Paper abstract

Appropriating the past: Early Iron Age mortuary practices at Kavousi, Crete

Preston Day Leslie

Excavations at Kavousi in eastern Crete have brought to light a shifting array of settlements and cemeteries that span the Dark Ages, from the twelfth to the seventh centuries B.C. Of particular interest is the Late Geometric cemetery at the lower site of Vronda, not only because it represents a change in burial practices from inhumation in small tholos tombs to primary cremation in rectangular cists, but also because the burying population chose to return to a site that had not been inhabited and was only sporadically used for burials for some three hundred years. In this paper, I will first establish the chronology of the various graves and cemeteries in the Kavousi area and their relation to the shifting patterns of settlement that led to the emergence of the polis at Azoria in the 7th century. Within this context, the Vronda cemetery presents two major questions. First of all, what meaning can we deduce for the change in long-established burial practices at Vronda at a time when the residents of the Kastro continued to bury their dead in increasingly elaborate tholos tombs near the settlement and to assert their status in a profusion of luxury and imported goods? Second, what possible reasons can we find for burying in the abandoned settlement, which in LM IIIC was unusual in the area because of its large ruler's dwelling and important religious structure? The still visible walls of the earlier houses seem to have been deliberately chosen, not simply because they provided materials for the low walls of the cists and the piles of rubble over the graves; such building materials were readily available throughout the Kavousi area. Rather, it is suggested that burial on the site made a claim of territoriality or status by appropriating the past settlement and all its associations.

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