From Reciprocity to Centricity

The Middle Bronze Age in the Greek Mainland


  • Sofia Voutsaki University of Groningen



reciprocity, centricity, Middle Bronze Age, Late Bronze Age


In this paper, I examine the role of reciprocal relations in processes of social change. More precisely, I discuss the transformation of modes of interaction and sumptuary behavior across a long period, from the collapse of the Early Bronze Age proto-urban societies, through the slow recovery during the Middle Bronze Age, to the intensification of social change during the transition to the Mycenaean period. A deep crisis swept across the southern Aegean at around 2200–2000 bc, bringing an end to the prosperous Early Helladic societies. While the causes of this crisis have been hotly debated, its consequences for the social fabric of the mainland communities have not been addressed systematically. In this study, I suggest that depopulation, social regression, and the ensuing fragmentation of the social body during Middle Helladic (MH) I–II (ca. 2100–1800 bc) were countered by two sets of practices: on the one hand, the establishment of reciprocal and segmentary networks of exchange that held together domestic groups, communities, and entire regions, and on the other, an emphasis on the continuity of the household that ensured its survival in this unstable period. The incorporation of the mainland into wider networks of interaction during the transition to the Mycenaean period (ca. 1800–1600 bc) brought about the transformation of kin-based MH societies to the differentiated Mycenaean polities. It is argued that this transformation relied on the manipulation of reciprocal exchanges and the subtle redefinition of modes of cooperation between households and kin groups.

Author Biography

Sofia Voutsaki, University of Groningen

Sofia Voutsaki is Professor at the University of Groningen, and Director of Shifting Identities: Social Change and Cultural Interaction in the Middle Helladic Argolid, 2000-1500 BC, The Argos Tumuli Project, The North Cemetery Excavation, Ayios Vasilios (under the general direction of A. Vasilogamvrou and the auspices of the Archaeological Society at Athens); she is also co-Director (together with A. Vasilogamvrou) of the Ayios Vasileios Archaeological Survey. She is interested in the Greek MBA and LBA, mortuary archaeology, archaeological theory, and the uses of the past in the present.



How to Cite

Voutsaki, S. (2016). From Reciprocity to Centricity: The Middle Bronze Age in the Greek Mainland. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 29(1), 70–78.



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