Iron Age Reciprocity


  • Carla Antonaccio Duke University



grave goods, Lefkandi, Iron Age, prestige goods, religion, reciprocity


This paper focuses on reciprocity in the context of Bronze Age collapse and early Iron Age ‘reboot’. The highest level of Mycenaean hierarchy collapsed, but neither the entire system, nor the entire ideology, vanished with the palaces: the basileus and a warrior elite survived and moved into places of authority. The circulation of prestige goods through networks of relationships continued, connecting especially the Levant and Cyprus with Crete and Euboia in the early Iron Age. Such objects and the relationships they embody created and maintained control of space and time through long-distance connections with the eastern Mediterranean. Items such as Cypriot bronze stands and other drinking paraphernalia combined the practices of commensality with the ideology of lineage and ancestors previously utilized by the wanax, but now in support of a new order. The concept of ‘house societies’ is introduced to suggest that houses, both the structures and the concept of social grouping, materially manifest claims of duration and power. The monumental burial building of Toumba at Lefkandi may be staking such a claim, with exotic antiques (rather than Mycenaean heirlooms). In the aftermath of disruptions at the close of the Bronze Age, including perhaps those of elite lineages, Lefkandi may be an attempt to found a lineage or a ‘house’, constituted by feasting and gifts, creating a kinship different than one based strictly on birth.

Author Biography

Carla Antonaccio, Duke University

Carla Antonaccio, Professor of Classical Studies, Duke University and Co-Director of the American Excavations at Morgantina (Sicily), is interested in the Late Bronze and Iron Age Mediterranean, ceramic studies, and the archaeology of identity.



How to Cite

Antonaccio, C. (2016). Iron Age Reciprocity. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 29(1), 104–111.



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