the influence a certain phenomenon exerted on different cultures (Panagiotopoulos 2012). As a reflection of this theoretical approach the scholars’ attention has been focused on concepts as imitation, adoption and adaptation (a reflection of this approach can be found in some papers published in the Proceedings of the International Conference ‘Sea Routes’, Stampolidis and Karageorghis 2003). The results of such an approach were an almost absolute subordination of less complex societies and the assumption that «influences emanate from a centre and are transmitted to cultural peripheries» (Sjögren 2008, 94).

More recently it as been highlighted that at the very end of the Bronze Age a bi-directional transfer of phenomena took place from the Adriatic Sea or the Atlantic coasts of Europe and the eastern part of the Mediterranean (Bettelli 2002; Lo Schiavo 2003). Besides, the existence of a wide range of different approaches has been emphasized in the practice of using foreign artifacts, i.e. from a passive ‘adoption’ to a more actively and intentional ‘appropriation’.

A recent trend in archaeology considers a multi-perspectives point of view of the past reality. The so called ‘agency theory’ suggests that cultures were neither monolithic nor static entities both in space and time (Dobres and Robb 2000), as a consequence people’s «actions should be read as an interplay between individuals, groups and social systems» and a shift of interest from the investigation of so called ‘foreign objects’ to «the question of how [local communities] appropriated [actively and consciously] cultural contacts» would be a fertile ground for achieving new and better goals in this field of research (Sjögren 2008, 40, 116).

Similarly, the appropriation of objects and social practices is not passive, but expression of transformative capacities rising from local needs, which often leads to a change in shape and/or meaning of the objects (Dobres and Robb 2000). Taking this into consideration, the interest should be focused on «the differing ways foreign cultural forms are integrated into a new context» instead of looking at the informative potential of the archaeological evidence for «reconstructing past systems of exchange or for chronology archaeology» (Maran 2012b, 62).

The post-colonial studies (van Dommelen and Knapp 2010; van Dommelen and Rowlands 2012) called attention to «the elusiveness of alleged cultural borders, [...] the fluidity of the meaning of cultural forms, and [...] the dynamics of change provoked by flows of goods and ideas» (Maran 2012b, 61). Concepts as ‘Resistance’ and ‘Agency’ with reference to human and non-human agents (Maran 2012a), and the idea that «there is always active negotiation, appropriation, transformation and resistance» even in case of colonized (Given 2004, 15), do open a new perspective in perceiving and interpreting the archaeological evidence (Panagiotopoulos 2012) by focusing the attention «on the forms of appropriation of foreign ideas and objects» through the so called «intentional hybridity» in order to emphasize a social distance within the same community (Maran 2012b, 62).

Bibliographic References

Bauman, Z. 2001. “L’istruzione nell’età postmoderna”, in La società individualizzata, Z. Bauman, 157-176. Il Mulino: Bologna.

Bettelli, M. 2002. Italia meridionale e mondo miceneo. Ricerche su dinamiche di acculturazione e aspetti archeologici, con particolare riferimento ai versanti adriatico e ionico della penisola italiana. Grandi contesti e problemi della protostoria italiana, 5. Firenze: All’Insegna del Giglio.

Braudel, F.P.A. 1949. La Mèditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Philippe II. Paris: Armand Colin.

Crielaard, J.P. 1998. “Surfing on the Mediterranean web: Cypriot long-distance communication during the eleventh and tenth centuries B.C.” In Eastern Mediterranean Cyprus-Dodecanese-Crete 16th-6th cent. B.C. Proceedings of the International Symposium (Rethymnon 13 - 16 May 1997), V. Karageorghis (ed.), 187-206. Athens: University of Crete.

Crielaard, J.P. 2006. “Basileis at sea: elites and external contacts in the Euboean gulf region from the end of the Bronze Age to the beginning of the Iron Age.” In Ancient Greece: From the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer, edited by S. Deger-Jalkotzy and I. Lemos, 271-97. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Crielaard, J.P. 2008. “Runderschiff und Schlachtengetös. Seekrieger und Händler auf dem weindunkel Meer.” In Zeit der Helden. Die ‚dunklen Jahrhunderte’ Griechenlands 1200-700 v. Chr. Katalog zur Ausstellung im Badischen Landesmuseum Schloss Karlsruhe (25.10.2008-15.2.2009), 119-27. Karlsruhe: Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe.

Dobres, M.-A., and J.E. Robb (eds.). 2000. Agency in Archaeology. London: Routledge.

Given, M. 2004. The Archaeology of the Colonized. London: Routledge.

Horden, P., and A. Purcell. 2000. The Corrupting Sea. A Study of Mediterranean History. Oxford: Blackwell.

Lo Schiavo, F. 2003. “Sardinia between East and West: Interconnections in the Mediterranean.” In Sea Routes.......interconnections in the Mediterranean 16th - 6th c. BC. Proceedings of the International Symposium, Rethymnon September 29th - October 2nd 2002, N. Chr. Stampolidis and V. Karageorghis (eds.), 15-33. Athens: University of Crete.

Maran, J. 2012a. “Ceremonial feasting equipment, social space and interculturality in Post-Palatial Tiryns.” In Materiality and Social Practice. Transformative Capacities of Intercultural Encounters, Papers of the Conference, Heidelberg, 25-27 March 2010, edited by J. Maran and Ph. W. Stockhammer, 121-36. Oxford: Oxbow.

Maran, J. 2012b. “One World is not Enough: The Transformative Potential of Intercultural Exchange in Prehistoric Societies.” In Conceptualizing Cultural Hybridization: A Transdisciplinary Approach. Papers of the Conference, Heidelberg, 21st–22nd September 2009, edited by P. W. Stockhammer, 59-66. Transcultural Research. Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.

Morris, I. 2003. “Mediterraneanization.” Mediterranean Historical Review 18, 2: 30–55.

van Dommelen, P., and A. B. Knapp. 2010. Material Connections in the Ancient Mediterranean. Mobility, Materiality and Identity. London: Routledge.

van Dommelen, P. and M. Rowlands. 2012. “Material concerns and colonial encounters.” In Materiality and Social Practice. Transformative Capacities of Intercultural Encounters, Papers of the Conference, Heidelberg, 25-27 March 2010, edited by J. Maran and Ph. W. Stockhammer, 20-31. Oxford: Oxbow.

Panagiotopoulos, D. 2012. “The Stirring Sea. Conceptualising Transculturality in the Late Bronze Age eastern Mediterranean” In Intercultural Contacts in the Ancient Mediterranean. Proceedings of the International Conference at the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo, 25th to 29th October 2008, K. Duistermaat and I. Regulski (eds.), 31-51. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 202. Leuven: Peteers.

Sjögren, L. 2008. Fragments of Archaic Crete. Archaeological Studies on Time and Space. Boreas, Uppsala Studies in Ancient Mediterranena and Near Eastern Civilizations 31. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.

Stampolidis N. Chr., and V. Karageorghis (eds.). 2003. Sea Routes.......interconnections in the Mediterranean 16th - 6th c. BC. Proceedings of the International Symposium, Rethymnon September 29th - October 2nd 2002. Athens: University of Crete.

The main goal of the International Conference is to investigate the different types of cultural interrelationships among several Mediterranean cultures from the collapse of the palatial systems (circa 1200 B.C.) to the dawn of the Greek colonization in the West (circa 750 B.C.).

The conference consists of an introductory theoretical talk, given by professor Panagiotopoulos, and five geographical sections lead by as many experienced professors who also act as keynote-speakers:

·      Cyprus and Near East (Dr. Susan Sherratt - Sheffield University);

·      North African and Egypt (Prof. Dr. Karl Jansen-Winkeln – Frei Universität Berlin);

·      Aegean region (Dr. Eleni Konstantinidi-Syvridi - National Archaeological Museum of Athens);

·      Italian Peninsula and Sardinia (Prof. Dr. Marco Bettelli – Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Scuola di Specializzazione di Matera);

·      Iberian Peninsula and Balearics  (Dr. Ana Margarida Arruda - Lisbon University).

For each geographical section there will be two or three lectures that will be held by young researchers involved in this specific regional field of archaeology, who will communicate unpublished data or themes which have been only recently taken into consideration by the scientific community.

On the last day a round-table discussion will take place, to sum up the main points of the general discussion. The above-mentioned professors will regulate this discussion and each speaker will be entitled to take part in it. This final discussion will provide the opportunity on one hand to emphasize the supra-regional trends, on the other hand to sketch out a framework with both a synchronic and diachronic perspective.

The goal is to offer an exhaustive benchmark for future research in this field.


The articulation of the conference in geographical sessions has been designed to help one to get the regional specificities and at the same time to emphasize, through the round-table of Tuesday 9th, its cross-cultural influences.

The areas of interests for such an inter-cultural dialogue are:

  • social structure, social interaction, social communication in both secular and religious contexts ;
  • topography and topology of spaces;
  • production, exchange and storage of goods;
  • knowledge, art, technology;
  • appropriation and integration of foreign cultural forms into a new context.

The conference addresses both young researchers (Post-Docs and PhD candidates at an advanced stage of their dissertation) and Researcher who will have the opportunity to present and discuss perspectives and methodical approaches applied in their own work in an international setting.

The Introductory theoretical lecture will last 60 minutes.

Each Keynote speaker’s lecture will be programmed into 60 minute timeslot and should be no longer  than 50 minutes.

Each speaker’s talk will be allotted a 30 minute timeslot and should be no longer than 25 minutes

Conference language is English.

PPoint presentation will be projected using a Windows system and a PPoint 2003 version. The .ppt file has to be saved on a USB stick and must be handed in quite in advance in order to let the organizers check if everything is ok.

It is intended to make the conference also accessible as a live-stream on the web and as a conference chat. More information on this will follow on this site a few days before the Conference. 

We are intending to prepare an edited volume of conference, within one year after the conference. Thus, participants are strongly encouraged to submit their publication-ready version of their paper already during their stay at Heidelberg (October 2012). The ultimate deadline is 31 December 2012. Guidelines for publication will be made available soon on this website.


Participation in the conference is free. Please, for registration send an e-mail to: mediterraneanmirror2012[at] 



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