Core Periphery Theory

This is a theory that I feel can only truly work in relation to economic relationships, between a Core Area and its peripheral zone.  This allows us to study the potential for inter-regional connectivity within the archaeological record.  The diagram below illustrates this in its’ most basic form.



It is however, well known that societies are not that simple, in the case of the Roman World, (which Thanet became part of quicker than you may think) there are Three Zones

  • The Core- the centre of the Empire consisting of Rome and Italy, thus being the area of consumption
  • The Inner Periphery- the area of rich provinces such as Spain, Gaul, Africa and Asia, thus being the regions which provide surplus to The Core
  • The Outer Periphery- the area consisting of the Frontier settlements, thus requiring support from The Inner Periphery, yet trading with the Barbarian lands

Still following….

When considering the Roman Empire, they had the three zones, but external to the Outer Periphery, there were points of contact.  These were Barbarian peoples that traded with the Inner Periphery as seen above, but they too develop a Peripheral zone as seen below…


   A diagram illustrating complex Core-Periphery in relation to Rome

The relationships between the Core and the Periphery are not always simplistic as there are opportunities for Core zones to develop within the Periphery.  This shows that social relations are not of a static nature and effectively illustrates the fluid nature of the economic systems developed to support them. 

The principles of Core-Periphery Theory therefore provide a model which can be usefully applied to the archaeological record.  It allows for a means of study into relations between two distinct interacting regions, permitting scope for consideration of the ambitions and perspectives of both Core and Peripheral communities.  A major flaw of the theory is that of the terminology, the use of the term ‘Core’ provides a sense of greater importance and as such power is presumed, thus creating preconceived ideas and establishing a bias in an archaeological study. 

See it wasn’t that bad after all….

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