THE RICHNESS OF RESPONSES: BRONZE AGE TOMBS ON CRETE

The third category of sites are the cemeteries—a particular type of site that requires a bit more attention but whose study provides more rewards. Cemeteries are normally well-defined sites in the landscape. They are not as big as most habitation sites, forming an easier to understand feature than the sprawls of material and architecture that are the normal footprint of a settlement. Moreover they were, in most cases, abandoned in the Bronze Age so there is not a continuous use that masks the archaeology of the site. In many cases tombs were still constructed in a monumental way, with large boulders and thick walls, particularly both the Early and Late Bronze Age tholos tombs. This means that several of them would be visible in Iron Age and Classical times. Some of these tombs were still partially visible before their excavation in the early twentieth century ad, such as Kamilari (Levi 1963; Girella 2012), Agia Triada (Banti 1933; Cultraro 2004) or Chrysolakos at Mallia (Demargne 1945). More importantly, the abandonment of these sites during different points of the Bronze Age, probably means that social knowledge of the nature of the site was lost. Only in certain cases the funerary nature of some of the latest Late Bronze Age tombs seems to be remembered in the Iron Age, such as in the North Cemetery at Knossos

(Coldstream and Catling 1996), but the cases are few. Most tombs were probably not easily identifiable by their function as fragmented human bones would not be easy to identify as burial remains. Nevertheless, together with the remarkable architecture, these sites— particularly the Early Bronze Age examples—contained a large amount of material, including easily recognizable items such as metal weapons and figurines which would have set them apart in the historical landscapes of Crete.

Unfortunately, the lack of consistent recording of non-Bronze Age levels during the excavation of the tombs create problems in order to make a survey of the historical use of the more than 500 cemeteries known in the island. A quick review of recently published cemeteries, however, seems to indicate that most abandoned Bronze Age cemeteries were used in the Iron Age and Classical period.

The Early Bronze Age I cemetery of Agia Photia was composed of hundreds of small rock-cut tombs, some of which included geometric sherds (Davaras and Betancourt 2004, 183). At the Early Bronze Age tholos tombs of Lebena a Hellenistic terracotta figure was found over the collapsed tombs, and Roman material was also present in one of the identified robbing pits (Alexiou and Warren 2004, 181). At the tomb of Monastiriako Kephali at Knossos much material was found dated from Geometric to Roman times, including an Attic import (Preston 2013, 43, 84). The tomb was abandoned at the end of the Bronze Age, but it lay so close to the Classical town that all the historical material may indicate later occupation in the area and may not be related to a reuse of the tomb. At the Early Bronze Age tholos of Moni Odigitria only a few Classical and Byzantine sherds were found on the surface (Vasilakis and Branigan 2010, 135) indicating very sporadic use, and at Tholos B at Koumasa two Roman tombs were found (Xanthoudides 1924, 4). At the small tholos tomb of Livari, Hellenistic buildings may indicate non-cultic reuse of the cemetery (Papadatos and Sofianou 2012). Almost all these cases represent recently reported cemeteries, which suggests that most Bronze Age cemeteries saw reuse in the Iron Age and Classical times. But before delving into the nature of this widespread reuse and its reasons, it would be useful to examine in detail a couple of better-understood examples.

The aforementioned North Cemetery of Knossos was discovered by rescue excavations in the 1970s and well published in the 1990s (Figure 14.3).

Plan of the Knossos North Cemetery

Figure 14.3. Plan of the Knossos North Cemetery. (a) Tombs of Bronze Age type; (b) Tombs with Bronze Age larkanes. After Coldstream 1998, figs. 5.1 and 5.2. Reproduced with the permission of the British School at Athens.

The cemetery presents an interesting insight into the complex relation of Iron Age funerary customs with Bronze Age tombs. It has been argued that several of the tombs in this cemetery were Late Bronze Age tombs that were reused in the ninth century bc (Cavanagh 1996), when most of the other tombs may have been constructed imitating their Bronze Age counterparts. The ninth- century-built tombs contained several Bronze Age larnakes (clay coffins) (Figure 14.4). These were at least 400 years old when they were reused, probably for the interment of infants (Coldstream and Catling 1996; Coldstream 1998). In addition, a sealstone and a large pithos jar of probable Bronze Age date were found in the cemetery, reinforcing the idea that links with the past were actively sought by certain members of this community. Knossos presents a rare case in which the funerary nature of the areas of the site continued from the Bronze Age into the Classical period. In this particular case it has been suggested that rising aristocratic powers at Iron Age Knossos linked to Bronze Age material in order to cement ideologically their privileged position (Coldstream and Catling 1996, 719). However, the richest tombs of the cemetery were not the ones containing the

Late Bronze Age larnax found in Tomb 107 of the Knossos North Cemetery, Side A. After Morgan 1987, fig.4

Figure 14.4. Late Bronze Age larnax found in Tomb 107 of the Knossos North Cemetery, Side A. After Morgan 1987, fig.4.

larnakes (Kotsonas 2006), which suggests that links to the past were only part of a wider range of strategies of social competition. The creation of connections to the past was a choice that cannot be solely explained as a means to gain a more favourable social position but may depend also in a broader set of beliefs.

At the Early to Late Bronze Age cemetery at Archanes Phourni (Figure 14.5) the best published tombs suggest that most of the thirty- odd Bronze Age tombs may have seen some kind of later activities taken place in them. The geometric pithos found at the Early to Middle Bronze Age I Tholos Gamma provides the best known example (Papadatos 2005, 48-50). This light use contrasts with a more significant presence of Roman material around the cemetery (Sakellarakis and Sapouna-Sakellaraki 1997, 160), which is best illustrated by the rich evidence from the very well-preserved Mycenaean Tholos A (Figure 14.6). The reason this tholos was found is because while most of it lay under the soil, the highest part of the vault survived. It is thought that in Roman times a small door was opened in the visible area of the vault to access it (Sakellarakis and Sapouna- Sakellaraki 1997,159). The shelter continued to be in use in historical times, amongst other things as a hiding-place during the German occupation of the island in the Second World War. The nature of the Roman use of the tomb is unclear. The main chamber was found

Plan of the Archanes Cemetery. Modified by Borja Legarra Herrero from Sakellarakis and Sapouna-Sakellaraki 1997, drawing 35

Figure 14.5. Plan of the Archanes Cemetery. Modified by Borja Legarra Herrero from Sakellarakis and Sapouna-Sakellaraki 1997, drawing 35.

Tholos A at Archanes. Photograph by Borja Legarra Herrero

Figure 14.6. Tholos A at Archanes. Photograph by Borja Legarra Herrero.

empty, which may indicate looting, although one would expect some of the Bronze Age ceramic material to have survived as in most of the other looted Bronze Age tombs. Even more puzzling is the delimitation of a small area outside the entrance of the tholos with upright slabs. The material evidence from this area points towards a domestic use, although it is possible that this was a temporal installation used by Roman robbers during their attempts to access the tomb (Sakellarakis and Sapouna-Sakellaraki 1997, 160).

Finally, the area in the west Messara around the site of Phaestos is particularly interesting. Here several cemeteries have yielded evidence of Iron Age and Classical reuse. The best example is the site of Kamilari, not far from Phaestos. This is a group of two independent tholos tombs constructed in the Middle Bronze Age period. The best known, Tholos A (Figure 14.7), was very well preserved and it had standing architecture visible before its excavation in the mid twentieth century ad (Levi 1963). It was used in the Late Bronze Age and it contained also several fragments of eighth- and seventh-century bc ceramics, perhaps indicating funerary reuse of the tholos tomb in Archaic times (Lefevre Novaro 2005, 188-90). Badly eroded remains

Plan of Tholos A at Kamilari. Modified by Borja Legarra Her- rero from La Rosa 1992, fig.14.1

Figure 14.7. Plan of Tholos A at Kamilari. Modified by Borja Legarra Her- rero from La Rosa 1992, fig.14.1.

of a building containing more than 400 clay figurines were found near the tholos tomb (Cucuzza 1997). The architecture and votives seem to indicate that this may have been a small rural shrine devoted to Demeter and Kore built in the fifth century bc and mainly used until the third century bc. This dedicated building and the repeated deposition of votives are typical of a small rural shrine and it provides the strongest evidence available of a formalized and sustained Classical cult related to a Bronze Age tomb. The site of Agia Triada is not far from Kamilari and Phaestos. This is a small Bronze Age settlement that had an Early to Middle Bronze Age tholos cemetery near it. In the seventh century bc a wall was constructed around the Minoan tholos cemetery, and a couple of bronze figurines of bulls found in the area indicate ritual use of this area (Cultraro 2004, 324) as part of a broader reuse of the site for cult in the Archaic period (Palermo 2004; Cucuzza 2013). The use of these two Bronze Age sites as small rural cult places has been seen as an effort by the city of Phaestos of establishing its regional ascendance in the face of growing competition from their neighbours, in particular the city of Gortyna (Alcock2002; Lefevre Novaro 2005,108-10). However, the sites seem to have housed different cult activities with different intensity and slightly different dates, which suggests that the historical reuse of the cemeteries seems to obey other reasons besides possible geo-political interests.

 
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