Session: #367

Theme & Session Format

4. Globalisation and archaeology
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Ideological, Technological & Economic Change in the First Millennium BCE at the Eurasian Extremities: Japan and Britain in Wider Context
In European archaeology the Bronze Age has been argued to represent an expanding world of proto-globalisation. The following Iron Age, by contrast has been interpreted in terms of more localised societies based around growing state power. However, the transitional period between Bronze and Iron saw new ‘global’ ideas spread across Eurasia. Although not generally discussed by archaeologists, the term ‘Axial Age’ has sparked historical, sociological, anthropological and popular interest since it was proposed by the German existentialist philosopher Karl Jaspers in his 1949 book The Origin and Goal of History. His Axial Age thesis proposed that between 800BCE and 200BCE religious, philosophical and societal innovations took place across the core of Eurasia. Figures such as Confucius, the Buddha, Zarathustra, Elijah, Homer, and Plato all belonged to this period. Recently the anthropologist David Graeber, in his book Debt: The first 5000 Years, argued there was a material basis to these new ideas in the First Millennium BCE, pointing particularly to the development of coinage in Greece, India and China around 600BCE. This session will examine whether the ripples from these changes can be seen across the Eurasian continent. Britain and Japan, at the extremities, saw social and material changes linked to the flow of ideas and material from the continent during the Iron Age and the Yayoi period. Increasing complexity, demographic changes and technological innovations took place. Agriculture based on rice, millet, wheat and barley appeared in Japan with new groups of people and metals. New metallurgical technologies, styles of artefact and coinage made their way into Britain at around the same time. Papers in this session will explore these themes and consider whether such large-scale historical narratives fit with archaeological investigation.
Japan, Britain, Axial Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Yayoi period
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Main organiser:
Andrew Hutcheson (United Kingdom) 1,2
Koji Mizoguchi (Japan) 3
Takehiko Matsugi (Japan) 4
Mark Hudson (Germany) 5
Simon Kaner (United Kingdom) 1,2
1. Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Culture
2. University of East Anglia
3. University of Kyushu
4. The National Museum of Japanese History
5. Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History