ABSTRACT

The circulation of objects in the Ancient World is usually framed within a gift-commodity dichotomy. Objects are viewed as passive, as objects that can be exchanged and accumulated to become static reflections that can be summed up to comprise the identity of their owner. Critical cultural theory, however, suggests that objects lead infinitely more complex lives in terms of materiality and the meanings attributed to them. In the absence of well-established methodologies, it is particularly challenging for archaeologists to address these kind of questions. This chapter proposes that a combined approach focusing on object ontologies such as the ones proposed by Carl Knappett in this volume and a formal network methodology enables us to construct a number of hypotheses on how objects might have mediated interaction. The analysis focuses on an emblematic archaic Italian society, Pithekoussai, which has been linked to early Greek gift exchange and Mediterranean commodity trade. The richness of these well-published assemblages offers a unique insight into the kind of complex lives that objects might have led and allows us to discuss how various objects could have forged very different relations between people in the past.