Robert Chapman— 1992 James R. Wiseman Book Award

Award Citation:

The Archaeological Institute of America is proud to honor Robert Chapman for his exciting contribution to the study of Mediterranean prehistory; Emerging Complexity: The Later Prehistory of South-east Spain, Iberia and the West Mediterranean.

Robert Chapman's book focuses on southeastern Spain during the Neolithic, Copper, and Bronze Ages, when the region was the locus for the development of complex societies with large, fortified settlements and sophisticated craft production focused on metallurgy. He not only provides an imaginative reconstruction of the processes that during the third and early second millennia B.C. contributed to this high level of social and economic development, but also discusses factors that prevented the emergence of the more advanced political and social systems found in the contemporary Aegean world. Chapman, working in the tradition of the late David Clarke, demonstrates that the New Archaeology with its emphasis on systems theory, ecological adaptation, and cultural evolution, can still provide very productive research models. He also shows how contemporary European prehistoric archaeology can provide important laboratories for testing a variety of theoretical models.

His task was not easy, since the study of Iberian prehistory has traditionally focused on typological studies and the too facile use of invasion models to explain cultural change. There had been little stratigraphic excavation and limited research in environmental or settlement archaeology. Chapman has extracted much useful information from these earlier excavations and integrated it with more recent data. His task has been greatly assisted by the current renaissance of archaeological research in the Iberian peninsula with its increased emphasis on stratigraphy, settlement reconstruction, and the collection of ecological information. Chapman creates a fascinating picture of human societies adapting to the parameters of complex, often harsh, ecological systems. Much is attributed to local invention and intraregional contacts and relatively little to outside influences resulting from migration and trade.

Fernand Braudel, in his seminal work The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, stressed the need to consider both unity and diversity in the long history of the lands bordering that inland sea. Too often Classical archaeologists have studied seriously only the prehistory of the core regions of Greek and Roman civilization. Areas like the Iberian peninsula became of interest only with the advent of Greek trade and Roman conquest. Groups that existed before then were what the anthropologist Eric Wolf has described as "Peoples without History." The expansion of Greek and Roman empires, like that of later imperial systems, has to be visualized as the meeting of different dynamic systems, each with its own long historical experience. Both experiences shaped the society that emerged after the conquest. The history of this "other" in classical imperialism, however, must be reconstructed mainly through archaeology. Robert Chapman's book provides us with a fine model of how this should be done.

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