The 3rd millennium BC has witnessed one of the most dynamic intercultural networks in prehistory. It is the time when the first urban civilizations of the Old World – the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Harappan – have been established and a systematic long-distance trade has been created across an area stretching from India in the east to the Aegean and Thrace in the west.
This dynamic network arose through the intentional participation and cooperation of different cultures rather than an expansion or colonization of one single dominant culture. One of the most crucial effects of this network in Western Anatolia, the Aegean and Thrace can be seen in the re-definition of the social hierarchy in those regions. The circulation of ideas and products has influenced the way how the social asymmetries were expressed between the different classes of society without eliminating the local characteristics of the respective cultures. It is the first time in those regions that a higher social class differentiated itself from the rest of the society through the medium of settlement planning: Monumental architecture in form of communal buildings and defensive structures appeared, many settlements got divided into an upper and a lower town to underline the social positions, specialized craftsmen seem to have monopolized the exploitation as well as the production of specific resources and goods, and trade with distant regions became more and more a vital concern for the existence of settlements.
Tell settlements, established on trade routes, developed their own way of complexity and evolved into regional centers with some urban character. Bademağacı and Seyitömer in Western Central Anatolia, Troy and Liman Tepe on the Anatolian Aegean coast, Thermi on Lesbos, and Yunatsite in Thrace are some of the best examples of this process during the 3rd millennium BC.
Both the social and the material effects of this network weaken in the northwest direction, to finally vanish to the west of the Thracian Plain. There again appears a quite different cultural zone, stretching from northern Greece in the south to the Carpathian Basin and the Danube in the north, a zone which was closely connected in itself, but seemed to avoid any systematicinteraction with the neighboring Aegean and Anatolia. Despite the fact that only a few cultural elements can be seen in the archaeological records of the vast area of the Western Balkans, one can generally observe the ignorance towards the southeastern innovations. The rural character and material findings of Sitagroi in Greek Macedonia, only a few kilometers inland from the Aegean, show how striking the differences between neighboring regions could be. There is no sign of a social differentiation through housing in Western Balkans, not even on the Carpathian tells with an enclosure at the end of the 3rd millennium BC.
There are some innovations, though, which emphasize an indirect cultural connection between the Western Balkans and the Aegeo-Anatolian region. Drinking feasts as a symbol of prestige, became a distinctive aspect of elite behavior at the end of the 4 th millennium BC. Drinking equipment of different kinds spread in a relatively short period of time during the 3rd millennium BC throughout the whole area from Mesopotamia and Levant in the east to entire Europe in the west. The Balkan populations were clearly attracted by the elite behavior of their southeastern neighbors, but showed – with the exception of Thrace – absolutely no interest in changing their lifestyle or settlement organization. To conclude, this research deals with the different urban features of Anatolia and the Aegean and aims to find out to what extent they have reached the Balkans.