Funerary evidence

The occurrence of Mycenaean vessel types in the tombs at Ugarit and Hazor reflects the widespread use of this class of material among the urban population. However, for some groups in both cities Mycenaean pottery was suitable to be included in funerary strategies of display. Aegean pottery has been found in funerary contexts at a large number of Levantine sites. In the majority of cases only a limited number of Mycenaean vessels are found in the tombs, often accompanied by Cypriot and local ceramics. Such deposits have been discovered, for example, at Beirut (site no. 158),127 Akko (site no. 173),128 Tell Abu Hawam (site no. 175),129 Tell el-Far'ah (north) (site no. 185),130 Umm ad-Dananir (site no. 193),131 Aphek (site no. 215),132 Lachisch (site no. 230),133 and Tell el-Far'ah (south) (site no. 240).134 The wide distribution of tombs with a limited number of Mycenaean finds appears to be a reflection of the widespread occurrence of this material in the Levant in general. However, as at Ugarit, there are a number of cases which testify to Mycenaean pottery possessing a special significance in funerary ceremonies.

At Byblos (site no. 156), a necropolis has been discovered consisting of eleven chamber tombs hewn out in the rock. A total of sixty-five Mycenaean finds were made in this cemetery, dating from LH IIIA2 to LH IIIC. Among the Mycenaean finds were dinner and storage vessels; in particular, a large number of stirrup jars have been found.135 Seven of the twelve chambers produced relatively small amounts of Mycenaean pottery, varying from one to seven items. In room K11, however, forty-one Mycenaean finds were made, including a figurine. Even though the tombs were all heavily disturbed because of later use, the concentration of Mycenaean finds in room K11 may present a reflection of a situation similar to the funerary pattern at Ugarit and Hazor.

At Sarepta (site no. 162), only one tomb has been discovered: a circular cave hewn out in the natural rock.136 This cave produced a total of sixty-seven Mycenaean vases, some of them of Levantine

See Van Wijngaarden (1999c) on the relation between


McGovern 1986, 194-198.

desirability, availability and value.


Kochavi 1981, 80.

Saidah 1993-1994.


Tufnell 1958, 212.

Ben-Arieh & Edelstein 1977, 1-8.


Starkey & Harding 1932, 27 Plate 49.

Anati 1959, 98.


Salles 1980, 30-37.

De Vaux 1951.


Baramki 1958.

manufacture. Among the Mycenaean finds in this tomb, stirrup jars constituted the majority. In addition, a number of lentoid flasks were found along with a cup and some bowls; a Mycenaean female figurine was also included in the funerary inventory. Apart from the ceramic material, the tomb produced a scarab and two faience amulets, probably imported from Egypt. The inventory of the funerary cave at Sarepta is comparable to that of the exceptional tombs at Minet el-Beida. This similarity does not only concern the presence of large quantities of Mycenaean pottery, but also the presence of Mycenaean figurines and imports from other Mediterranean areas.

The same may be said of the so-called 'Mycenaean tomb' at Tell Dan (site no. 170). This tomb had been dug under the floor of a Late Bronze Age residential structure; the corbelled vault recalls the funerary cellars of Ugarit.137 Inside the tomb were the remains of some forty skeletons, apparently both male and female. A total of 108 ceramic vessels were discovered in the tomb, of which some thirty were imported from Mycenaean Greece; four vases came from Cyprus.138 Among the Mycenaean pottery were stirrup and piriform jars, alabastra, flasks, bowls and an amphoroid krater with pictorial decoration. All have been assigned to late LH IIIA2, or to LH IIIB1.139 Apart from the Mycenaean and Cypriot imports, the tomb yielded a large variety of objects, such as alabaster vases, cosmetic boxes made of hippopotamus tusk, faience and glass vessels, a stone cylinder seal possibly imported from Cyprus and a scarab. In addition, numerous Levantine ceramic vessels were found, as well as bronze metal vessels and arms, spindle whorls and gold and silver jewellery. Olive pits and the skeleton of a sheep may be testimony of funerary rites. The 'Mycenaean' tomb is the only funerary evidence from Late Bronze Age Tell Dan, because of which it is impossible to indicate whether it constitutes an atypical example.

The cemetery on the south-eastern slopes of the mound at Megiddo (site no. 181) was excavated in 1925-1930.140 Only eleven tombs containg Mycenaean pottery have been published.141 Most of these graves had only a few Mycenaean pots, varying from one to three specimens. Tomb 912, however, contained seven Mycenaean vases: one straight-sided alabastron, five small stirrup jars and one large, transport stirrup jar, all dating to the LH IIIA2 or LH IIIB periods. The difference between tomb 912 and the other tombs at Megiddo in terms of the quantity of Mycenaean pottery is much smaller than that attested for the tombs at Ugarit, but it is a possibility that tomb 912 constitutes another example of a tomb with a disproportionate amount of Mycenaean vessels.

A total of fifteen Late Bronze Age graves were discovered on the lower tell at Tell es-Saidiyeh (site no. 191).142 Most of these graves consisted of simple trenches cut into the earth, but four tombs (nos. 101, 102, 108, 117) were more elaborate: lined with mud-bricks and then roofed to form a true tomb. In two of these tombs (102, 117), the body had been placed on a stone bed. Of all the graves, only three have produced Mycenaean pottery. A single Mycenaean stirrup jar was found in the simple graves 107 and 109S. Tomb 117, one of the more elaborate graves, however, yielded four Mycenaean vases, among which were two stirrup jars, a straight-sided alabastron and a jug, all in LH IIIB style. In general, the inventories of the graves at Tell es-Saidiyeh reflected the ceramic repertoire of settlement levels, with a notable absence of cooking wares. The richest tomb (no. 101), however, possessed a number of objects in silver, electrum, carnelian, bronze and ivory. This tomb was situated in the cen-

137 Biran 1994a, 111-116.

138 Neutron Activation Analysis on a number of

Mycenaean vessels from the tomb, including the fa mous so-called 'charioteer vase', showed that they had been produced in the Argolid; see Gunneweg et al.


139 Biran 1970, 92-94.

140 Guy & Engberg 1938.

141 Leonard & Cline 1998, 9-13.

142 Pritchard 1980, 28-30.

tre of the necropolis. Close to tomb 101 were graves 102 and 117. This last grave was special because it was particularly rich in imported wares: apart from the four Mycenaean vessels, a Cypriot Base Ring jug, as well as an alabaster goblet and a faience bowl were found, probably imported from Egypt. Even though the quantities involved are far lower than at Ugarit, or even Hazor, tomb 117 is another case of unequal display of Mycenaean pottery in a funerary context. As is the case elsewhere, a number of imports from other regions were are associated with the Mycenaean pottery from tomb 117. It may be of importance that tomb 117, although special, was not the wealthiest grave.

Early in the 20th century, large quantities of Mycenaean pottery were reported from extra-mural deposits termed the East Grotto143 and Tomb I at 'Ain Shems (site no. 227).144 Even though very little is known of these deposits, they may constitute other examples of burials with large quantities of Mycenaean pottery.

This overview of Mycenaean pottery in funerary contexts in the Levant shows that the pattern established for Ugarit and Hazor is reflected on a regional scale: many tombs have produced only a few Mycenaean finds, while there are a number of cases in which large quantities of Mycenaean pottery were found in graves, usually associated with imports from other regions. Among the sites which have yielded only tombs with small amounts of Mycenaean pottery are Tell Abu Hawam and Lachisch; both sites produced large amounts of Mycenaean pottery in settlement levels. The unequal occurrence of Mycenaean pottery in tombs therefore appears not to be related to the availability of this material in different cities. Rather, we can assume that among large groups of people, at many places, small quantities of Mycenaean pottery were considered suitable to be included in funerary invento-ries.145 At various sites, widely distributed in the Levant, a minority among the inhabitants included larger numbers of Mycenaean vessels in tombs, often in association with other imports

The five tombs at Ugarit which have produced large amounts of Mycenaean pottery were situated in the harbour town of Minet el-Beida and in the habitation quarter of the Ville Sud. Tomb 81448145 at Hazor, likewise, was situated in a habitation quarter, albeit possibly associated with building 8139, which possessed an atypical inventory. This shows that at both sites the people who included large quantities of Mycenaean pottery in their funerary ritual did not belong to the uppermost élites, but to more average urban social groups. Similar evidence comes from Tell es-Saidiyeh, where it was not the wealthiest tomb which included a larger quantity of Mycenaean pottery, but one associated with it. Apparently, Mycenaean pottery served in strategies of funerary display only for specific urban social groups.

The social significance of Mycenaean pottery, then, appears to have varied according to social group in the Levantine urban societies. The exceptional tombs at Ugarit and Hazor, as well as those at Sarepta, Tell Dan and Tell es-Saidiyeh included a relatively large number of imports from other areas together with the Mycenaean pottery. It may be that for some groups in the urban societies of the Levant the imported character of these vessels was of importance. Whereas for most urban inhabitants the social significance of these vessels appears to have derived from the extent to which they were integrated in the local material culture, specific groups enhanced the imported nature of Mycenaean pottery by including them in large quantities in funerary inventories and by associating them with other imports.

143 MacKenzie 1911, 61-72; Bunimowitz & Lederman 1993, 251.

144 Grant 1929, 163-204.

145 It is likely that the suitability of small numbers of

Mycenaean containers is related to the uses of oils in funerary practices, see Kinet 1981, 146-147; Salles 1995, 176.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment