Forum: Article

Redistribution in Aegean Palatial Societies: Terminology, Scale, and Significance


Nakassis et al., in their contribution to this Forum, argue that the term “redistribution” has been used with a range of meanings in the context of the Aegean Bronze Age and so obscures rather than illuminates the emergence and functioning of political economies. They call for detailed empirical investigation rather than reliance on ambiguous idealized types. Lupack and Schon concur, arguing respectively that the palace shared control of the Mycenaean economy with sanctuaries and local communities and that centralized production of craft goods (and thus elite strategies of wealth finance) developed late at the palace of Pylos. Pullen finds little archaeological support for Renfrew’s extrapolation of centralized redistribution to the Early Bronze Age, while Christakis uses evidence of storage to argue the same for Prepalatial Crete and to play down the scale and importance of elite redistribution in the Minoan palaces. The calls for circumspect use of the term “redistribution” and for detailed empirical investigation are applauded, although these five papers arguably do not all attack the same form of redistribution. This response argues that redistribution sensu Polanyi, Finley, and Killen (i.e., centrally administered movements of goods and services without equivalence of value) retains considerable heuristic value in investigation of both textual and archaeological evidence for Bronze Age political economies.

Comment on this Forum


Bronze Age    Mycenaean    trade   

Redistribution in Aegean Palatial Societies: Terminology, Scale, and Significance

By Paul Halstead

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 115, No. 2 (April 2011), pp. 229–235

DOI: 10.3764/aja.115.2.0229

© 2011 Archaeological Institute of America