Mediterranean Economies

Pre- and Protohistoric Forces of Production and Social Systems


A central aspect of the projects in this research group that was established in 2014 is the notion that the development of the forces of production constitutes a decisive factor in the development of economic and political structures of all social systems and therefore also determines contacts between societies to a large extend. Therefore, modes of production and property as well as exchange relationships between different Mediterranean societies form the basis of the different research programs. Such an approach has considerable potential and can only be realized by means of close interdisciplinary cooperation of archaeologists with colleagues from a wide array of disciplines in the humanities as well as in the natural sciences. In addition to the archaeological evidence, written sources are an important part of this research.

The past few years witnessed a growing interest in macro-historic approaches to human economy – as is reflected by several monographs by social anthropologists and economists. Now, also different archaeological disciplines have taken up issues of economic history again – after many years characterized by a dominating interest in ideology and cultural contacts.

Earlier models for the reconstruction of Bronze Age economies sometimes turned out to be either too modernist or could not be verified, when confronted with new written or archaeological sources. Detailed case studies of the research group in different Mediterranean regions provide new primary data, which can contribute to the research into Bronze Age economies and their developments on a broader and more detailed basis. A renewed theoretical discussion between the involved disciplines forms an integral part of those reconstructions and models.

Research issues

The projects of the research group treat one or more of the following topics:

  1. Local economies – reconstructing local economic and social systems in different Mediterranean and neighboring regions.
  2. Politics of resources – starting from archaeometric data, investigation into the issue how and on which routes different state and pre-state economies organized their supply with resources that were not locally available (e. g. metals).
  3. Interregional contacts – investigation of economic and political contacts on different levels between the societies around the Mediterranean, i. e. between state and pre-state societies and between different early state societies; finally and based on the aforementioned investigations comparisons between the different types of contacts.
  4. Economic and political change – reconstructing the development of forces of production as a background against which to interpret e. g. the breakdown of palace economies and the emergence of city states from the end of the second to the start of the first millennium B.C.E. as well as related historical processes.

All projects seek to draw a comprehensive picture including preferably all elements of economy – production, distribution, exchange and consumption.


  1. Punta di Zambrone – central Mediterranean. In the analysis of the excavation conducted from 2011 to 2013 in cooperation between R. Jung and M. Pacciarelli (University of Naples Fedrico II, Italy), research issues include investigations into the economic foundations of the settlement by means of archaeozoology und archaeobotany and different kinds of metal analyses among others. Strontium isotope analyses of animal bones and provenance analyses of pottery and stone artifacts contribute to the reconstruction of regional economic connections. The investigation of contacts to other Mediterranean regions (especially to the Aegean) also proceeds by combining archaeological and archaeometric methods (e. g. in the analysis of Mycenaean and Minoan pottery and small finds of different materials). – Funded by the FWF – Austrian Science Fund (project P23619-G19, 2011–2015); the Gerda Henkel Foundation (project AZ 04/V/13, 2013–2016).
  2. War and peace between Mycenaean Greece and Bronze Age Italy – This project aims at the reconstruction of contacts between late Mycenaean Greece and Bronze Age Italy on the basis of archaeometric data on metallurgical production and the exchange of finished products. The material basis of the project are the chemical, mass spectrometric and metallographic analyses of metal objects made of bronze, copper and lead found in different regions of Greece and Italy. The project is conducted as a cooperation between R. Jung and M. Mehofer (VIAS, University of Vienna), E. Pernicka (University of Heidelberg, Germany) and numerous Greek and Italian colleagues. Data collection is finished; currently the final monographic publication is in preparation. – Funded by the Institute for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP), 2007 and 2008.
  3. Ada Tepe – Central Balkans – At Ada Tepe the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and the University of Münster have excavated a Bronze Age goldmine as well as settlement quarters, the use of which extended over several centuries of the late second and early first millennium BCE. The state-of-the-art excavation results with an extensive data set offer the possibility of investigations into the local economy and their evolution over time. In addition, this goldmine for the first time allows testing tangible hypotheses pertaining to the often discussed problem of the economic foundations of the direct contacts between the Mycenaean world and the population groups of the central Balkan regions – contacts that are also visible in the Ada Tepe finds. Different archaeological as well as archaeometric investigations will form the basis for this assessment. The project is a cooperation between B. Horejs (PI, OREA) and R. Jung (OREA) with K. Nikov, H. Popov, R. Stoychev and Z. Tsintsov (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia, Bulgaria), A. Jockenhövel (Münster, Germany), M. Mehofer (VIAS, University of Vienna) and E. Pernicka (University of Heidelberg, Germany). – Funded by the FWF – Austrian Science Fund (project 28451-G25, since 2016).
  4. Ayios Vasileios – Peloponnese – At this Mycenaean palace situated in Laconia (Peloponnese) and currently excavated under the direction of A. Vasilogamvrou, first, a continuous and recently investigated stratigraphy opens up the possibility of investigating the rise and fall of a Mycenaean palace region with a special focus on its economic and political development. Second, the external relationships of this palatial region, especially towards Italy and Crete, can be assessed based on the pottery finds. This material, the archaeological analysis of which is entrusted to E. Kardamaki, constitutes the core of the project initiated in 2015. The establishment of a chronological sequence of the building phases and destruction horizons of Ayios Vasileios is of fundamental importance. In addition, archaeometric analyses aiming at pottery production, distribution and use are part of the project. Finally, the project will contribute to the reconstruction of the development of Mycenaean Laconia from Early Mycenaean times (17th cent. BCE) to the end of the palace period (13th cent. BCE). Based on the modern excavation results, one can also re-evaluate the economic-political role of the Mycenaean palace system in the context of the Bronze Age Mediterranean. – Funded by the Institute for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP), 2015; the FWF – Austrian Science Fund (project P28023-G25, since 2015).
  5. Archaia Pheneos – Peloponnese – In the 1960s, E. Protonotariou-Deïlaki discovered Middle Bronze Age settlement remains at the south-eastern foot of the acropolis of Archaia Pheneos (Arcadia). However, it was unknown that the acropolis itself was inhabited in the Middle Helladic period, too. Excavations carried out 2011–2015 on the acropolis in collaboration between the Ephorate of Antiquities of Corinth and the University of Graz under the direction of Konstantinos Kissas and Peter Scherrer revealed a stratified Middle Helladic settlement sequence underneath the Late Classical city-wall. Contexts and finds are of particular importance as only few Middle Bronze Age sites from this remote region of the Peloponnese are known so far. Archaeological and scientific studies of the pottery from Archaia Pheneos provide an opportunity to identify the networks of exchange in which the population was involved and to gain an insight into the contacts between the inhabitants of the plateau and the various regions of Greece. Funded by the University of Graz (since 2011); Institute for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP) (2016–2019); OREA (2014–2019).
  6. Tiryns – Peloponnese – Tiryns is one of the key-sites in the Argolid. Its history in the Mycenaean palatial and post-palatial periods is well-known, but several questions related to the Middle Helladic and early Mycenaean period are still open, such as the history of construction and the date of the buildings antedating the Great and Little Megaron on the Upper Citadel. In 1997/98, excavations under the direction of J. Maran (University of Heidelberg) revealed for the first time structures identified as predecessors of the LH IIIA Great Megaron. They date to LH II–IIIA1. The layout of this building, which was probably constructed on two terraces, does not belong to the Megaron type. Its discovery fills a gap in the building history of the Great Megaron, which had hitherto existed between the “maison de chef” excavated by K. Kilian and dated to MH II/III–LH I and the LH IIIA Great Megaron. Early Mycenaean remains were also recovered under the Small Megaron. The project aims at studying and publishing the Middle Helladic and Mycenaean pottery found during the excavations of 1997 and 1998 in the area of the Great and Little Megaron on the Upper Citadel of Tiryns.
  7. Kontopigado – Attica – Kontopigado is one of very few archaeologically known examples for workshops located in considerable distance to the Mycenaean palaces (1400–1200 B.C.E.), an economic sector that is well attested in the contemporary written sources. The workshop installation excavated under the direction of K. Kaza-Papageorgiou and the Ephorate of Piraeus features a complex of rock-cut pits, wells and channels, one of which reaches 64 m in length. This makes it the largest “industrial” area discovered so far in the Late Bronze Age Aegean. Thus, the research project aspires deeper insights into many aspects of Mycenaean economy and culture. Comparative analyses including a settlement excavated nearby are also part of the project. Eleftheria Kardamaki is studying the large amount of pottery finds, while several colleagues will investigate other find materials as well as architecture using archaeological as well as archaeometric methods. – Funded by the FWF – Austrian Science Fund (project P 31938-G25, since 2019).
  8. The Collapse of Bronze Age Societies in the Eastern Mediterranean: Sea Peoples in Cyprus? – The project lead by P. Fischer (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) is investigating the so-called period of disruption around 1200 BCE in the Eastern Mediterranean with a special focus on Cyprus. As an important hub of the Eastern Mediterranean, the island had a prominent role in the international trade of the Late Bronze Age and was therefore severely affected by its “collapse”. One of the explanations given for those disruptions is the immigration of the so-called Sea Peoples from South/Southeastern Europe to the island, although their presence on Cyprus could not be proven so far. Extensive analyses of excavation finds from Hala Sultan Tekke and comparative studies including other Cypriot sites (Sinda, Enkomi, Pyla, Kition, Maa-Palaeokastro, Kouklia-Palaepaphos) are scheduled for this project. Teresa Bürge is studying the pottery. In addition, provenance analyses of pottery (by petrography and INAA), radiocarbon dates, strontium isotope analyses and climatological studies shall offer information regarding the possible presence of immigrants, but also data pertaining to structural changes in the economic and political systems on Cyprus. – Funded by The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) (project no. 2015-01192, 2016–2019).
  9. Pottery of the 13th to 11th centuries BCE on Cyprus – Eastern Mediterranean – The subject of this project conducted by R. Jung is the investigation of pottery finds of the three Cypriot settlements at Enkomi, Pyla-Kokkinokremos and Maa-Palaeokastro. It offers new data for the assessment of the external contacts of the island at the end of the Bronze Age. The archaeological analysis is supplemented by chemical analyses for provenance determination by means of NAA (cooperation with H. Mommsen, Bonn, Germany) as well as by a cooperation for the study of the Canaanite amphorae (T. Pedrazzi, Rome, Italy). – Funded by the Institute for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP), 2010.
  10. Dietary and Mobility Reconstruction using Stable Isotope Analyses for Mycenaean Greece: the Case of Portes – The project will combine tomb contexts and related published archaeometric data from all over Mycenaean Greece with a specific case study, in which new analytical evidence from well-defined cemetery contexts (Portes in Achaia) shall be produced. It has two main parts: First, it aims at reconstructing diet and mobility of individuals from dated burial contexts at Portes, one of the most important Mycenaean cemeteries in western Greece. This research will be carried out by employing carbon, nitrogen and strontium stable isotope analyses executed on bone collagen and in tooth dentine. Second, the study includes a wider reassessment of published isotopic and archaeological data from coeval sites in Achaea and other regions of Greece. The re-analysis will be rigorously contextual in combining isotope results and grave assemblages with the associated material culture. – Funded by the Gerda-Henkel-Stiftung (project AZ 32/P/17)
  11. Deir el-Medine – Egypt and the Aegean –In the framework of this cooperation project by R. Jung and L. Bavay (Brussels, Belgium) newly found Mycenaean ceramics from Deir el-Medine, the settlement and cemetery of the workmen employed in the Valley of the Kings, are studied and documented. One of the most important research questions regards the economic and social importance of Mycenaen imported goods in Egypt.
  12. Between Land and Sea – This project, under the direction of Karin Kopetzky, deals with a coastal region of Lebanon between Batroun and Tripoli, which had previously remained archaeologically unexplored. In cooperation with the American University of Beirut under Hermann Genz, the economic and ecological potential of this region will be investigated. This area has probably been involved in the timber trade in the eastern Mediterranean, with Tell Mirhan in the Bay of Chekka probably serving as one of the region’s most important trading centres. With an original size of 6 ha, this settlement hill is one of the larger Lebanese tells of the 2nd millennium BC. First investigations showed that the settlement was surrounded by a fortification wall in the Middle Bronze Age. In recent decades, both the tell and its hinterland have suffered greatly from increasing building activities in the area, and urgent action needs to be taken to preserve the archaeological heritage. In a first step, the project "Between Land and Sea" will investigate the diachronous settlement patterns of the region as well as communication networks between the coast and the hinterland by modern prospecting methods. Geological surveys and modern analyses of fauna and flora will help to reconstruct the prevailing environmental conditions during the 2nd millennium BC. This will also provide information on the economic conditions in the region in general and Tell Mirhan in particular. The duration and type of settlement of Tell Mirhan and the integration of the region into the international trade network in the eastern Mediterranean will be investigated by means of excavations. As Tell Mirhan is one of only four known fortifications of this kind in Lebanon, the project intends to further examine the construction of this city wall using geological and microarchaeological analyses. – Funded by the FWF – Austrian Science Fund (project P 30581-G25, since 2018)

The Zentral-Café

In order to understand, which archaeological correlates allow conclusions on the relations of production, it is necessary to delve into the theoretical foundations of production, property of the means of production, exchange and the origin of the commodity character of products. The Zentral-Café can be a place for such an endeavor. It is a discussion group founded on November 7th 2014 to this end and brings together researchers from different institutions and various disciplines of archaeology and social anthropology, who work on different chronological periods from the Neolithic up to the modern era. Common aims are the study of fundamental texts of economic theory such as the “Capital” by Karl Marx on the one hand and specific case studies from archaeology and anthropology on the other hand. These discussions can stimulate work groups for implementing new research approaches and projects on economy and materialist archaeology.


In the framework of the project Punta di Zambrone R. Jung organized a workshop with the title “1200 B.C.E. A Time of Breakdown – a Time of Progress in Southern Italy and Greece” held from April 16th to 18th 2015 at the Austrian Historical Institute in Rome (ÖHI). The results of the project were presented to the international scientific community and discussed with experts, who are investigating contemporary sites in Southern Italy and Greece and were also presenting the results of their investigations at the workshop. Currently, the publication of the conference proceedings is in preparation. They will form the first volume of a series dedicated to Punta di Zambrone.