Archaeological Manifestations of Empire: Assyria's Imprint on Southeastern Anatolia


One of the most enduring problems for the study of ancient empires is the fact that material correlates indicative of imperial integration are often difficult to define in the archaeological record. This situation results in part from two factors that distinguish empires from other less complex political formations. First, the military and administrative structures that integrate otherwise diverse areas into a single imperial system vary considerably in their nature and intensity, and second, such systems are often superimposed over existing political, economic, and social structures, thus altering existing systems in ways which may or may not be visible in the archaeological record. Thus the archaeological manifestations of empire may be far more diverse than those of less complex polities. This article explores how the material correlates of Assyrian imperialism are manifest in the archaeological record by analyzing and combining archaeological and textual data from the Mesopotamian Iron Age (ca. 1100–600 B.C.) in southeastern Anatolia. It suggests that imperial integration affects the archaeological record in significant and identifiable ways by illuminating three overarching themes that are characteristic of Assyrian imperialism: the establishment of agricultural colonies in newly annexed regions; the use or enforcement of buffer zones between frontier provinces and hostile neighbors; and the discontiguous nature of Assyrian imperial control.

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