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On colonial grounds.

P. VAN DOMMELEN. 296 pages, plates, figures and illustrations. 1998. Leiden: Leiden University, Faculty of Archaeology; 90-76368-02-3 paperback f85.

The characterization of the indigenous is a current concern of many archaeologists with a global vision (Funari et al. 1999). In the Mediterranean, the direct and indirect, explicit and implicit power and authority of the colonizer have dominated historically. Text has been master over other classes of material culture. Change has been sought in the exotic. Furthermore, whereas inroads were made into this attitude of mind for Mediterranean prehistory, the study of the last two millennia BC has continued to be profoundly affected by this approach (Boardman 1999: 190; see Boardman 1999: 275-6; Van Dommelen 1997; De Angelis 1998).

In spite of this background, the study of the later prehistory of the Western Mediterranean has changed appreciably in the last decade through new evidence and new ideas. More intensive research has been undertaken on those indigenous communities. A new conceptualization of interaction has been developed which is at last giving credit to the contribution of long-lasting indigenous communities. This has involved the identification of local identities that are not submerged in some Hellenic or Phoenician wave of advance. Diverse elements of this trend are visible in all the books reviewed here. They cover the two largest islands of the Mediterranean and its largest peninsula. Their presentation involves different modes of discourse, but a comparable underlying message can be established in each: the indigenous must be thoroughly considered in any explanatory framework.

The first Sardinian volume (Moravetti) - a sample of the new evidence of the indigenous uncovered principally by Sardinian archaeologists - is for the specialist Mediterranean library. It collects together the papers presented at the 1997 EAA meetings in Ravenna, Italy, within a BAR format, in three languages (Italian, English and Spanish). Papers start with two introductory outlines of the achievements of Sardinian archaeology in recent years. The second of these introductions is by one of the individuals (Lilliu) who has done most to advance local research, although within a culture-historical framework. The following papers are short illustrated presentations of recent work which range through prehistory from the Neolithic to the Iron Age, concentrating on funerary remains and nuraghi, with one contribution on the Roman period. For the most part, these are illustrations of material culture (including architecture), without a substantial analytical content, and without entering the broader setting of Mediterranean prehistory. Nevertheless, the use of osteological evidence and territorial analysis shows the interesting potential of work currently being undertaken. In particular, two papers make an important contribution to understanding of the landscape of the nuraghi (Alba and Foddai).

The second Sardinian volume (Van Dommelen) makes an interesting contrast. Van Dommelen explains in his preface the 'entanglement of perspectives' which led him to undertake fieldwork in west central Sardinia in the framework of a post-colonial perspective. These perspectives draw on the stimulating combination of his Leiden background, his UCL research experience, and implementation with Sardinian colleagues in the field. The result is a largely successful initiative to move away from the colonialist preconceptions of the past and apply them in the context of landscape archaeology.

The leading concept in Van Dommelen's approach is hybridization (Bhabha 1994) which he had already developed elsewhere (Van Dommelen 1997). There is also a Braudelian subtheme that evenements of imperial take-over did not immediately affect the conjuncture of local identity. This is an approach which rejects the dualism of the colonizers and the colonized, and seeks to explore the complex grades of the autochtonous through three phases: Phoenician, Punic and Roman. The key to this analysis is the unlocking of material culture which is sensitive to disentangling and then providing a methodology for distinguishing identities. It is a procedure which seeks to escape dualism, but often has to resort to distinguishing the indigenous from the exotic in a particular art style or context. For the Phoenician phase, the Monte Prama statuary provides such an opportunity to study the 'creative combination' of both indigenous and colonial features (p. 110), the material foundations of new identities. For the Punic phase the sanctuary of Genna Maria provides another 'complex situation of varying degrees of mutual influence, imitation and creative subversion of the "high" Punic culture by the local inhabitants . . .' (p. 155) to enable the creation of different local identities. The analysis of surface remains (with its restricted survival of material culture) can, however, be more difficult. Van Dommelen was able to identify two landscapes in a manner which perhaps suggests that dualism continued to have more impact on landscape processes: a coastal pattern of central place and dispersed rural settlement and an inland pattern of dispersed larger agglomerations.

The Iberian volume (Ruiz & Molinos 1998) takes a different theoretical approach. Whereas Bourdieu, Gramsci and Giddens are amongst the sources quoted by Van Dommelen, Marx is the principal source of this work. Nevertheless, some of the ingredients are similar. Ruiz & Molinos are also using art and landscape to elucidate the indigenous in a post colonial world. Ruiz & Molinos thus similarly reject the preconceptions of the civilizing invader and there is a strong sense of the varied interests of different social groups, although these appear to be demarcated between native and colonizer. The approach taken is to analyse in turn the ceramic material culture, the economy and territory, production, society and, finally, ethnic groups. A wealth of up-to-date information is presented which provides an important new insight into Iberian society. There are also flashes of stimulating insight into structural comparisons with other parts of Europe. For instance, the palace sanctuary of Cancho Roano is compared with Murlo and the Heuneburg, and Villasmundo in Sicily is cited as a comparative example of native settlements affected by trade. It is worth working hard to penetrate the many difficulties of under-translation in order to read and then understand 90- to 100-word sentences. Alternatively, readers can find elsewhere a clearer exposition of some areas, such as the landscape of Guadalquivir valley (Ruiz 1997).

The volume on Sicily covers the full extent of prehistory (Leighton 1999). More than any of the other study areas, this island has such a reputation for evenements of external intervention that they almost merge into a longue duree. It is, therefore, refreshing to read a lucid account that acknowledges the 'ability of the local cultures to absorb, adopt and transform external elements . . .' (p. 7, my italics) and which also emphasizes that 'It is striking that local traditions survived well into the Archaic period (6th century BC) in many parts of Sicily. Neglected by Greek writers, this is an area of research which should hardly differ in approach and methodology from that of prehistoric archaeology, and in which both prehistoric and classical archaeologists have much to learn from each other' (p. 8). The approach, however, contrasts with that of van Dommelen and Ruiz & Molinos, in that space prevented the elaboration of theory (p. 8). Instead, he presents the trends and processes unconcealed by specialist language in a most successful presentation of Sicilian prehistory, The author combines a detailed knowledge of the material culture (particularly the last two millennia BC) with an ability to synthesize which makes this volume an essential part of any archaeological library. Although Braudel is the only theoretical work cited by Leighton, other work (Leighton 1996) shows more explicitly his broadly processual stance.

It is characteristic of Leighton's volume that he tackles many of the same post-colonial issues without any development of a Marxist or post-colonial language to provide (or hinder) understanding. In his analysis of the Middle to Late Bronze Age, of interaction with the Mycenaean world, he stresses the inappropriateness of 'the one-sided perspective of the core periphery model' and the local presence of 'a new identity . . . [in] a different cultural environment which, at least in part, followed its own agenda and generated its own aesthetic values' (p. 183-4). In a later section, he analyses local identity which survives late (5th century BC) in the face of Greek colonization and concludes that the colonial experiences of modern states were different from those of antiquity. In achieving this he steers a careful course between material culture, literary sources and legend, revealing the richness and excitement of the Sicilian evidence.

The opportunities for the understanding of indigenous identities using concepts such as hybridization is perhaps even greater in Iberian, Sicilian and Etruscan contexts where the approach has yet to be tried. It is ironic that Van Dommelen (in a brief aside) should dismiss Etruria as part of the autochtonous Classical world, when a site such as Murlo shows an incredibly rich display of the process of hybridization, at a level of detail difficult to achieve in the Phoenician world. The main difficulty with hybridization will be in developing a methodology that effectively deals with the intractable concept of style and its attribution to identity. When it comes to the analysis of art, the interpretations can be as diverse as the number of observers.


BHABHA, H. 1994. Signs taken for wonders: questions of ambivalence and authority under a tree outside Delhi, May 1817, in H. Bhabha (ed.), The location of culture: 10222. London: Routledge.

BOARDMAN, J. 1999. The Greeks overseas: their early colonies and trade. London: Thames & Hudson.

DE ANGELIS, F. 1998. Ancient past, imperial present: the British Empire in T.J. Dubabin's The western Greeks, Antiquity 72: 539-49.

FUNARI, P.P.A., M. HALL & S. JONES. 1999. Historical archaeology: back from the edge. London: Routledge.

LEIGHTON, R. 1996. From chiefdom to tribe? Social organisation and change in later prehistory, in R. Leighton (ed.), Early societies in Sicily. New developments in archaeological research: 101-16. London: Accordia Research Centre. Accordia Specialist studies on Italy 5.

RUIZ RODRIGUEZ, A. 1997. The Iron Age Iberian peoples of the Upper Guadalquivir valley, in M. Diaz-Andreu & S. Keay (ed.), The archaeology of Iberia: the dynamics of change: 175-91. London: Routledge.

VAN DOMMELEN, P. 1997. Colonial constructs: colonialism and archaeology in the Mediterranean, World Archaeology 28: 305-23.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Stoddart, Simon
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1999
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