Session 5: Which Continuity? Evaluating Stability, Transformation, and Change in Transitional Pariods

Both Near Eastern archaeologists and historians face the same task of delineating the borders between chronological periods within the sequences of material and textual records. One established approach has been to treat artificially defined periods as boxes containing well defined cultural characteristics, with transitions defined as clearly marked caesurae. More recent works have challenged the view of the so-called “Dark Ages”, usually associated with dramatic turmoil, migrations, wars, and invasions, by confirming that “nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is transformed”. The use of the concept of “transition” seems to offer a more suitable conceptual framework for dealing with bodies of data of intermediate nature and to describe those processes of passage from one specific condition, period, or phase to another. At the same time, the employment of the terms continuity and stability on one side and transformation and change on the other, emphasizes more or less the gradualness of these processes. But how do we exactly evaluate the weight of these concepts and terms when analyzing the archaeological and historical sources? And is this new paradigm of “transformation” capable of recognizing catastrophic events or fast revolutionary changes in history? This session welcomes contributions that use material culture and textual evidence to bridge chronologically different periods or phases of our established archaeological and historical sequences.