(Social) Place and Space in Early Mycenaean Greece

Conference organised by the Institute for Oriental and European Archaeology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in cooperation with the Austrian Archaeological Institute
October 5th – 8th 2016 in Athens

Kakovatos, reconstruction (© B. Eder)

“(Social) space is a (social) product.” (Lefebvre 1991, 26) Every society produces its own social space through social practice, which affects relations between subjects and objects. Human agency creates space as it takes place in space: “(…) practices reproduce not only the spaces themselves but also the social structures and political regimes that these spaces support.” (Smith 2003, 72)
The nascent period of Mycenaean Greece in the 16th and 15th centuries BCE is characterised by a series of transformation processes that reshaped Middle Bronze Age traditions and created a new cultural and political landscape on the Greek Mainland. External contacts to Crete, the Northern Aegean, the Central and Eastern Mediterranean provided foreign materials, technological knowledge and metaphysical inspiration, which were employed to produce the material culture and the built environment of LH I–II. In recent years excavations and new studies of old materials have generated new information and allow developing new perspectives on the social practices that produced and formed the spaces and places of Early Mycenaean Greece.
Current archaeological research at Kakovatos in Triphylia in the western Peloponnese aims at the comprehensive and integral study of the development of the Bronze Age habitation site in its regional context, where evidence covers the formative period of the Mycenaean culture between MH III/LH I and LH IIB. The simultaneous reassessment of the old finds from the tholos tombs offers the opportunity to study contemporary data from an Early Mycenaean settlement and corresponding burials in relation to each other. In addition, the study of materials from neighbouring sites allows placing the rise and fall of the Bronze Age site of Kakovatos into the regional context of northern Triphylia. Taken together, the available material from three key sites (Kakovatos, Kleidi-Samikon, Epitalion-Ayioryitika) in the region provides a basis for studying the regional and superregional relations of these places in a diachronic perspective.

In order to discuss the Early Mycenaean landscape of Triphylia within the framework of contemporary developments in the Peloponnese our conference brings together an international group of scholars presenting new data from recent excavations as well as new perspectives on older materials pertaining to the MH III/LH I–II periods. A comparative look on regional trends and superregional phenomena may help gaining a geographically more balanced and at the same time more nuanced picture of the formative period of Mycenaean culture. While the Argolid and the eponymous site of Mycenae have always played a key role in shaping the view of Mycenaean Greece, the presentation of new data and the re-evaluation of the well-known evidence from other regions of the Peloponnese may open new approaches to the interpretation of habitation sites, burial places, burial practices and assemblages of burial gifts as well as the production and circulation of pottery for understanding social strategies of power and the establishment of super-regional networks in the Early Mycenaean Aegean. In our conference, we aim to explore the social practices that produced and shaped the places and the cultural environment of Early Mycenaean Greece. We will focus on new finds, sites and the evaluation of older evidence from the Peloponnese. Based on the vestiges of the material culture we would like to trace the strategies of the Early Mycenaean societies in creating their new social space. We would like to discuss issues such as

  • the development of the regional settlement patterns and the built environment,
  • the role of material culture (images, pottery, imported materials and finished items, etc.) in creating hierarchies as well as shared codes and common values,
  • the importance of regional networks and super-regional contacts on the basis of the current evaluation of the archaeological evidence within an interdisciplinary and theoretical framework.

After the official opening we will start with an introduction to key issues of the period with the key note lecture by Prof. James Wright (American School of Classical Studies at Athens) and continue with sessions on the regions of Triphylia and the Ionian islands, Messenia, Lakonia and Kythera, Arkadia and Achaea, the Argolid, and Aegina, and conclude with papers on general topics.

General Information

The conference at the Austrian Archaeological Institute at Athens will start with the registration and the keynote lecture on Wednesday evening, October 5th, 2016, and continue until Saturday, October 8th, early afternoon.

Due to the international character of our symposium, we have asked all participants to present their paper in English.

The proceedings will be published in the international peer-reviewed series of the Institute of Oriental and European Archaeology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.