Prehistorical International Relations: How, Why, What

Global Studies Quarterly, Vol 4, No 2, 2022, pp. 1-12

Archaeologically produced knowledge of pre-history has grown to a point where International Relations (IR) may begin to incorporate it in their own work. In this article, we try to facilitate this process by introducing IR scholars to archaeology’s material data and ways of thinking about it. New types of systems units such as households and kinship emerged in pre-history and had effects on temporality and territoriality as well as knock-on effects on institutions such as war and trade. If we understand the origins of these phenomena better, we are better equipped to understand how they work at the present time. Focussing on a key topic in IR, namely systems emergence, we splice archaeological and IR approaches to systems. Four key factors for systems emerge appear: competition for resources, interaction capacity, social imitation and stable food resources. We then show how these factors were at work in the two earliest proto-systems to be found in Europe, namely House Polity Proto-Systems (9.000-4.500 BCE) and Segmentary Polity Proto-Systems (4.500-2.500 BCE). They are still active. We conclude that when studies of pre-historic systems, institutions and practices point up deep structural factors like, we should not expect them to lose their relevance any time soon.