Marginal Identities: Middle and Late Bronze Age Mortuary Practices and Collective Identities in the Southwest Peloponnese

  • Charikleia Ainta Zikidi

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis examines the mortuary practices recorded in eight cemeteries (Agios Ioannis Papoulia, Mound of Kalogeropoulos, Kaminia, Koukounara Gouvalari, Peristeria, Routsi, Voidokoilia and Volimidia) located at the southwest margin of the Peloponnese, in Messenia, from the Middle Helladic to the Late Helladic period (ca. 2050/2000 BCE to 1200/1190 BCE). This thesis aims to identify the funerary practices of the communities residing in this region, the changes these practices underwent during this time, and the manner which these communities chose to express their group identities through the mortuary sphere, before and during the emergence of the palatial Mycenaean identity. This contextually specific mortuary analysis of both skeletal material and archaeological evidence (e.g. location, tomb type, grave goods, practices) provides a holistic understanding of both the mortuary sphere (e.g. skeletal manipulation practices, grave goods deposition) and its social extensions (e.g. evidence of collective identities), and facilitates the identification of social agency behind the emergence of mortuary variation. The results of this study are presented in three sections. The first section includes the results of the macroscopic analysis undertaken on the skeletal remains retrieved from the cemeteries. The second section presents an analysis of the mortuary contexts on a cemetery-by-cemetery basis, reviewing location choice and ritual practices, as well as outlining the practices noted in primary depositions and secondary treatment, by incorporating the osteological information presented in the first section. Finally, the third section presents an inter-cemetery analysis, reviewing the variation noted in mortuary practices for each tomb group, divided into observations made from the study of the skeletal remains, and observations made from the study of the entire mortuary contexts. The mortuary practices and beliefs centring on death and the dead are presented for each of the communities under study, to identify differences and similarities between and amongst them, while the role of the social groups in the formation and evolution of these practices is highlighted and used to reconstruct the conditions that led to the emergence of both a Messenian identity, and a marginal identity, balanced between a Mycenaean aspiration and a Messenian social reality.
Date of Award1 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMichael Buckley (Supervisor) & Ina Berg (Supervisor)


  • Identity
  • Mycenaean
  • Collective identity
  • Late Helladic
  • Bronze Age
  • Messenia
  • Peloponnese
  • Mortuary practices
  • Middle Helladic

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