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Abstract

This dissertation examines the processes involved in societal collapse and its aftermath. What does it mean to say a society has collapsed? Who is most affected, and how do they respond to changing circumstances? Is collapse ever final, and if not, what are the pieces that persist? This research contributes to the ongoing conversations surrounding these questions through the examination of on the ground responses to the Hittite collapse in central Anatolia (modern Turkey) around 1200 BC. The collapse of the Hittite empire was part of a massive regional collapse that affected much of the Eastern Mediterranean around the same time. In order to gain a better understanding of local responses to the breakdown of the imperial superstructure, my research includes the analysis and comparison of materials from both the Hittite capital, Hattuşa, and a rural center in the empire’s provinces, Çadır Höyük. Conventional narratives of the Hittite collapse, and of collapse in the ancient world more broadly, often present collapse as a shift from centralized to decentralized forms of organization, assuming a degree of political and economic integration and interdependence such that when one aspect of the state’s organizational structure (i.e. its political system) fails, its other organizational structures (i.e. its economic systems) must follow. My research mobilizes faunal evidence from Hattuşa and Çadır from before and after the Hittite collapse in order to engage with and question this narrative. In approaching societal collapse through zooarchaeology, my work builds on approaches to collapse that emphasize the importance of studying the processes of social reorganization and regeneration that occur after collapse, focusing on the intertwined nature of what comes before and what comes after (e.g. Schwartz and Nichols 2006). This conception of collapse provides a critical framework for my zooarchaeological approach, which has focused on how studying animal economies pre-collapse and post-collapse can offer insight into changing organizational structures and lifeways. The results of my research show that, while changes in central Anatolian economic organization did occur following the collapse of the Hittite empire, the nature of these changes does not always follow the trajectories assumed in conventional narratives of collapse. For example, it appears that a major reorganization of the animal economy at Çadır occurred as the Hittite state lost its influence in central Anatolia, but its configuration is not one that was anticipated. In addition, the dissertation results suggest that the complexities of pre- and post-collapse animal management at Hattuşa are not well accounted for by our existing models of Hittite political and economic organization or of the empire’s collapse. Taken as a whole, these results demonstrate a need to rethink how we envision the Hittite empire’s political and economic organization, while presenting new ways for thinking about what happens after “The End."

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