New Perspectives on Emporia in the Western Mediterranean
Greeks, Etruscans and Native Populations at the Mouth of the Lez (Hérault, France) during the Sixth–Fifth Centuries BC
Keywords:emporion, Etruscan, Greek, Iron Age, Languedoc, Lattara, Massalia
Excavations conducted over the past 30 years at the ancient site of Lattara (Lattes) near Montpellier (Hérault, France) have revealed an exceptional record documenting a protohistoric port of trade founded at the turn of the sixth–fifth centuries BC and located at the mouth of the river Lez. Lattara was firmly linked to the sphere of influence of the Greek city Massalia, as attested by the nature and the intensity of the exchange carried out in this area during the Iron Age. On a regional scale, a process of lagoon shoreline occupation beginning during the Late Bronze Age, which was marked by the appearance and disappearance of several sites, culminated with the foundation of Lattara. This process bears witness to several different settlement patterns, which must in part be linked to the demands exerted by the Mediterranean world. Comparing the recently acquired data with the evidence gained from several isolated discoveries and rescue excavations conducted in the surroundings of Lattara enables us to re evaluate the debate surrounding the nature and function of the site. The data also help us to re-assess the question of relations between the colonial and indigenous worlds. The complexity of the varying forms of contact between different peoples, as well as the dialectic between choice and constraints, are highlighted in order to provide a coherent pattern of evolution where the physical environment—characterised by the existence of lagoons—plays a decisive role. The emergence of interfacing sites indicates a form of specialisation, linked to the full access to Mediterranean trading and exchange. The type and the function of such site occupations, which are pioneering structures in terms of indigenous IA models, can be explained accurately together with the question of what meaning should be given here to the Greek notion of ‘emporion’.
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