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ItemCuration in the Bronze Age Aegean: Objects as Material MemoriesDavis, B ; Banou, E ; Hitchcock, L ; Chapin, A ; Borgna, E ; Caloi, I ; Carinci, F ; Laffineur, R (Peeters Publishers, 2019)The Minoans appear to have placed a special and even ritual premium on curated objects that stimulated memory, such as heirlooms and antiques. Some imported Old and Middle Kingdom Egyptian objects, for example, were curated by the Minoans for centuries before deposition, often in tombs. Minoan stone bull’s-head and relief rhyta – never found intact, and with pieces always missing – appear to have been intentionally smashed, with pieces given to witnesses as mementos of the occasion; some of these pieces were curated for generations before being deposited in ritual contexts. In the same way, antique Minoan objects were sometimes curated into the Mycenaean period, as exemplified by Neopalatial vessels found in LM III contexts, or by the fragments of Minoan stone bull’s-head rhyta found in LH III contexts on the mainland. This practice of curation, however, is not specific to the Aegean; it is in fact common to a large number of cultures, both ancient and modern. Two LH IIIA2/B alabastra found at Ugarit, for example, had been curated there for nearly a century before the city’s destruction. Fragments of animal-headed cups were curated in Philistia, only to be deposited later in ritual contexts. The tomb of Tutankhamun contained a number of curated objects, including a lock of hair from his grandmother Tiye, and travertine vessels from the reign of his great-great-great grandfather Tuthmosis III. Among the Samburu of Kenya, antique Venetian trade beads—prized for their exoticness and distance-value—have been passed down through generations of women at their weddings as symbols of fertility and abundance. The Haya of Tanzania curate the clothing of a deceased head of household; the clothing is subsequently worn by his successor as a means of transferring power to the new generation. After libations at a shrine, the Aymara of Bolivia curate and display the empty libation vessels next to the effigy of the deity, where they serve as reminders (both to the deity and to future visitors at the shrine) of the piety of those who poured the libations – a practice that may very well echo the curation of countless offering vessels at Minoan extramural sanctuaries. In this paper, we explore a wide array of such cross-cultural and ethnographic evidence for curation. Our aim is to illuminate the range of potential meanings that this practice had in the Bronze Age Aegean, and the spectrum of potential ways in which this practice was intended to stimulate Minoan and Mycenaean memory.
ItemLike Dolmen, Like Dromos: Contextualizing the Solar Orientations of Some Mycenaean TholoiDavis, BE ; Chapin, AP ; Banou, E ; HITCHCOCK, LA ; Fotiadis, M ; VLACHOPOULOS, A ; LOLOS, Y ; Laffineur, R (Peeters, 2017)It has been observed that the Treasury of Atreus at Mycenae, the most famous Mycenaean tholos tomb, is oriented to the point on the horizon where the sun rises on the equinoxes (Reijs 2009). This example of the orientation of a Mycenaean tholos towards a significant solar event is now supplemented by the authors’ discovery that at least five other well-known Mycenaean tholoi are aligned to significant markers in the solar calendar. Specifically: the Vapheio tholos (LH IIB) is oriented to the summer solstice sunrise (Chapin et al. 2014); the Tomb of the Genii at Mycenae (LH IIB-IIIA1) is aligned to the summer solstice sunset; Tholos 1 at Tiryns and the tholos tomb at Dendra (both LH IIIA) point to the winter solstice sunset; and the Kato Phournos tholos at Mycenae (LH IIA) is sited toward sunset on the equinoxes. These alignments cannot all be accidental. On the contrary, they suggest that elite Mycenaean patrons and their architects had access to detailed knowledge of the solar calendar and intentionally incorporated this information into the placement of certain funerary monuments within their surrounding landscapes.