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Classical Journal On-Line <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 2 Dec 2007 19:54:07 -0600
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Archaeology and the Emergence of Greece. By ANTHONY SNODGRASS. Ithaca and 
New York: Cornell University Press, 2006. Pp. ix + 485. Paper, $39.95. ISBN 

Order this text for $32.50 from Amazon.com using this link and benefit 
CAMWS and the Classical Journal: 


This collection of 25 studies brings together Anthony Snodgrass work over 
four decades. But it is more than a collection of previously published 
essays, for it provides the author抯 fresh thoughts on the subjects of 
those essays. Thus it reveals developments in the field of Ancient Greek 
archaeology during the period of major new directions in the second half of 
the 20th century. Snodgrass speaks to historians and classicists as well as 
to archaeologists, encouraging rapprochement between the various groups 
working to understand the nature of ancient Greece.

Following the Preface, the essays are distributed among six parts that 
identify the author抯 special interests and contributions to Greek history:

 揂 Credo examining the history of archaeology, its relation to other 
disciplines and a plea for redirection  揟he Early Iron Age of Greece  
揟he Early Polis at Home and Abroad  揟he Early Polis at War  揈arly 
Greek Art  揂rchaeological Survey

Each part begins with a short introduction presenting changes in evidence 
and/or interpretation, and includes two or more essays. Every essay in turn 
receives an introduction describing the intent of the original study, 
pointing to aspects requiring updating, and providing a bibliography of 
important recent publications on the topic. S. reports how new findings 
have altered his opinion or, in several cases, why his original argument is 
still justified. He has, for example, revised his position on a return to 
nomadism following the collapse of the Mycenaean kingdoms, as well as his 
view of the rise in population in the 8th century. On the other hand, with 
respect to the transition from bronze to iron, while 搒ympathetic to 
correctives yet in this instance, I resist (p. 127).

S.抯 揅redo is important for an appreciation of developments in the field 
of archaeology as well as its battle with the domains of historians and 
classicists. Convergence with both disciplines has long been linked with 
ancient written sources, a link that excludes much of human history. Yet, 
if classicists and historians frame their questions broadly, in terms of 
processes over time, cooperation is both possible and productive. 揟he 
larger aim of this paper is to convince historians that archaeological 
evidence can truly be brought to bear on problems that are of central 
concern to them厰 (p. 222). Some of the author抯 more acerbic comments 
relate to lack of empathy: 搕his paper was addressed to fellow Classicists 
who did not, as I had half expected, take offence厰 (p. 364).

Above all, S. gives attention to the material evidence for changes in 
culture after the difficulties of the Late Bronze Age, the development of 
the polis, the emergence of hoplite warfare and the lessons of pottery梑oth 
painted and plain梐nd other art. Readers can follow the process of 
deepening understanding through comparison of the original studies and the 
author抯 introductory comments. For example, the 1974 study 揗etalwork as 
Evidence for Immigration in the Late Bronze Age is described in the 
introduction as 揳 journeyman piece (p. 118). It employs close examination 
of particular metal items and technology to address the migrationist 
explanation of the divide between the Bronze and Dark Ages. The 2002 
discussion of 揟he Rejection of Mycenaean Culture and the Oriental 
Connection builds on these findings to argue a more sweeping conclusion: 
on the collapse of most Mycenaean centers and their administrative 
structures, Greece returned to the pre-Mycenaean way of life of the Middle 
Helladic Age. (We can add the observation that this way of life has 
prevailed in Greece from the Neolithic Age into the 21st century CE.)

Over time, new subjects enter the picture of Iron Age Greece. In presenting 
the case for surprising energy in this early 揇ark age, S. argues against 
the view of its deep darkness that found wide support well into the 1960s. 
Particularly important are the activities of the 揼reat discovery of early 
Greek archaeology since WWII敆namely the Euboeans, who early in the 11th 
century were engaging in 損aracolonial efforts in the northern Aegean and 
the Levant, and two centuries later in the central Mediterranean. This 
energy is linked with another major topic of early Greek history on which 
S. has led the way: the origin of the polis not only on the mainland, but 
as 揺xported through colonial activity. Archaeological data allows the 
polis to be seen as more than a theoretical abstraction, by revealing a way 
of life within its physical context. Developments in the discipline of 
archaeology have added to the new perspective. While excavation defined the 
polis-center, survey archaeology is now identifying life in the chora.
S.抯 presentation also serves as a model to other scholars. The base of his 
own knowledge is obvious: full employment of archaeological data, much of 
it from his own fieldwork, is the foundation for his arguments, while 
knowledge of the scholarship of others adds both depth and variety. His use 
of this scholarship is invariably respectful even when he disagrees with 
certain conclusions. S. embodies his own plea for multi- and 
inter-disciplinary cooperation: his use of the tools of historians and 
classicists as well as archaeologists is exemplary.

S.抯 style is always clear; his discussion of survey archaeology, for 
instance, could well be a manual for participants. He engages the reader抯 
attention by going beyond description and data to raise questions, drawing 
his audience into the process. 揥hy he asks (p. 238), 搃s it that modern 
scholarship has come to reject the implication that the political system of 
Classical Greece essentially goes back to the Heroic Age? And common sense 
often suggests answers, as in the case of the view that early paintings on 
black-figure pottery are dependent upon Homeric epics. After demonstrating 
the limited number of indisputable parallels, S. suggests a source in 
parents storytelling to their children (p. 369) and a generally heroic 
ambiance (p. 376). The book is handsomely produced with numerous 
illustrations. Would that its binding were as secure as its intellectual 

This brief summary of this book抯 coverage and style cannot do justice to a 
scholar who by his research, publications and instruction of a cadre of 
younger scholars has changed the direction of study of early Greece. In 
1983 S. wrote that 搕he potential for archaeological evidence may offer 
grounds of optimism (p. 27). His own efforts have brought this to pass.

University of Washington

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