The cult of the dead in central Greece during the Mycenaean period
The aim of this thesis is to examine the evidence for the performance of a cult of the dead in LH III Greece with emphasis placed mainly on the material evidence from the typical Mycenaean tombs in the central areas of the Mycenaean dominion, viz. the Argolid, Korinthia, Attica, Boeotia and Euboea during the acme of Mycenaean civilization, that is the LH IIIA-B period. Chapter I presents the rationale and the aim of the thesis as well as the regional and chronological boundaries. Chapter II covers the theoretical background of the thesis by investigating general questions on ritual recognition in the archaeological record and on definitions of ancestor worship. A detailed presentation of the previous arguments on the Mycenaean cult of the dead is given and the 'artificial landscapes' of LH IIIB Mycenae are discussed with focus on Grave Circle A. New approaches and perspectives are proposed, namely a new definition of the term `cult of the dead' and a series of indicators of cultic activity to be applied in the study of the Mycenaean ancestor worship. Chapter III deals with funerary art and the artistic expression of Mycenaean eschatological beliefs. The Mycenaean belief in the survival of the soul and the journey of the dead to the Underworld, and the multiple function of terracotta figurines in LH III funerary agenda are assessed with this framework. The possibility of new perspectives and approaches via detailed contextual exploration of Mycenaean symbolic systems is discussed in the final part of this chapter. Chapter IV combines three broad issues, namely the location of cemeteries, tomb design and eschatological symbolism. Special reference is made to the connection between cemeteries and the religious significance of water and the rites of passage. The metaphysical symbolism of the tripartite plan of the typical Mycenaean tombs is also examined. Chapter V investigates the ritual act of attributing sacred honours and offerings to the ancestors by drawing parallels from contemporary religious observances. The first part deals with the significance of libation and sacrifice in honour of the dead. The second part explores the religious significance of secondary burial treatment and suggests that the custom signaled the starting point in Mycenaean ancestor worship. The existence of places especially designed for the performance of a cult of the dead is investigated with emphasis placed on the `Cenotaph' at Dendra. The objective of Chapter VI, which presents the conclusions of the thesis, is to place the evidence for the performance of a Mycenaean cult of the dead into a `historical' narrative and to investigate the reasons behind the establishment and practice of this cult.