The American School of Classical Studies at Athens

Olivia is a PhD student from the University of Groningen and was an associate member of the American School for the entire 2013-2014 academic year. This autumn she will continue to focus on the data collection portion of her research. 

The title of her research project is Mycenaean Burial Traditions of Achaea: An Anthropological and Bioarchaeological Approach

The aim of this research is to utilize skeletal, anthropological, and archaeological evidence to understand the meanings of secondary burial in Mycenaean Achaea. Secondary burial is commonly defined as the cultural process of exhumation and reburial of a human body.

The Mycenaean era (ca. 1680-1065 BC) is frequently characterized by increased international relations with other cultures of the eastern Mediterranean, a militaristic heightening observed in weaponry and town fortification, and as a grand period of elaborate and monumental burial architecture. The mortuary evidence from this time undergoes dramatic changes, especially in the later period as the shift to secondary burial becomes the norm.

The project will ask three main questions:
1. What is secondary burial in Mycenaean mortuary traditions and how does this practice manifest in the archaeological record?
2. Are there any patterns of selection for certain types of burial? For example, is secondary burial reserved for only the young, the old, the males, the females, etc. or is it a practice socially available for anyone.
3. What is the process of secondary burial? In other words, how are the bones being manipulated within the tomb and what interval after death?
The project includes mortuary data from three case study sites within the region of Achaea and ranging from approximately the Middle Helladic III to the Late Helladic IIIC and even Submycenaean periods. This span allows for observations of how customs may have developed and changed throughout the Mycenaean period in the Achaea region in comparison to better known cemeteries such as Prosymna, and more central regions e.g. the Argolid.

These questions will be addressed with advanced osteological methods, social theory and archaeology. The Wiener Laboratory provides the ideal space in which Olivia will carry out her data collection. She regularly makes use of the comparative collections, library and wet lab for cleaning and conserving human remains.