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Ancient Mediterranean Colonial Encounters 

Since 1980, I have been engaged in a long-term project of archaeological fieldwork and archival research designed to explore a series of colonial encounters that occured during the first millennium BC in the Western Mediterranean. These encounters, between indigenous peoples of the region speaking a variety of languages (Celtic, Iberian, and Ligurian) and alien merchants and colonists from city states of the Eastern and Central Mediterranean (Phoenician, Etruscan, Greek, and Roman), entangled all these peoples in a range of complex unanticipated economic and political relations and had varied cultural logics and effects. In approaching the analysis of such a long and complicated colonial history, no single strategy can reveal the full complexity of the situation.  Hence, it seemed clear to me that developing an effective archaeology of colonialism requires a multiplicity of paths of entry, analytical trajectories, scalar shifts, and narrative structures. I have been particularly concerned with developing the use of shifting scales as an analytical tool. 


























Starting from the principle that such a project ought to be grounded in a local regional analysis, the central axis of my fieldwork has been in the lower Rhône basin of Mediterranean France: in Provence and Eastern Languedoc. Publication projects have been centered first on a temporally "horizontal" analysis, exporing the initial phases of the encounter during the Early Iron Age, using a comprehensive analysis of archaeological data from hundreds of sites to examine the nature and consequences of early engagements. The focus then shifted to a temporally "vertical" analysis of regional patterns, examining long-term colonial processes by focusing on historical transformations within selected domains of social life, such as the cross-cultural consumption of different forms of material culture, urban landscapes, economic practices, and forms of violence. Both of these approaches necessarily involved constant shifts of scale, from households, to neighborhoods, to sites, to region in order to discern layered patterns. Other frameworks for publications include a micro-scale analysis looking comparatively at transformations in households and neighborhoods within the single settlement of Lattes over its entire history and the macro-scale analysis of the colonial history of the Western Mediterranean. But these latter frameworks rely upon the prior two foundational regional analyses in order to make interpretation meaningful.


I have also been concerned to use this case of these ancient Mediterranean encounters to raise and engage a set of broader issues of major epistemological and theoretical significance for the anthropological and archaeological study of colonialism in general. Prominent among these concerns has been the intimate relationship between these ancient encounters and the development of modern European identities and class distinctions and colonial ideologies and practices, as well as the difficulties this relationship poses for archaeological understanding of those ancient encounters. Another issue of major concern has been a strategic focus on consumption as an analytical tool for exposing the role of agency in colonial encounters and the complex nature of entanglement that cross-cultural consumption produces.


The history of wine and the ancient wine trade has also formed an important part of my research in this domain, given the central importance of wine in articulating the network of colnial relations in the region over many centuries. 


Since 1997, my fieldwork has been centered on the site of Lattes (ancient Lattara), near Montpellier, where excavation has been ongoing since 1983. I have been working there with a large multi-national team (French, Catalan, and American), in collaboration with directors Michel Py, Thierry Janin, Pierre Garmy, and Eric Gailledrat. Lattes is an Iron Age port settlement with a fortified core of about 3.5 hectares and an eventual extra-muros settlement covering nearly 20 hectares, and it was occupied from the late sixth century BC through the second century AD. Since 2001, my efforts have been especially focused on directing the excavation of a series of houses centered around an interior courtyard, a departure from tradiotional domestic arrangements that began in the late fourth century BC. This work has been undertaken in collaboration with Alison Kohn, Will Meyer, Andreu Moya, Sébastien Munos, and André Rivalan; and an edited volume on the results of the campaigns up to 2013 is in preparation.


Relevant Publications:



2018. Gailledrat, Éric, Michael Dietler and Rosa Plana-Mallart (editors). The Emporion in the Ancient Western Mediterranean: Trade and Colonial Encounters from the Archaic to the Hellenistic Period. Montpellier: Presses Universitaires de la Méditerranée (Collection Monde Ancien).

2010.  Dietler, Michael.  Archaeologies of Colonialism: Consumption, Entanglement, and Violence in Ancient Mediterranean France. Berkeley: University of California Press.


2009. Dietler, Michael, and Carolina López-Ruiz (editors).  Colonial Encounters in Ancient Iberia: Phoenician, Greek, and Indigenous Relations.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


2005. Dietler, Michael.  Consumption and Colonial Encounters in the Rhône Basin of France:  A Study of Early Iron Age Political Economy. Monographies d’Archéologie Meditérranéenne, 21. Lattes, France: CNRS.



2022.  Dietler, Michael. Six provocations in search of a pretext. In The Connected Iron Age: Interregional Networks in the Eastern Mediterranean, 900-600 BCE, edited by James Osborne and Jonathan Hall. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


2018.  Dietler, Michael.  Emporia: spaces of encounter and entanglement. In The Emporion in the Ancient Western Mediterranean: Trade and Colonial Encounters from the Archaic to the Hellenistic Period, edited by Eric Gailledrat, Michael Dietler and Rosa Plana-Mallart, pp. 231-242. Montpellier: Presses Universitaires de la Méditerranée (Collection Monde Ancien).


2018.  Gailledrat, Eric, Michael Dietler and Rosa Plana-Mallart.  Introduction: the emporion in context. In The Emporion in the Ancient Western Mediterranean: Trade and Colonial Encounters from the Archaic to the Hellenistic Period, edited by Eric Gailledrat, Michael Dietler and Rosa Plana-Mallart, pp. 11-16. Montpellier: Presses Universitaires de la Méditerranée (Collection Monde Ancien).


2017.  Dietler, Michael.  Anthropological reflections on the koine concept: linguistic analogies and material worlds. In Material Koinai in the Greek Early Iron Age and Archaic Period, edited by Søren Handberg, pp. 17-39. Athens: Danish Institute at Athens Monograph Series, vol. 22.


2015.  Dietler, Michael.  Rencontres culinaires: Colonialisme et la culture matérielle incarnée. In Contacts et acculturations en Méditerranée occidentale. Hommages à Michel Bats, Actes du colloque de Hyères, 15-18 septembre 2011, edited by Réjane Roure, pp. 153-159. Arles/Aix-en-Provence: Errance/Centre Camille Jullian, (Bibliothèque d'Archéologie Méditerranéenne et Africaine 15/ Etudes Massaliètes 12).


2010. Dietler, Michael. Cocina y colonialismo. Encuentros culinarios en la Francia mediterránea protohistórica.  In De la Cuina a la Taula: IV Reunió d’Economia en el Primer Mil..lenni aC., edited by Consuelo Mata Pareño, Guillem Pérez Jordà, and Jaime Vives-Ferrándiz Sánchez, pp. 11-26.  Valencia: Universitat de Valencia, Saguntum.


2008. Dietler, Michael, Alison Kohn, Andreu Moya i Garra and André Rivalan.  Les maisons à cour des IIIe-IIe s. av. n. è. à Lattes: émergence d’une différentiation dans l’habitat indigène.  Gallia 65: 111-122.


2008. Dietler, Michael, Thierry Janin, Joan López and Michel Py.  Conclusion. Gallia 65: 201-209.


2007. Dietler, Michael.  The Iron Age in the Western Mediterranean.  In The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World, edited by Walter Scheidel, Ian Morris and Richard Saller, pp. 242-276.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


2007. Dietler, Michael.  Culinary encounters:  food, identity, and colonialism.  In The Archaeology of Food and Identity, edited by Katheryn Twiss, pp. 218-242.  Carbondale: Center for Archaeological Investigations Press, University of Southern Illinois.


2006. Dietler, Michael. Wine and colonialism in ancient Gaul.  Cahiers Parisiens 2: 247-279.


2005. Dietler, Michael.  The archaeology of colonization and the colonization of archaeology: theoretical challenges from an ancient Mediterranean colonial encounter.  In The Archaeology of Colonial Encounters: Comparative Perspectives, edited by Gil Stein, pp. 33-68.  Santa Fe: SAR Press.


2005. Poux, Matthieu, and Michael Dietler.  Du vin, pour quoi faire?  In Le Vin: nectar des dieux, génie des hommes, edited by Jean-Pierre Brun, Matthieu Poux and André Tchernia, pp. 9-26.  Gollion, Switzerland: Infolio.


2004.  Dietler, Michael.  La société lattoise à l'aube de la conquête romaine: réflexions sur le colonialisme et la vie quotidienne  dans une ville portuaire indigène.  In Lattara 17. Le quartier 30-35 de la ville de Lattara (fin IIIe - Ier siècles av. n. è.): Regards sur la vie urbaine à la fin de la Protohistoire, edited by Michel Py, pp. 403-412.  Lattes: ARALO.


2004. Py, M., A. Adroher, C. Belarte, M. Dietler, M. Gomis, L. Paterno, P. Pinto, S. Raux, C. Sanchez and A. Vidal.  Le dossier de fouille du quartier 30-35: structures, stratigraphies et mobiliers.  In Lattara 17.  Le quartier 30-35 de la ville de Lattara (fin IIIe - Ier siècles av. n. è.): Regards sur la vie urbaine à la fin de la  Protohistoire, edited by Michel Py, pp. 7-318.  Lattes: ARALO.


2003. Dietler, Michael, and Michel Py.  The warrior of Lattes: an Iron Age statue discovered in Mediterranean France.  Antiquity 77:780-795.


2003.  Py, Michel, and Michael Dietler.  Une statue de guerrier découverte à Lattes (Hérault).  Documents d’Archéologie Méridionale  26:235-249.


2002.  Dietler, Michael.  L'Archéologie du colonialisme: consommation, emmêlement culturel, et rencontres coloniales en Méditerranée.  In Regards croisés sur le métissage, edited by Laurier Turgeon, pp. 135-184 Québec: Presses de l’Université Laval.


1999. Dietler, Michael.   Rituals of commensality and the politics of state formation in the "princely" societies of Early Iron Age Europe.  In Les princes de la Protohistoire et l'émergence de l'état,  edited by Pascal Ruby, pp. 135-152.  Naples: Cahiers du Centre Jean Bérard, Institut Français de Naples 17 - Collection de l'École Française de Rome 252.


1999. Dietler, Michael.  Consumption, cultural frontiers, and identity: anthropological approaches to Greek colonial encounters.  In Confini e frontiera nella Grecità d'Occidente (Atti del XXXVII Convegno di Studi sulla Magna Grecia, Taranto, 3-6 ottobre, 1997), pp. 475-501.  Naples: Arte Tipographica.


1999. Dietler, Michael.  Reflections on Lattois society during the 4th century BC.  In Lattara 12:  Recherches sur le quatrième siècle avant notre ère à Lattes, edited by Michel Py, pp. 663-680.  Lattes: ARALO.


1998. Dietler, Michael.   Consumption, agency, and cultural entanglement: theoretical implications of a Mediterranean colonial encounter.  In Studies in Culture Contact: Interaction, Culture Change, and Archaeology, edited by James Cusick, pp. 288-315.  Carbondale: Center for Archaeological Investigations Press, University of Southern Illinois.


1997. Dietler, Michael.  L'art du vin chez les Gaulois.  Pour la Science 237: 68-74.


1997. Dietler, Michael.  The Iron Age in Mediterranean France:  colonial encounters, entanglements, and transformations.  Journal of World Prehistory 11: 269-357.


1995. Dietler, Michael.  The cup of Gyptis: rethinking the colonial encounter in Early Iron Age Western Europe and the relevance of world-systems models.  Journal of European Archaeology 3(2): 89-111.


1995.  Dietler, Michael.   Early 'Celtic' socio-political relations: ideological representation and social competition in dynamic comparative perspective.  In Celtic Chiefdom, Celtic State: The Evolution of Complex Social Systems in Prehistoric Europe, edited by Bettina Arnold and D. Blair Gibson, pp. 64-71.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


1994. Dietler, Michael.   Quenching Celtic thirst.  Archaeology 47(3): 44-48. 


1993. Dietler, Michael.   Comparative colonial interaction in Iron Age France.  In Actes du XIIe Congrès International des Sciences Préhistoriques et Protohistoriques, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, September 1-7, 1991, Vol. 3, edited by Jan Pavúk, pp. 262-266.  Nitra: Archaeological Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences.


1992. Dietler, Michael.   Commerce du vin et contacts culturels en Gaule au Premier Age du Fer.  In Marseille grecque et la Gaule, Études Massaliètes 3, edited by Michel Bats, Guy Bertucchi, Gaëtan Congès & Henri Tréziny, pp. 401-410.  Lattes: A.D.A.M Éditions.


1990. Dietler, Michael.   Driven by drink:  the role of drinking in the political economy and the case of Early Iron Age France.   Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 9: 352-406.


1989. Dietler, Michael.   Greeks, Etruscans and thirsty barbarians:  Early Iron Age interaction in the Rhône basin of France.  In Centre and Periphery:  Comparative Studies in Archaeology, edited by Timothy Champion, pp. 127-141.   London: Unwin Hyman.  

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