How should we envision long distance contacts around the western Black Sea during the LBA?
In the neighboring Aegean, the Bronze Age is a time of intensification of contacts between peer polities (Renfrew 1972) which will transform autonomous agricultural villages into trade centers. This interaction is seen as one of the prime movers towards social complexity and state formation (Flannery 1972) as it resulted in the accumulation of information, and the redistribution of goods and social and ideological “technologies” .
Despite its geographic vicinity to the Aegean and Anatolia, such processes seem to be absent from the Black Sea region until the arrival of Greek colonists in the 7th c. BC. Bronze Age groups living on the shores of the western Black Sea appear to be much more part of a “continental” European world based on agriculture and limited craft specialization than that of the Mediterranean and Oriental bureaucratic societies where centralized trade have a crucial economic and ideological role.
The aim of this paper is to present an overview of available evidence for inter-regional and long-distance interaction in the western Black Sea during the second half of the second millennium BC. The character and organization of western Black Sea trading networks will be examined on the basis of metal finds, pottery and architectural remains in the Sabatinovka-Noua and Coslogeni stylistic provinces. Reaching as far south as Troy the role and significance of maritime, riverine and overland routes will be considered. I will conclude by painting a potentially contentious picture of high mobility on the one hand and low social complexity on the other - the “ying/hang” character (O’Shea 2011) of the Black Sea - for the organization of space and local and long-distance contacts during the LBA. The Black Sea both hindered movement and demarcated and directed transport and travel.