Ritual and social structure in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age Southern Levant : the cemetery at Tell es-Sa'idiyeh, Jordan
This thesis examines ritual and social structure in the Southern Levantine Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages, through a detailed study of the cemetery at Tell es-Sa'idiyeh (Jordan). The cemetery phases examined date broadly from the late thirteenth to tenth centuries BCE, and consist of approximately 300 burials. Two socio-historical settings are of relevance here. The first (13th-12th Centuries BCE) relates to a final phase of Egyptian economic and military domination in the region. The second (11th-10th/9th Centuries BCE) relates to a widespread re-emergence of local semi-independent polities in the Central Valleys after the collapse of the Late Bronze Age city-states and the Egyptian withdrawal. It is argued that responses to widespread socio-political cultural and economic changes in the Late Bronze-Early Iron Age transition had a significant impact on social structure and kinship relations - affecting the ways in which the dead were perceived and treated by the living. Through a combined quantitative and contextual study of the burial data, aspects of variability in the expression of social rank, age and gender, and cultural identity in the Sa'idiyeh cemetery are examined, and in turn compared and contrasted with 'living' societal models. Elements of continuity and change are explored, including attitudes to the body, variability in the deposition of grave-objects, and aspects of commemoration, re-use and cemetery organization. The relationship between ritual and social structure is examined through a 'rites of passage' framework that breaks down the burial context both temporally and spatially. It is argued that aspects of status and identity (as expressed by the living survivors) were partly formulated and transformed through the deposition of special objects and the elaboration of ritual space. These actions helped to create and reproduce social distinctions through ritual performance and memory. The results of this analysis provide new insights into the societies of the Jordan Valley in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages. In the 13th-12th Centuries, 'death-styles' at Sa'idiyeh are seen as reflecting social inequalities and unstable relationships between dominant foreign powers and local elites, with evidence for ritual innovation, elite emulation, and individualized status expression in death. In the 11th-10th Centuries, changing socio-economic and political conditions contributed to the formation of a more 'egalitarian' social structure, with emerging gender inequalities and expressions of associative status that emphasized kinship relations within commemorative death rituals.