Stelai in the Shaft Grave Period: A Case Study of Mycenae and Eleon




Allen, Alyssa

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During the transition from the Middle Helladic to the Late Helladic period, a number of changes in funerary practice swept across mainland Greece, marking the beginning of the Mycenean period. Among these were the appearance of grave stelai at two sites, Mycenae and Eleon. These stelai are anomalous, and appear almost nowhere else throughout the entire Aegean Bronze Age. As they do not seem to fit in with local funerary practices, their cultural origin, purpose and meaning are open to question. This study analyses the grave stelai at Mycenae and Eleon, with particular attention to how they fit into the wider context of funerary practices of the Early Mycenaean period and how they functioned as a monument within their respective cemeteries. This includes an examination of the changes in funerary practice taking place during this period, a close study of the cemeteries in which the stelai appear, and an examination of the individual stelai themselves, including the iconography of the carved stelai. The results show that although the stelai are unique, they embody many of the larger trends taking place during the Early Mycenaean period, and are best viewed as experimental forays into a new tradition of monumentalized burials intended for generational reuse, ritual performance and elite funerary display within cemetery spaces. While intercultural influences are significant during this period, the totality of evidence points to the stelai being a phenomenon that developed internally within the Aegean mainland, rather than a product of wholesale external influence.



Mycenae, Eleon, Bronze Age, Stele, Greece, Graves, Archaeology