Related Theory

Ex Oriente Lux

This theory is particularly outdated, suggesting that the East, in particular Mesopotamia, was responsible for the development and enlightenment of the West.  It was thought that the innovation of social and economic systems was developed in the ‘Cradle of Civilisation’ and the growth in their population forced them to move west, thus taking with them their developments.  This was particularly popular within Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary monument studies.  Barrows are often thought to have been and Eastern tradition, until the advent of processualism and radiocarbon dating which proved the Western examples to be earlier.


Diffusion claims to progress from Ex Oriente Lux in that it accepts that indigenous peoples were capable of innovation and their products, ideas and technologies then diffuse through trade and exchange networks, with each group of peoples striving to mimic the elite of the others. Its’ creators claim this is notreliant upon the movement of peoples, however, I believe this to be false, for trade/exchange to occur, people have to move. Contemporary scholars appear to think the same, the use of technologies within archaeology have allowed for studies focusing upon DNA and Isotope Analysis, which allow us to determine where individuals originated from in comparison to where they were interred.

The notion of the movement of people, the generation of ideas and their spreading, is particularly important when considering the socio-economic demographies within Thanet. Populations have needs, food, water and shelter for example, but as complex societies developed so did the needs. A complex society, in this instance, is one that is settled; as such it requires continual resources, many of which maybe distant from the choice of dwelling. It can be argued that each area will have a surplus of produce or resource and will be able to utilise this in order to gain what is sparse. This inevitably leads to movement of certain members of society in order to obtain the desired resource/produce, creating at the very least a network of exchange with other societies. As time progresses, the societies progress and exchange is likely to become trade thus adjusting the economic system of a given community. This research aims to determine if this was the case for Iron Age Thanet.

The Kula Gift Exchange

This anthropological example of gifting illustrates the potential for societies to be linked while remaining distinctly different. In the Kula example gifts are moved by sea however, the ideals are not limited to such seafaring movements and land based examples may occur. Each island within the exchange gifts an item that is distinctly theirs to others within the gifting circle. I do not feel that such a custom was present within Northern Europe throughout the Iron Age, at least not that encompasses Thanet, however, its inclusion serves to illustrate that geographies, cultures, social and economic practises can be similar or even the same, but it does not mean a pan area culture; it is very possible to preserve an individual identity in a growing world.

Central Placement Theory

This theory is particularly revelavent to the Later Iron Age and the development of oppida. The notion largely rests upon the ‘elite’ being the central settlement with lower classes systematically settling within a given vicinity. It is often noted that such central ‘elite’residencies do not form due to local trade networks, but due to much wider external contact. This is particularly interesting when considering Thanet, as it is understood not all resources were available within the Isle it is assumed that a network of some sort was in place. Whether this made Thanet a special place or not, is not being discussed here, however, there is certainly a potential for there to be an oppidumupon the Isle.

As a whole this theory is particularly important when considering the socio-economic demographies of any given area. Throughout the regional studies this will certainly be taken into consideration, with the hope of understanding Iron Age Thanet. Although above I have mentioned the importance of Central Place Theory within later contexts it must be noted that this is not exclusively where it can be used.

The Gateway Community

As oppose to a theory, this is more a notion and can be argued to be an alternative phrase for oppida. It was coined in 1978 by Hirth who, at the time, was studying Mesoamerica. It was used as a description of settlements that undertook the bulk of a regions trade, making them prominent locations within much larger trade routes. Such a phrase allows for the consideration of oppida in non-Romanised areas or eras, allowing for broader study of the Early and Middles Iron Age. It is this notion of nodal points that is likely to remain prominent in the research that I have conducted.

Influential Reading

Johnson, M. 1999 Archaeological Theory: An Introduction Blackwell: Oxford

Precel, R.W. and Hodder, I. (eds) 1996 Contemporary Archaeology in Theory: A Reader Blackwell: London

Renfrew, C and Bahn, P (eds) 2005 Archaeology: The Key Concepts Routledge: Oxon and New York

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