Wednesday, 15. April 2020, 17:30

Postponed! – Divergent Regional Trajectories around the Central Mediterranean

The Emergence of the Rock-cut Tombs in the Fourth and Third Millennium BC

Massimo Cultraro (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Catania)

In relation to the long distance interconnections between the Aegean and Central Mediterranean in the late Fourth millennium BC, the emergence of the rock-cut tombs has been characterized as a relevant factor of this wider cultural framework. The former Levantine perspective proposed by V. Gordon Childe has dominated the debate about the context of the Chalcolithic Period in Italy, focusing on the possible funerary models in the Early Helladic Mainland Greece. In this perspective the EH I–II cemetery at Manika, Euboea, has been the main model to explain these trans-Mediterranean relations.  

Based on the recent excavations and on new solid radiocarbon data, the development of the earliest rock-cut tombs in Southern Italy, as well as in Sicily, can related to the last two centuries of the Forth Millennium BC. Small subterranean tombs were entered from above or from a contiguous vertical shaft and sealed by a stone slab (tombe a pozzetto in the Italian terminology).

New discoveries have provided the opportunity for a fresh perspective to investigate the gradually diffusion of this funerary model in the neighbouring areas as Western Peloponnese (Elis and Achaia), Attica (Tsepi and Athens), as well as the Northern Aegean, where at Lemnos and Chios this architectural typology is attested during the Late Chalcolithic–Early Helladic I.

A further investigation is addressed to Western Balkans, where rock-cut tombs are well-documented in the Vučedol contexts and in similar sites in Montenegro and Bosnia.

The gradual emergence of a specific architectural model in a wider area of Central Mediterranean is not only related to the funerary rituals, it implies a model of transformation of basic economy and of cultural framework of the local communities.