Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


15 April 2010

A reconsideration of depositional practices in Early Bronze Age Crete

E. Miller Bonney Aegean Archaeology 8 (2005-2006) [2009]: 31-50.


Aegeanists typically argue that the state formed on Crete as it did in the ancient Near East. Hierarchical structures developed over the course of the Bronze Age culminating in the centralization of civil and religious power at Knossos near the beginning of the Late Bronze Age. Already at EM I Knossos emerging elites competed in the conspicuous consumption of food, drink and fine pottery to legitimate their authority. Artistic productions in all media reflected the wealth, access to specialized knowledge, and power of these elites in the competitive display that was a hallmark of elite life on palatial Crete. Analysis of the pottery placed in tombs at Lebena, Koumasa and Ayia Kyriaki presents a more egalitarian society that was ordered heterarchically not hierarchically. While some of the deceased no doubt were wealthier than others none of the grave goods displayed the cosmologically charged symbols that distinguished the deceased as a prince or high priest. For all the pyxis was a significant component of the burial kit at Lebena and Koumasa although apparently not at Ayia Kyriaki from EM I through EM IIA. Across this area in EM IIB, however, the pyxis disappears from the burial assemblages replaced by the broadly shared custom of depositing large quantities of cups in and around the tombs. These cups were used in drinking or toasting rituals by which the survivors celebrated the ancestors and re-affirmed the corporate cognitive code.


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