Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: The role of Kin Relations and Residential Mobility in Attica

Project: Research project

Description

PROPOSAL SUMMARY Overview: During the Early Bronze Age (EBA), the southern Aegean experienced major social, political, and economic changes resulting in the formation of pre-state complex societies. The emergence of formally structured cemeteries and communal tombs on the Greek mainland have been interpreted as an indication of local, competing corporate groups, kin group identity, and lineal transmission of property. However, the kin-based structure of EBA cemeteries has never been empirically demonstrated. Furthermore, despite the emphasis placed on the role of the intensified maritime trade networks between the mainland and the Cycladic islands for the development of hierarchical social relations and identity formation, the role of mate exchange and post-marital residence has never been directly examined. This doctoral research addresses the role of biological kinship and post-marital residence practices in the formation of Early Bronze Age (third millennium B.C.) Attica, located in the southern Aegean (Greece). The proposed research examines descent systems, ancestor formation, and the interplay between biological and social groupings as expressed through mortuary practices, grave use, and cemetery structure. It also evaluates the nature and degree of residential mobility between the Greek mainland and the Cycladic islands and its potential role in the formation and maintenance of social maritime networks. This study examines the biological aspect of cemetery structure and grave use in the EBA southern Aegean by focusing on the cemetery of Tsepi on the eastern coast of Attica. Tsepi dates to the EBA I/II period (3100/3000-2500 B.C.) and constitutes the earliest example of formal intra-cemetery spatial organization on the Greek mainland. This research integrates osteological, biogeochemical, temporal (radiocarbon), and archaeological data. Information on skeletal age and sex, and inherited dental dimensions, as well as heritable dental and cranial morphological features will be used to examine biological affinities within each grave and within each grave row, as well as post-marital residence patterns (e.g., exogamy vs. endogamy, matrilocality vs. patrilocality). Biogeochemical analysis on archaeological human and faunal dental enamel supplemented by modern faunal, floral, and soil samples will be conducted to reconstruct the geographic origins of the individuals buried in the cemetery and to investigate residential mobility and migration (sex-specific or not) at Tsepi. Intellectual merit: By using a contextualized, bioarchaeological approach, this study will address the structure of local social systems and the social processes in the Aegean EBA and thus will elucidate the historical trajectory of the Greek mainland leading to the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 2100-1700 B.C.) and, ultimately, to the formation of Late Bronze Age state-level societies (ca. 1650-1100 B.C.). Furthermore, this endeavor will enhance current anthropological understanding of kinship, descent, marriage practices, and mortuary treatment as dynamic organizational strategies for the negotiation of personal and communal identity, group membership, and access to sociopolitical power in pre-state societies. This research will also advance the application of isotopic analysis for the identification of residential mobility in the Aegean by generating a large database of isotopic signatures for the region under study. Broader impacts: The proposed research will provide the candidate with additional professional training and will train four undergraduate students in biogeochemical analysis at ASU. It will also serve long-term preservation goals in Greece through the curation of the human skeletal remains from Tsepi cemetery that have remained unstudied since their excavation in the 1970s. The results of this study will be fully published and will be presented at national and international professional conferences. Public dissemination of the results will include presentations in schools of the region, to educate local children and schoolteachers about their cultural heritage. Finally, the proposed project will strengthen ties between US and Greek academic institutions.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date5/1/144/30/16

Funding

  • NSF-ENG: Division of Biological & Critical Systems (BCS): $28,798.00

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cemetery
earning a doctorate
grant
kinship
Greece
society
identity formation
social process
social system
political change
cultural heritage
economic change
group membership
grouping
Social Relations
social change
indication
candidacy
Group
marriage