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The walking dead: Identity, variability, and cultural interactions of funerary behaviors between Crete and mainland Greece during the Early Iron Age (11th to 8th BC)


This paper aims to examine funerary contexts of sites in mainland Greece and compare them with sites on the island of Crete in Ancient Mediterranean during the Early Iron Age, in the period of circa the 11th until the 8th centuries BC. From an integrative approach to the analysis and interpretation of material culture from funerary contexts allow us to understand aspects of the space of the dead, aspects of mortuary practices and their role in the configuration of the historical context of the rise and formation of the polis, especially during the 8th century BC. The comparative analyses also provide a better understanding about contact and interactions in the Mediterranean.

This requires us to analyze and consider on the different nature of material culture from funerary contexts, such as types of treatment and deposition/disposal/placement of the body of the dead, the construction of funerary architecture, grave goods, and the agency of the space of the dead in the construction of the funerary topography (funerary landscape).

Cultural interactions are material expressions resulting from the exchange of ideas, know-how, technique and technology, beliefs, customs, and behaviors, both from objects and from the movement of people. They constitute a prospective field to address mortuary archaeological data as an active part of death and of the social process of dying. Funerary behaviors assign meanings, build memories and identities to biological death. They bring life to the transition of an active person in the “world of the living” into a passive “material thing” in the “world of the dead”. Thus, the dead, become the “walking dead” and “come to life”. Cultural interactions during the Early Iron Age constitute a fundamental element in the configuration of a new historical structure, the polis, which characterizes the Greek world as a unit – not homogeneous but consisting of heterogeneous and idiosyncratic aspects. Mortuary practices integrate this world of simultaneously standardized and peculiar actions and have crucial roles in the hellenic identity and in the identity particularities of its polis in Greek mainland and Crete.


mortuary practices, identity, cultural interactions, early Iron Age, rise of the polis