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A Change Is Going to Come: A Complex Systems Approach to the Emergence of Social Complexity on Cyprus

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This dissertation explores how practices and interactions of actors at different scales structure social networks and lead to the emergence of social complexity in middle range societies. To investigate this

This dissertation explores how practices and interactions of actors at different scales structure social networks and lead to the emergence of social complexity in middle range societies. To investigate this process, I apply a complex adaptive systems approach and a methodology that combines network science with analytical tools from economics to the three sub-periods of the Prehistoric Bronze Age (The Philia Phase, PreBA 1 and PreBA 2) on Cyprus, a transformational period marked by social and economic changes evident in the material record. Using proxy data representative of three kinds of social interactions or facets of social complexity, the control of labor, participation in trade networks, and access to resources, at three scales, the community, region and whole island, my analysis demonstrates the variability in and non-linear trajectory for the emergence of social complexity in middle range society. The results of this research indicate that complexity emerges at different scales, and times in different places, and only in some facets of complexity. Cycles of emergence are apparent within the sub-periods of the PreBA, but a linear trajectory of increasing social complexity is not evident through the period. Further, this research challenges the long-held notion that Cyprus' involvement in the international metal trade lead to the emergence of complexity. Instead, I argue based on the results presented here, that the emergence of complexity is heavily influenced by endogenous processes, particularly the social interactions that limited participation in an on-island exchange system that flourished on the island during the Philia Phase, disintegrated along the North Coast during the PreBA 1 and was rebuilt across the island by the end of the period. Thus, the variation seen in the emergence of social complexity on Cyprus during the PreBA occurred as the result of a bottom-up process in which the complex and unequal interactions and relationships between social actors structured and restructured social networks across scales differently over time and space. These results speak more broadly about the variability of middle range societies and the varying conditions under which social complexity can emerge and add to our understanding of this phenomenon.

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  • 2017