Yntema, Douwe : The Archaeology of South-East Italy in the First Millennium BC, 312 p., ISBN:9789089645791, 79 €
(Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam 2013)
 
Compte rendu par Lieve Donnellan, University of Chicago
(lieve.donnellan@gmail.com)

 
Nombre de mots : 1391 mots
Publié en ligne le 2014-09-23
Citation: Histara les comptes rendus (ISSN 2100-0700).
Lien: http://histara.sorbonne.fr/cr.php?cr=2204
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          In his latest book, DouweYntema aims at presenting a concise overview of the archaeology of the southernmost part of Italy facing the Adriatic, during the first millennium BCE. The goal is, as he states, to go beyond the traditional domain of the Classical archaeologist, who mostly occupies himself with this region in the period under discussion, and to include what under conventional circumstances would be the field of the pre- and protohistorian, and the study of native societies. Indeed, this “inclusive” type of research is now an established tradition among Dutch archaeologists working in Italy, and focuses particularly on field survey and geoarchaeology to document changes in landscape and urbanisation of natives and Greeks alike. The adepts of this approach, including Yntema, distinguish themselves from the culture-historical paradigm, to which most Italian archaeologists, in contrast to the Dutch, still adhere to today. As Yntema acknowledges, several books covering the same region in the same period have been written in the Italian tradition. What Yntema therefore attempts is to make an overview of this scholarship accessible to non-Italian speakers and include his expertise in archaeological surveys and native landscapes.

 

         The very short introductory chapter discusses aim, concepts and biases of the book. Yntema touches upon his landscape approach as an alternative for the traditional culture-historical paradigm. Other themes addressed here are Greek “colonists” versus natives without history, the chronology discussed in the book and more general problems of chronology in the archaeology of Italy, and especially the effect of traditional chronologies based on decorated pottery, which has had a significant influence for the archaeology of south-east Italy, e.g. for the study of the Lucanians.

 

         Although the main focus of the book is the first millennium BCE, Yntema sees the necessity to go back in time to discuss the preludes to the important Early Iron Age - which is the subject of the fourth chapter. The second chapter therefore briefly discusses chronology and major cultural features, in various paragraphs, of the Neolithic and the Early to the Late Bronze Ages. Yntema rejects the notion of a Dark Age for Italy between the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age, for continuity seems to have been stronger than a rupture of any kind. The seizing of contacts with the Mycenaean Aegean resulted, however, in a decreasing complexity of settlement hierarchy and probably also in social inequality.

 

         The third chapter “The Land and The People” provides a second introduction of some sort, in order to familiarise the reader with the names and major features of the geographic and cultural landscapes, such as the names of the various peoples that have come to us via the written sources, rivers, valleys, plateaus, regions and archaeological sites. Yntema also discusses aspects of identity in terms of Greek “colonial” identity versus local identity, of which he assumes that it was much more important for self-identification.

 

         The substantial fourth chapter treats the Iron Age (c. 1000/900 – 600/550 BC). Yntema points out how the onset of the Iron Age is very much rooted in the Late Bronze Age. During the 9th century BCE, there is more evidence for human occupation in the region under scrutiny and from the later 8th century BCE, changes in the landscape (urbanisation) are substantial. Yntema illustrates the developments with a detailed discussion of the Salento peninsula, where the site of Otranto is the first in Italy to yield evidence of renewed contact with the Greek peninsula in the form of Corinthian Middle Geometric wares and Devoll wares from Albania and Epirus. The quantities of Greek pottery in native sites thereafter were ever increasing and go together with changes in house architecture and settlement density. Yntema doubts if the traditional term “Greek colonisation” is sufficient to explain the phenomenon. He accepts the presence of individuals and small groups of Greeks, resident in or near native settlements (hence the title of the paragraph “raiders, traders, migrants”), but he dates a significant influx of Greeks to southern Italy only to the later 7th/6th centuries BCE. By that time, four coastal settlements had developed into urban centres of the Greek polis-type, distinct in organisation, identity, and complexity in comparison to the smaller sites of the native hinterland.

 

         The remainder of the chapter contains paragraphs on respectively “long-distance contacts, exchange and economy”, “burials, social stratification and religion”, “regionalisation and craft” with particular attention to the increasing influence of the contacts that were being maintained with the Aegean in all these spheres.

 

         The fifth chapter combines what would in the traditional Aegean chronology be considered two distinct periods, the Archaic and Classical periods. Yntema sees no reason to follow the traditional Aegean chronology here because of the apparent continuity. Significant changes occur in the Hellenistic period and are covered in the next chapter. The fifth chapter is structured in a very similar manner to the previous one, with separate paragraphs on urbanisation and urban architecture, urbanising tendencies in the native centres, burials and the rise of elites, craft, economy and exchange. Additional is a section on writing and intellectual achievements. The chapter is likewise concluded with a short summary of the subjects discussed throughout the chapter.

 

         The sixth chapter “towns, leagues and landholding elites” discusses the profound changes witnessed in the area throughout the Hellenistic period. The main feature of this period is the appearance of the Lucanians, traditionally believed to have been an invading tribe, but traced by Yntema to local developments of identity formation. The formation of leagues in south-east Italy is accompanied by changes in the urban landscape (the increase in fortifications, increase in settlement size) as well as the rural landscapes (large-scale cultivation). The rich and monumental tombs of the flourishing elites are discussed, as are the most important features of craft production and economy.

 

         The last chapter, dedicated to the earliest Roman presence in the region, has a slightly different outline than the previous ones. It opens with a paragraph on the most crucial historic events, followed by the familiar discussions of landscape, urbanisation, burial and social structure, craft and economy. The chapter concludes with a discussion on the Romanization of south-east Italy, in a long-term perspective of identity formation in the region.

 

         The entire volume is richly illustrated with maps, plans, objects and reconstructions, many of them in colour. It is a shame that not all images are of equal quality, e.g. figs. 3.5; 6.24 and 6.26 (2nd left) could have been printed on a smaller scale, which would have compensated the low resolution. Several other small editorial errors, such as missing or misspelled prepositions, double or missing spaces are found throughout the text.

 

         Despite these glitches, it must be said that Yntema has compiled an accessible, concise yet detailed overview of the material culture and social contexts in south-east Italy. Students and scholars seeking to enhance their knowledge of the region will have here the perfect introduction and ample references for further reading.

 

         For scholars familiar with the area and the Italian literature, the book will yield fewer surprises. Although Yntema introduces his approach as a move away from the traditional culture-historical approach, the general outline of the book looks very conventional, with its sections on urbanisation, burial, craft, exchange etc. At times, this traditional division conflicts with Yntema’s innovative approach. For example, invented colonial foundations of the Greek poleis feature in section 4.3 Raiders, Traders and Migrants, to be taken up again in section 5.6 Economy, Interrelations and Long Distance Contacts, amidst a discussion on the production of surpluses versus subsistence economy and various imports and exports. It seems a little unfortunate to tuck away a novel postcolonial reading of constructed colonial identities in a “traditional” paragraph on economy, especially given Yntema’s important contributions to this discussion!

 

         Nevertheless, it remains very interesting to see Yntema’s suggestions for a reading of Greek “colonisation” and identity formation, published in various articles during the last decades, at work on a macro- and mesoscale. Yntema draws on a career of research in the material culture (especially pottery production), field survey and landscape archaeology of south-east Italy and it is herein that his major contribution lies. The equal treatment of native and Greek societies, in the macro-narrative is refreshing, as are the discussions of developments in urban versus rural landscapes and identity formations. His case studies are detailed, informative and well illustrated. Yntema manages to present this fascinating region as few others could.