Crielaard Jan Paul
Amsterdam Free University
What place for elite groups in Eretria and neighbouring settlements?
My contribution departs from a reconsideration of Geometric tombs found in the southern part of the settlement area of Eretria. Part of these tombs belong to the so-called West Cemetery near the coast, which was excavated between 1897 and 1900 by K. Kourouniotis. Most of the burials found by Kourouniotis dated to the 7th to early 5th centuries, but also a “considerable number” of Geometric graves was found, often damaged by later burials. Eight in situ cremations can be attributed to adults and date to the MG II and LG periods. In addition, some 45 enchytrismoi were excavated, datable to 7th century. In 1977, A.K. Andriomenou excavated another three in situ cremations, immediately west of a curvilinear building of Geometric date. Also these cremations belong to adults and can be dated to the MG II period, probably to the second quarter of the 8th century. I believe that these groups of tombs constitute separate burial plots, but argue that both display features that allow us to identify them as elite burials. Close reading of Kourouniotis’ reports, combined with evidence from the area of the Apollo sanctuary and from Skala Oropou as well as Kyme, further allows us to speculate about the performance of specific rites in this area, possibly including sacrifices to ancestors or other chthonic entities. The presence in this area of ‘powerful’ dead of a past generation and perhaps even of a chthonic cult may also explain why it became attractive to bury children here after ca. 700 BC. Likewise, it is possibly that the curvilinear building located immediately to the west of Andriomenou’s in situ cremations-in the words of the excavator “the most exciting of the apsidal buildings that have come to light at Eretria”-can be connected to the presence of elite tombs and perhaps even cult of the dead.
If we are right to consider these in situ cremations as elite tombs, we have to face a number of related questions, for instance how do these elite tombs fit in into the larger settlement lay-out of Geometric Eretria, what was their relation vis-a-vis the elite burial plot near the West Gate, and, most significant of all, is it possible that a settlement like Eretria consisted of several habitation nuclei housing elite families? These considerations may incite us to discuss more general questions considering the social make-up of related settlements, such as Lefkandi, Skala Oropou and Kyme (who is living where? how do we identify elites in the setllement evidence? who had acces to cemeteries or cult of the dead?, etc. etc.). It is hoped that this contribution will stimulate an exchange of ideas on these and related topics.