The Archaeology of Colonization in Cross-Cultural Perspective

Advanced Seminar

March 19–23, 2000

“During the past twenty years, colonialism has emerged as one of the most important research topics in sociocultural anthropology,” said Gil Stein, chair of this advanced seminar. “In fact, it has been suggested that colonialism played a key role in shaping the discipline itself. Archaeologists are now realizing that colonization was probably very common in early Old and New World state societies and was probably a primary means through which people gained access to critical resources. Our understanding of colonization, however, has been based primarily on models derived from studies of European expansion.”

To address this concern, this seminar examined colonization from a cross-cultural perspective. Participants prepared and circulated papers prior to the meeting on topics ranging from European colonial expansion and early Old World colonization efforts (Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Greece, and Rome) to the establishment of foreign enclaves by indigenous New World states, such as Teotihuacan, Wari, Tiwanaku, and Inka. The seminar examined colonization from three perspectives: that of the colonies themselves, their homelands, and the indigenous hosts societies in which they were established.

“Until now, our thinking about colonization has been almost completely structured by an implicit model drawn from the European expansion. As we learn more about the widespread independent occurrences of colonization in ancient and non-western states, it has become increasingly clear that the European model cannot be unquestioningly applied world-wide without seriously biasing our understanding of ancient interaction networks,” commented Stein.

One exciting insight to emerge from the seminar answered the question “what is a colony?” The participants determined that a colony differs from the process of colonization. Implanted settlements that remain distinct from the host societies (colonies) were quite different from the establishment of rule over an alien people for an extended period of time (colonization). It is possible to have a colony without the colonization.

Gil J. Stein, Chair Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University Mesopotamian Colonial Strategies and the Political Economy of Interregional Interaction
Susan Alcock Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan Just Little Slices of Heaven? Roman Coloniae in the Eastern Mediterranean
Terence N. D'Altroy Department of Anthropology, Columbia University Remaking the Social Landscape: Colonization in the Inka Empire
Michael Dietler Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago The Archaeology of Colonization and the Colonization of Archaeology: Theoretical Reflections on an Ancient Colonial Encounter
Janine Gasco Department of Anthropology, California State University, Dominguez Hills Spanish Colonialism: Strategies for Domination in a New World
Kent G. Lightfoot Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley The Archaeology of Colonization: California in Cross-Cultural Perspective
J. Daniel Rogers Discussant, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History Interpreting Colonial Encounters
Katharina Schreiber Department of Anthropology, University of California Colonies in the Prehispanic Andes
Michael Spence Department of Anthropology, University of Western Ontario Classic Period Trade-Diaspora in Mesoamerica
Peter Van Dommelen Department of Archaeology, University of Glasgow Colonial Interactions: Phoenician and Carthaginian Settlement in the Western Mediterranean

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