Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


26 June 2012

The geoarchaeology of Mycenaean chamber tombs

Panagiotis Karkanas, Mary K. Dabney, R. Angus K. Smith & James C. Wright Journal of Archaeological Science 39:8 (August 2012): 2722-2732.


This study presents a revised methodology for the excavation and analysis of the stratigraphy in Mycenaean chamber tombs and other multi-use burials. For our excavation of chamber tombs at Ayia Sotira and Barnavos, Nemea, we followed a geoarchaeological approach to provide details about the process of backfilling and re-opening of the tombs and to identify the location, number, and slope of these re-openings.

In the studied fill of tomb entrance corridors (dromoi) at Ayia Sotira we observed a suite of sedimentary structures based on field and micromorphological observations. These are attributed to grain flow and debris fall processes associated with the formation of small piles during the shoveling of debris into the tomb. During ancient re-opening of the tombs extensive planar erosional surfaces were produced, occasionally associated with a basal stone line feature and an abrupt change in the degree of compaction. Constructed plastered floors were identified in the dromoi and the chambers during both the initial opening and the subsequent re-openings of the tombs.

The proposed geoarchaeological analysis will enable the reconstruction of complex histories of mortuary practices and their social meanings. Moreover, this analysis shows that some anthropogenic processes of sediment accumulation can be analyzed and interpreted with paradigms of natural processes. Therefore, it provides a framework for understanding other types of earthworks that involve digging and filling.



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