Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationBritish Columbia, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10395
Approve DateOctober 11, 2022
Project TitleRenette, Steve (British Columbia, U. of) "Small-Scale Complexity: social integration of dispersed communities in the Zagros highlands of southwest-Asia, ca. 3000-2500 BCE"
This project investigates a case of social complexity in small-scale communities at the site of Kani Shaie in the Bazian Valley in Iraqi Kurdistan during the Early Bronze Age (3000-2500 BCE). The project explores the validity of a hypothetical model how dispersed communities in the Zagros Mountains, stretching along the present-day border between Iraq and Iran, maintained social cohesion and exchange of resources despite the challenges of a fragmented landscape with high mountain ranges and difficult passes. Based on a previous pilot phase of stratigraphic excavations, the material culture at the small site of Kani Shaie reveals an unexpectedly high degree of organizational complexity with a large storage facility, administrative technology (clay sealings with cylinder seal impressions), foreign imports, and indications of repeated feasting events. In the archaeology of southwest Asia, such features are commonly considered to be markers of emerging (proto-)urban states with multi-tier settlement hierarchies, monumental architecture, and hierarchical power structures. In light of the absence of nearby large settlements of this period, I developed a hypothetical model inspired by anarchist theory in anthropology and case-studies of alternative pathways of complexity that explains Kani Shaie as a locus of repeated gathering by dispersed communities in the Zagros highlands.