Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Anthropology

Content Description

1 online resource (xv, 343 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Stuart Swiny

Committee Members

Sean M. Raffert, Igor K. Lednev


Archaeology, Bronze Age, Cyprus, GC/MS, Organic Residue Analysis, Bronze age, Pottery, Ancient, Social evolution

Subject Categories

History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


In this study, I examine the emergence of social complexity during the Prehistoric Bronze Age (c. 2400-1750 B.C.) on the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus through a systematic program of organic residue analysis. I define a model based on the theoretical concept of the feast in conjunction with a product-centered approach that aims to identity a range of prestigious products, including perfumes, medicines, and psychoactive substances, that have been preserved in ceramic containers using Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS). The basis of the model is that feasting, in all its forms, serves as an arena in which various social, economic, political and ideological strategies are negotiated by various parties within a community. These strategies of social distinction simultaneously foster a sense of communal solidarity, while creating occasions on which opportunistic individuals may exert, gain, and consolidate their power, resulting in the emergence of a stratified, urban-oriented society, as in the case of Protohistoric Bronze Age Cyprus (c. 1750-1050 B.C.). It is during the formative, Prehistoric Bronze Age, that the relationships that lead to these social changes would have been negotiated in various communal events, in which increasingly elaborate drinking and serving sets were utilized in the consumption of a range of prestigious substances as a way to signal and legitimize claims of social distinction. From a product-centered perspective, I argue that the identity of the products that are being consumed and displayed in these events is as important to such strategies as the elaborate objects from which they are consumed. To examine these relationships, I analyzed a total of 12 pottery samples from three curated collections and 98 pottery samples from five stratified archaeological sites that span the Cypriot Bronze Age. All three categories of prestigious products were identified, which documents a rich repertoire of specialized organic products being produced from locally available aromatic plants and being consumed, displayed and shared in increasingly elaborate and socially significant ways.