Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Classics
This dissertation explores the space and place of burial in Greece in the Geometric period (900-700) and the 7th century BC. This transitional period is often characterized by increased cultural complexity and socio-political coalescence around proto-urban centers with the second half of the 8th century as a watershed moment. Previous scholarship has noted certain changes in the use and organization of cemeteries concurrent with these social and cultural transformations. In particular, scholars have observed a gradual shift from intracommunal to extracommunal burial locations. Some have argued that the increased marginalization and formalization of cemeteries in this period reflect attempts to distance the physicality of death or to deny certain classes access to burial rites. Using the mortuary contexts of three well-documented poleis—Athens, Argos, and Corinth—as case studies, this project reexamines the articulation of mortuary space in the nascent Greek city. A multiscalar approach is adopted to evaluate three spatial scales of analysis: the space of the body and the grave; the space of the plot and the cemetery; and the wider mortuary landscape of a proto-urban settlement area. Results reveal that the social production of mortuary space at each of these three scales is a unique process at each settlement, contingent upon factors such as the idiosyncrasies of mortuary behavior; household and kinship patterns; different levels of engagement between the living and the dead; beliefs surrounding pollution and purification; tomb cult and ancestorhood; settlement layout and the pace of urban growth; and the internal dynamics of socio-political realignment on the eve of state-formation. In addition, building on sociological theories of space, the study advocates a revision of models of spatial polarization in Greek cities and defines mortuary contexts as fluid and active landscapes that play a pivotal part in identity politics. In light of an in-depth analysis of these variables, the shift from intracommunal to extracommunal burial patterns at the end of the Geometric period is reframed not as the marginalization of burials but as the creation of supra-household collective spaces that aid social integration and creation of shared histories in coalescent communities.