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The Heritage of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East

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Responses to the 12th Century BC Collapse: Recovery and Restructuration in the Early Iron Age Near East and Mediterranean

Ninth Workshop of the Melammu Project
University of Tartu
7-9 June 2019

Organisers: Mait Koiv and Peeter Espak

Workshop Program
During the Late Bronze Age a cultural koine developed in the Near East and eastern Mediterranean, which on the socio-political level was characterized by monarchic governments and a combination of palatial and private economy. This ‘world system’ was broken by the 12th century collapse, and during the following Early Iron Age the development trajectories in various regions differed compared to the previous era. Significant social changes including the at least temporary reduction of the role of palace economies and increase of private enterprise took place in most of this area, but whereas in the Near East monarchy and centrally controlled economies maintained vitality, both in micro-states (city states) and re-emerging empires, in the Aegean palatial monarchy was completely wiped out, and small and often collectively governed city-states emerged during the Archaic era (8–6 cent). Comparative micro-states emerged in Italy, while in Sardinia the Nuraghi civilisation flourishing since the Bronze Age underwent significant changes.

Despite intensive research of the causes and effects of the 12th collapse and the re-formation of the Mediterranean cultural koine in the Early Iron Age, the extent of continuity and change of the socio-political order in various regions and the reason for the divergent development trajectories are still to be explained. These questions will be discussed in the 2019 Melammu workshop in Tartu. The workshop will focus on comparative research of the trajectories of socio-political development of the Near East and Mediterranean societies and states (in Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, Egypt, Cyprus, Aegean, Italy, Sardinia), covering the period from the 12th century to the time producing relatively abundant evidence for the socio-political order after the gap in the written record after the collapse, thus to the 7th-6th centuries.

We will discuss the development of the internal organisation of the states, including supra-regional structures (empires, coalitions) and local communities (city-states, towns, villages), considering the interaction of change and continuity, the impact of the pre-collapse situation to the following development, the effects of the environmental factors, the interplay of economic, social, political, military and ideological development. This will concern
(1) the economic basis of the elite power, including the dependent labour force;
(2) the nature and the composition of elites, and the relations between elite and lower social strata;
(3) the organisation of military and its impact on the social and political relations;
(4) the interplay of coercion and consensus, i.e. the means for attaining compliance to the rulers;
(5) the role of collective bodies and the involvement of various groups in leadership;
(6) the legitimation of power, the mutual relation of power ideologies and socio-political systems;
(7) the effects of cultural contacts and inter-state relations on internal development.

The discussion will hopefully promote understanding of consequences of social collapses and mechanisms of restructuration on different social and political levels (local community, micro-state, regional level), and of relationship between environmental factors, social formations and political systems in early state societies.

The workshop will be organised by the Research Center of Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean Cultures (CAEMC) with its seat in the University of Tartu.