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Sofia Voutsaki

In 1876 Heinrich Schliemann brought to light the magnificent treasures of the Shaft Graves of Mycenae. The ostentatious deposition of valuables with the dead is a leading characteristic of the Mycenaean period (i.e. the Late Bronze Age) in the southern mainland. It even defines the Mycenaean period chronologically: the deposition of unprecedented wealth in the Shaft Graves of Mycenae around 1600 BC marks the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age. The origins of this wealth and of the people buried in these graves have been hotly debated for over a century now. However, the causes and consequences of the 'Shaft Grave phenomenon', i.e. of the metamorphosis of the simpler and poorer MBA mortuary practices into the complex and ostentatious forms found in the LBA, in particular the lavish deposition of wealth with the dead, have not really been discussed. The 'Shaft Grave phenomenon' raises a n important issue, relevant to current theoretical debates in archaeology: the role of social practices in social change. This paper will therefore address (a) a theoretical question: what is the role of social practices, in particular conspicuous consumption in the mortuary sphere, in the formation of power relations? and (b) a historical problem: how and why were the largely egalitarian kin-based Middle Helladic societies of the southern Greek mainland transformed into the hierarchical Mycenaean palatial system?

The aim of this paper is to discuss non-material notions such as value, power and prestige by looking exclusively at the material evidence. It is normally assumed that these issues are beyond the reach of archaeological interpretation because of the nature of the archaeologcal remains and the biases and deficiencies of the material record. However, the lack of written sources, the uneven preservation of the
Sofia Voutsaki, Faculty of Classics, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA. Great Britain

Journal of European Archaeology (1997) 5.2:34-52

archaeological material and the vagaries of research are not the only sources of difficulty; it is often our misconceptions concerning the nature of the archaeological evidence that prevent us from realising its potential. Archaeological evidence consists frequently of the results of purposeful, formalised, or indeed ritualised consumption, i.e. the deposition of objects as grave offerings or votives in hoards, lake deposits, shrines, etc. It is therefore surprising how little explicit discussion there has been of the importance of sumptuary behaviour. More often than not the results of purposeful consumption are used to read off levels of production or networks of exchange. Despite differing significantly in other respects, both systemic (e.g. Randsborg 1975; Kristiansen 1978) and Marxist studies (Friedman and Rowlands 1977; Frankenstein and Rowlands 1978; Rowlands 1980) assumed deposited, consumed wealth to be a direct reflection of produced or circulating wealth. In both approaches, consumption was considered to be not a practice requiring explanation, but a fossilised record (a term borrowed from Patrik 1985) from which exchange, production, level of social complexity etc. might be read out. Neither addressed sumptuary behaviour; neither considered conspicuous consumption as a practice in its own right. If we reject using the archaeological evidence as a fossilised record, we shall require a framework which will allow us to move from the material evidence to the social strategies within which it was used. We need a theory which allows for the importance of material culture in social action. The aim of the theoretical discussion that follows is to set up just such a framework, one which will enable us to draw inferences about the evaluation of people from the classification of goods, and about social structure and the nature of power relations from material culture. Before going any further, however, I should explain clearly how I define power. I see power not as a function of the economy, not as an exclusive resource controlled by a few and accepted by all, but rather as a subtle force pervading the whole of social life, constantly enacted through social practices and moral norms (Foucault 1977; 1980). I shall begin my pursuit of the sources of power in prehistoric societies with a discussion of value. This issue is seldom reflected upon in archaeology, if we except Renfrew (1986) (but see now also Bailey, in preparation). The objects that attract so much attention from archaeological researchers and from museum visitors are usually simply labelled 'valuables', without much concern being evinced over the mechanisms through which they were assigned value. The questions I want to address are these: How do objects acquire value? How does the value of objects confer prestige upon people? And ultimately: How do we move from the material record to social structure and the nature of power relations?
1.1. Marx's the0y of value I shall begin at the obvious starting point: Marx's seminal definition of (exchange) value as embodied labour. According to Marx, the only property common to all

objects is that they are all products of labour. Thus, value is defined as embodied labour; it follows that value is created through labour at the moment of production. This may perhaps be true of 19th-century industrialised Europe, but in primitive societies labour cannot be a measure of value, because labour is not a commodity: it can neither be sold nor bought, and has no monetary equivalent, i.e. wages (see Baudrillard 1975; Voutsaki 1995b). It is doubtful whether in pre-monetary, premarket societies there is any one all-pervasive measure of value; even the existence of any clear-cut concept of exchange (i.e. economic) value is uncertain. It is worth noting that there is definitely no mention of prices in the 13th century BC palatial records in Mycenaean Greece (Chadwick 1987:284). Another important point is that the concept of value cannot be exhausted by the modern definition of value as economic exchange ratio (price, cost). The difference between cost and value is simply that the latter includes some notion of cultural relevance and symbolic significance, which take us outside the strictly economic sphere into the social construction of demand. My question, then, is this: why and how, through which strategies, do things acquire social value, why and how are they

valued? A further problem with the Mamian definition of value is its exclusive concern with production (Berthoud and Sabelli 1976). The question is, is value fixed at the moment of production? Let us examine the two other stages of the productive cycle: exchange and consumption.
1.2. Value and prestige in gift exchange Gift exchange rather than commerce is to be emphasised here because gift exchange is a forceful strategy for the creation of power and pr:stige (Mauss 1966).The important difference between the two is that gift exchange operates on the principle of reciprocity, within a cyclical structure of continuous transactions (Gregory 1983). The central element of gift exchange systems such as the Trobriand kula (Malinowski 1922; Leach and Leach 1983) is the circulation of goods within distinctive and ranked spheres of exchange (Bohannan 1955), with strict prescriptions governing the transfer of goods from one sphere to another. The existence of separate circuits of exchange restricts the flow, and thus controls the proliferation, of prestige goods. This enclaving of goods creates a barrier of discrimination and exclusion, since only a few people (almost always the local leaders) will ever handle and exchange topsphere goods. Gift exchange is an exclusive practice, yet it permits some mobility, since successful transactions, and hence prestige, rest ultimately on personal competence and strategic skills (Munn 1983:287). The first question is, how is value assigned in gift exchange? Within any one exchange sphere, like is exchanged for like according to the principle of delayed reciprocity (Sahlins 1974:185ff.). Goods in a gift exchange system therefore have an exchange order, and not an exchange value. The transactions rest not on equivalence, nor on precise material rates (ibid.:278), but rather on substitution based on broad standards (Firth 1983:98). Returning to the example of kula, we see that the



shell ornaments are evaluated according to a complex scale which takes into account not only intrinsic properties (size, colour, shape) and labour, but also (if not primarily) the history of each object, its 'past' and 'personality' as traced through its movement in the kula network; kula goods have names and legends attached to them (Campbell 1983). We see, therefore, that while certain natural qualities give an object a static 'prime value' (to use an expression coined by Renfrew 1986), value is accumulated through and ultimately defined by that object's circulation. Value is created by and in the process of exchange, and not only at the moment of production. This value cannot, however, be appropriated. What the 'owner' of something valuable possesses is not really the object, but a debt to reciprocate (Gregory 1983). Value is created in exchange through a mingling, a fusion between the transactor and the gift. Ultimately, what is important in an exchange of gifts is not the value of the object, but the status of the transactors and the fame accruing to them by means of the transaction as a condensation of past performances and future expectations. Gift exchange is perceived primarily as a social relation between people, rather than as an equivalence between objects. Gift exchange therefore obeys a logic not of equivalence, but of ambivalence: a logic located in the play between relation and distance, between aristocratic parity and competition, between mobility and socially prescribed roles. The final question is, how is the value of objects connected to the prestige of people? In gift exchange, these two are more than simply related: they are mutually defined. Munn's words grasp the essence of the mutual valorisation of people and objects and the simultaneous creation of value and prestige: 'Men appear as the agents defining shell value, but without shells men cannot define their value. In this respect, shells and men are reciprocally agents of each other's value definition' (Munn 1983:284). The example of kula has been referred to in order to extract certain general principles which in general govern gift exchange. To summarise the discussion so far: value is not fixed at the moment of production, but is created in and through the process of exchange; value is the fusion between the transactor and the gift; in gift exchange the value of goods and the prestige of people are created simultaneously. The problem of value and prestige is not, however, exhausted. We have yet to consider the final stage: consumption. 1.3. Value and prestige in conspicuous consumption Consumption as a mechanism of power is most obvious in the conspicuous, prodigal destruction of goods (the potlatch ceremony of the Northwest Coast American Indians is the most celebrated example - Mauss 1966:31ff.; Boas 1966). In primitive societies material wealth may be a prerequisite for power, but it is never its sole basis. By means of its ostentatious destruction, economic value is transformed into social value, wealth into prestige. Conspicuous consumption levels out economic

differences, but brings about social difference. The deliberate destruction of goods is often a principal mechanism of power both in lineage-based societies and in unstable Big Man societies (Sahlins 1974:137).Prestige in these cases is built by means of collective feasts, which operate as a redistributive mechanism at the local level, but also act as a provocation to competitors - aspiring Big Men or neighbouring lineage-based groups. Until now, I have deliberately drawn too close an analogy between gift exchange and conspicuous consumption: both are formalised social practices, central to the life of many societies, and both are forceful strategies for the creation of power. There is, however, an important difference between them which is germane to the creation of value and prestige, the central problem here. It has been pointed out that, in gift exchange, value accrues to objects through their constant circulation. This value is, however, (a) transitory, because inalienable, and (b) ambivalent, because inseparable from the transaction and from the status of the transactors. What distinguishes consumption from exchange is that consumption establishes a totally different relation between the subject and the object. The transitory and ambivalent value of the gift is appropriated and fixed when the object is removed from circulation, withheld and manipulated by the individual (Baudrillard 1981:65-66). The reciprocal relation is abolished. Through consumption, value becomes fixed and codifiable in a system of material values, i.e. a system of difference. To contradict the classic Durkheimian definition (Durkheim and Mauss 1963), classificatory systems do not express an already constituted social order. Instead, the classification of goods and the evaluation of people are simultaneously pervaded by the same generative principles, in this case an ideology of difference and discrimination. Consumption is therefore the primitive mode of accumulation (albeit in symbolic form), and an important mechanism for social differentiation, precisely because it temporarily levels out economic asymmetries. There is nonetheless an important difference between the sort of total destruction that takes place in the potlatch ceremony and the deposition of goods, particularly in graves: both may be public acts designed to convert economic value into social distinction, but by depositing valuables with their ancestors the survivors can retain a symbolic 'ownership' of the goods even while seemingly giving them away, sacrificing them, denying their materiality. Thus, paradoxically, the deposition of goods can constitute the basis for the 'ownership differential' (Gledhill 1988:15), an element totally opposed to the reciprocal obligations of the gift exchange system. There is a further aspect of conspicuous consumption which we must note: the prodigal destruction of goods at one location freezes and disrupts the circulation of goods, since it denies others access to those goods. Conspicuous consumption thus brings about the centralisation of resources, and eventually the centralisation of exchange networks. It should be pointed out that this point always remained open in explanations of the emergence of social complexity: in systemic models such as Renfrew's redistributive model or Halstead's 'social storage' hypothesis (Renfrew 1972; Halstead 1981; 1988) the question of how resources are centralised

in the first place could only be answered by proclaiming the efficiency of a centralised system. In a Marxist model (Rowlands 1980), power was derived from the manipulation and drawing together of a complex marriage, alliance and exchange network, but once more it was never explained how the centralisation of the exchange network was actually achieved. This discussion brings us to the next question: the relation between gift exchange and conspicuous consumption in archaeological research. Gift exchange can only be detected if some of the goods find their way into the archaeological record by being deposited in graves, votive deposits, hoards, etc. However, we must be careful. The discussion above suggests that conspicuous consumption may be an integral part of a gift exchange network, but may also bring about a rupture in its normal operation. But how can we tell whether conspicuous consumption is a path or a diversion (terms borrowed from Appadurai 1986:16ff.)?I propose the following hypothesis: Conspicuous consumption can be interpreted as rupturing the principle of reciprocity (a) when the practice is temporally and spatially discontinuous, i.e. it appears suddenly in a few, localised sites, and (b)when there is a great discrepancy between 'rich' and 'poor' sites in terms of the range, quality and quantity of goods deposited. Where these features are present, I suggest that the practice of conspicuous consumption marks a significant departure from earlier practices. It signals the emergence of social differentiation and incipient political centralisation on the basis of a criterion outside the traditional kin order: the acquisition and prodigal destruction of valuable goods. Thus conspicuous consumption can become one of the main mechanisms of social change. If conspicuous consumption initiates appropriation and asymmetry, gift exchange operating from a centre can become the main strategy for ensuring a constant flow of goods and for sustaining accumulation. The centralisation of a gift exchange network does more than just exert control over the distribution of prestige items: it creates relations of indebtedness and patronage between the central dite and the local community leaders, who have to reciprocate with regular contributions. Gift exchange in this context founds dependence rather than parity; it sets up a hierarchical scheme within which status is fixed according to the insignia acquired from the centre. Once the position of local leaders is defined by their relation to the centre, local communities are split, social division is reproduced at all nodes of the hierarchical system, and everyone is engaged - actively, potentially, or negatively, by being excluded - in the process of hierarchisation. The reproduction of division within local communities has important ramifications affecting the intensity of production. In societies in which the productive technology is simple and available to all, the intensification of production can only take a dialectical course (Sahlins 1974:82) through the intensification of consumption and demand at all levels of the social system. An increasing demand for prestige objects is crucial to the intensification of agricultural production and the take-off of trade and craft production. Social change may thus come about through manipulation of demand rather than through control of production.

The emergence of social asymmetry is not, however, an inevitable and unidirectional process. The process of social change is marked by the attempts of local communities and local leaders to maintain their autonomy against the emergent central order (Patterson and Gailey 1987:8; Gailey 1987:52). The intensification of central control should therefore not be considered as an 'obvious' development, but be understood in connection with the opposing force: resistance from the traditional order. Ostentatious and expensive gestures, continuous elaboration and shifts in exclusionary tactics do not merely display the 6lite's newly acquired prestige and wealth; they also indicate that validation of the new mode of prestige is both crucial and fragile. To summarise my argument so far, the value of an object is created not only through labour at the moment of production, but also during its circulation in gft exchange networks and through its consumption (destruction, deposition) in ostentatious ceremonies. While I consider both gift exchange and conspicuous consumption to be central strategies for the creation of value and prestige, I also see a crucial difference between them: conspicuous consumption brings about the abolition of the reciprocal relationship on which gift exchange is based. The initiation (and indeed institutionalisation) of conspicuous consumption is therefore an important strategy for creating, rather than simply expressing or legitimating, asymmetrical relationships. The subtle transformation of gift exchange from a practice sealing aristocratic parity into one building relations of obligation and dependence draws out and holds together the political territory by means of the flow in opposite directions of insignia and protection.

The following discussion, based on my doctoral dissertation (Voutsaki 1993), will concentrate on the 'Shaft Grave phenomenon', and therefore on the Argolid during the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age. The discussion is, however, relevant to the entire southern Aegean and the Mycenaean period as a whole, since the elaboration of the mortuary sphere is a central characteristic of the Mycenaean culture, which during the LBA expanded across the southern Aegean. In order to investigate the 'Shaft Grave phenomenon', our discussion has to start in the previous period: the Middle Helladic (c. 2000-1600 BC).
2.1. The Middle Helladic background In the MH period there are no overt signs of social stratification. The mortuary practices (Nordquist 1979; Nordquist 1987:91-106) are characterised by simplicity and poverty, despite the diversity of forms. The absence of clear levels of wealth or grave elaboration and the lack of marked age or gender divisions indicate a diffuse

and subtle categorisation (Mee and Cavanagh 1984:61) rather than strict differentiation. The mortuary patterning indicates that social relations are still embedded in the nexus of kin relations and descent. The settlement evidence confirms this observation: there are hardly any differences in size, construction, or contents between the houses. Nor is there very much evidence for economic mechanisms that would underlie and support differentiation: there are no centralised storage facilities, there is not much evidence for craft specialisation in prestige items, and the use of metal seems to be restricted. There is in general a material austerity, a lack of specialisation in material culture, a lack of emphasis on distinction through material means: we find no prestige items, no cultic equipment, no 'art'. While we cannot observe differentiation within a community, there is a site hierarchy, and there are differences between communities. It can be suggested that this is due to uneven integration in exchange networks, with the eastern areas of the mainland and in particular some coastal sites more heavily involved in exchange with the island of Aegina, the Cyclades and perhaps Crete. On the basis of this information, I suggest the following working hypothesis to describe the MH society: that the main organisational principle in the MH period was kinship rather than social status, and that as authority was ascribed to and embedded in kin relations, it required no elaborate practices and material distinctions to legitimate it. Towards the end of the period, in MHIII, some changes in the mortuary record can be observed, however: a certain rise in the levels of wealth deposited in the tombs brings about clearer differentiation. It is during this period that the Shaft Graves of Mycenae come into use.
2.2. The Shaft Graves of Mycenae The Grave Circles are two circular enclosures within a pre-existing cemetery extending across the slope below the contemporary settlement at Mycenae. Grave Circle B, discovered in 1951-52 (Mylonas 1972), is the earlier of the two and was in use during MHIII and the very beginning of LHI. It contains 24 graves, including pits, cists and the more complex shaft graves. The shaft graves consist of a deep shaft with the actual grave (with stone-lined walls and a roof consisting of beams, slabs and clay) opening at its bottom. While some graves contain single burials, most have been re-used for multiple (2-5) burials. There are both poor and rich graves. To give some indication of the wealth deposited with the dead, Gamma (one of the richest graves) contained 4 bronze swords, 3 daggers, 3 knives, 1 spearhead, 1 bronze cup, 2 gold cups, 3 gold bands, 1 electrum mask, 2 necklaces made of various semi-precious materials and 1ivory comb. The use of stelai (plain or figured stone grave markers) and the complex rites surrounding the disposal of the body further distinguish the Grave Circle B burials from other graves contemporary with them. Grave Circle A is the one discovered by Heinrich Schliemann in 1876 (Schliemann 1878; the definitive publication of the finds was undertaken by Karo 1930-33). It came into use towards the end of MHIII and was abandoned at the

end of LHI. It contains only 6 graves, all of them shaft graves, and generally much bigger and richer than the burials in Grave Circle B. Graves 111, IV and V contain the bulk of the Shaft Grave treasures; IV alone contained 3 gold masks, 2 gold crowns, 8 gold diadems, at least 27 swords, at least 5 daggers, 16 knives, 5 razors, 1 large 1 silver vases, 22 bronze vases, 3 vases made of silver shield, 5 gold vases, 10 or 1 alabaster, 2 made of faience, 2 gold and 3 silver rhyta (libation vases), 2 ostrichegg rhyta, 2 engraved gold rings, 2 silver rings, 3 gold armbands, at least 1 gold necklace, amber beads, 1 gold and ivory comb, and 1 faience and crystal gaming board; at least 683 engraved gold discs and many gold cut-outs were used, possibly to decorate the funeral shrouds of the 3 men and 2 women buried in the tomb, and various gold knobs, discs and bands were also found, along with numerous scraps and bits of a variety of precious materials (Vermeule 1964239). The sheer number of these valuables is enormous, the craftmanship shown in their making extraordinary, and the variety of materials, types and shapes, decorative techniques and themes immense. It is understandable that these treasures still attract so much publicity and scholarly attention; and of course the problem of the provenance of this unprecedented wealth has never been solved (but see some thoughts on this question in Voutsaki forthcoming). This is, of course, a very important question, but by concentrating on it we perpetuate the fascination with the Shaft Grave riches, we fail to address the problem of deposition and we isolate the 'Shaft Grave phenomenon' from contemporary developments. I suggest that we ought to see the Shaft Graves as the most dramatic manifestation of a general increase in the wealth and elaboration of tombs and a wider transformation of the mortuary practices across the southern mainland. During the MHIII period fairly rich grave goods also appear in other sites and regions, particularly in Messenia, and we can observe an overall, albeit initially slight, increase in the levels of wealth deposited with the dead. The MHIII period sees also the introduction of tombs especially designed for reuse and multiple burials: the shaft grave in the Argolid, the tholos tomb, a large subterranean stone-built vault with a passage, in Messenia, and the chamber tomb, a subterranean rock-cut tomb, in LHI in various regions. If we want to understand these changes, we must first compare the new practices with the MH tradition, and then place the 'Shaft Grave phenomenon' in its historical context: political interrelations in the Aegean in the transition to the LBA. 2.3. The transformation of mortuary practices in the Shaft Grave era The transformation in mortuary practices contained elements of both rupture and continuity with the MH practices. The shaft grave can be traced back to the earlier simple cists and pits; the re-use of the graves and the secondary treatment of the dead appear sporadically in the MH period, but are now intensified. New elements are the adoption of graves especially designed for re-use and the deposition of large quantities of valuable and exotic goods with the dead (for a discussion of the symbolic significance of the new mortuary forms and practices, see Voutsaki in press).



These changes find their most dramatic expression in the Shaft Graves of Mycenae. The range, quantity and quality of the Shaft Grave assemblage are not paralleled anywhere else. The mobilisation of social forces and special skills, the elaboration of material culture, the ostentation, the accumulative ethos, are all undoubtedly symptoms of an emerging Clite and a new mode of prestige. To label social phenomena, however, is not to explain them. The question is: If the Shaft Grave phenomenon denotes the emergence of an Clite, then why and how did this 6lite emerge out of the less differentiated MH society? How was this wealth appropriated? Why was it deposited in the graves? These are the questions that I shall attempt to answer.

(i) The relation between economy and society. Previous models of change in Aegean archaeology emphasised internal growth in the productive sphere (Renfrew 1972; Halstead 1981; 1988). The transformation of the mainland cannot be explained within this framework. The sequence of gradual and parallel growth in production, trade and craft specialisation alongside nucleation and redistribution cannot be observed in the MH period. Certain changes that can be seen in the MHIII period, such as settlement expansion and changes in the settlement hierarchy in the Argolid, seem to represent shifts and rearrangements rather than a process of overall economic growth: Mycenae gains in importance, while other important MH sites seem to be declining. The increasing ascendancy of Mycenae over the other Argive centres cannot be explained in terms of the agricultural potential of the surrounding area; nor is the site very well placed for external trade. Anyway, it should be stressed that in MHIII the 'Shaft Grave phenomenon' was already well under way. Population growth, settlement expansion, craft specialisation and intensification of production and trade can be observed at best in parallel with, but primarily after the transformation of the mortuary practices and the lavish deposition of valuable items. What we see on the mainland is therefore a change, not in productive practices, but in consumption patterns and intensity of demand. Intensification of production follows rathe than pre-dates the transformation of the sumptuary behaviour. In the case of the 'Shaft Grave henomenon', then, no economic changes precede or explain certain social changes which are then confirmed by changes in ritual practices. The primacy, indeed the reification, of the economic is belied by the Mycenaean case.

(ii) Social practices and power. In a certain sense, conspicuous consumption levels out economic differences: it can thus be said to continue the negation of material distinctions which was tentatively postulated for the MH period. At the same time, however, it reverses it. The deposition of valuable items freezes their circulation and prevents others from obtaining possession of them. It should be noted that the objects are not destroyed, but deposited in graves, at a period during which

the introduction of multiple tombs brings about stricter demarcation of the burying group and denotes an increased emphasis on descent. I therefore suggest that when valuable objects were deposited in multiple tombs at the beginning of the Mycenaean period they were seen as being retained within the 'family', which also included the ancestors. This allowed the symbolic appropriation of wealth, as well as social fragmentation and asymmetry. A crucial element of change was introduced: the ritualised deposition of wealth institutionalised the notion of property, the basis of differentiation. Mortuary display thus set up a new sort of prestige, in which status was defined through the acquisition and disposal of exotic and elaborate goods. Conspicuous consumption became a central mechanism for the creation rather than the expression or legitimation of status. We thus arrive at an important point which bears upon the sources of power: the active role of social practices in enacting, bolstering and contesting power. If the discussion of consumption led us to question the reification of the economy, emphasising the active role of social practices helps us to transcend another division that has become obsolete: the dichotomy between social reality and ideology. (iii) Power and resistance. Mortuary display became an important arena for social and political competition; in its turn, the competitive ethos had a considerable impact upon mortuary forms and upon material culture in general (for a more detailed discussion, see Voutsaki 1995a). A constant increase in labour input and wealth can be observed in the Shaft Graves during MHIII-LHI, revealing that the emergence of differentiation was a tense process, still unfolding rather than already crystallised into a new stratified order. In the next period (LHII) the abandonment of the shaft grave as an elite grave type, the adoption and immediate spread of the monumental tholos tomb, and the appearance of rich and elaborate chamber tombs imitating the tholos form, indicate that competition has unleashed a spiral of emulation and elaboration. These ostentatious forms do not just act as a display and legitimation of the elite's power, but also indicate that the new power structure is still fragile. Nothing illustrates this point better than the swift abandonment of the tholoi, the most conspicuous and supposedly most permanent symbol of prestige. Mycenae, with six tholoi and many rich chamber tombs, retains its pre-eminent position, but its ascendancy is contested by other centres on the plain. It follows that the emergence of social differentiation was neither an inevitable nor a smooth development. Social change and political centralisation were resisted; exclusionary tactics were emulated as a means of intrusion. The constant elaboration of material culture indicates that prestige items were an important weapon in social and political competition. I should say that I use the term 'competition' in a very broad manner, which includes also the extension of privileges and the granting of gifts to local dignitaries. These exchanges ensured the local leaders' loyalty to, but also dependence on, the emerging central elite, from which they acquired the means to bolster their position within their community.



The unstable and fluid situation of LHII gives way at the begmning of LHIII to a more rigid and hierarchical pattern. This period is characterised by the gradual restriction of the tholos tombs and of the deposition of wealth in Mycenae (and possibly in Tiryns), and by the popularisation, but simultaneously impoverishment, of the chamber tombs. At the beginning of this period, we also find the first palatial structures in Mycenae and Tiryns. The centralisation of power was possible only if one of the main arenas for competition, mortuary display, was restricted to the palatial elites. This allowed the channelling of wealth to the centre and eroded the power and independence of the local leaders. The restriction of mortuary display signals the emergence of a highly differentiated social system and a centralised political formation. To summarise the social developments in the Mycenaean era: The spiralling elaboration of mortuary practices in the LHI-I1 period has been interpreted as the emergence of social and political competition within communities and between local elites, resulting in a fluid and unstable situation in which a hierarchy is emerging, but is still disputed and resisted. The restriction of mortuary display to the palatial elites in LHIIIA-B and the general decline of wealth elsewhere have been explained as a strategy for the establishment and consolidation of a hierarchical social structure and a centralised political system. So far I have discussed how conspicuous consumption in the mortuary sphere became a principal mechanism of change. I have yet to address the causes of that change, the causes of the initial transformation at the transition to the LBA, which I believe to have generated a long-term momentum of change. 2.4. The causes of change: interaction and demarcation I have already ruled out internal economic growth as an explanation for the structural transformation on the mainland. It would in any case be difficult to attribute the changes on the mainland to purely endogenous factors: the end of the MBA was a period of increased mobility and acculturation in the Aegean. This was the Golden Age of the Minoan civilisation on the island of Crete, and the peak of Minoan influence across the southern Aegean. It is difficult to disentangle Minoan influence from local tradition in areas, such as the Cyclades and the Dodecanese, that flourished in the new cosmopolitan atmosphere, and the contribution of the Aegean maritime polities should not be underestimated. The nature of the socalled 'Minoan thalassocracy' is one of the most heavily debated issues in Aegean archaeology (see i.a. Davis 1979; Branigan 1981; Doumas 1982; Hagg and Marinatos 1984; Hardy et al. 1990; for a sober recent synthesis see Dickinson 1994:241-50). For the purposes of my argument here, the main thing is that during the crucial transitional period we can observe an intensification in, and indeed a change in the nature of, Minoan influence: while Minoan imports and Minoan stylistic and technological influences on the local material culture are to be found throughout the MBA, towards the end of the period we see the adoption of Minoan administrative (script, system of weights) as well as ritual practices - but continuity from the

local cultural tradition can still be seen. On the mainland there is no evidence for Minoan or Aegean cultural influence throughout most of the MBA, even though various Minoan and Cycladic ceramic imports and local imitations have been found, primarily in sites along or near the eastern coast of the mainland. At the end of the period, however, we observe a sudden influx of prestige goods (most of which have their closest parallels in Minoan Crete, and one or two in Thera), and possibly some local production of valuable goods as well, increasing elaboration in the material culture, an emphasis on social differentiation, and changes in the political landscape. We must assume that the intrusion of Minoan and Aegean goods, skills and systems of value disrupted the hitherto segmentary networks of exchange and eroded the traditional sumptuary behaviour, in particular the material austerity of the MH societies. This statement, however, does not add much to the traditional and prevailing explanation of the 'Shaft Grave phenomenon', which attributes it without hesitation to external, primarily Minoan cultural influence. But can Minoan cultural influence by itself explain the transformation on the mainland? Can it explain the new mortuary practices and forms that were, after all, its main manifestation? It is true that few tombs from this period in Crete have been discovered, but if we follow the evolution of Cretan funerary practices through the Bronze Age we shall see that they develop in a very different, if not opposite, direction. The pre-palatial (i.e. EBA, 3rd millennium BC) practice of collective burial gives way during the MBA to more individualistic types, such as burials in jars and clay coffins. With the emergence of the Minoan palatial system (at the beginning of the MBA, c. 1900 BC) there is a gradual decline in the deposition of wealth with the dead, although the recently discovered MMIIILMI tomb in Poros, Crete (Catling 1986-87:53) constitutes an isolated exception. Generally speaking, in Minoan Crete (and in the areas under Minoan influence) there is a cultural emphasis on the domestic sphere rather than on burial practices: the elite distinguishes itself by means of refined dwellings (palaces, rural 'villas', urban mansions) rather than elaborate tombs. This stands in clear contrast to the mainland, where the dramatic changes in the mortuary sphere are not paralleled in the domestic realm. Minoan influence by itself, then, cannot fully explain the transformation of the mortuary practices. The objects deposited in the mainland graves have their closest parallels in Crete where they are found in sanctuaries or in houses, sometimes in sacred repositories. Thus, the funerary offerings may have been primarily of Cretan provenance, manufacture or inspiration, but once deposited in graves they have been appropriated, redefined, incorporated within the mainland norms. The mainlanders borrowed Minoan goods, iconography and style, but they adapted them to suit their cultural preferences and their social needs. As they opened themselves up to external influences, they also asserted their separate identity. It is important that we grasp the special significance of the elaboration of the mortuary sphere, which is all about the glorification of the ancestors, a leading asset of cultural identity. The deposition of wealth with the dead is not simply an act of display on




the part of the survivors, but a moral obligation: by paying due respect to the dead and negating the utility and materiality of goods, the survivors acquire prestige which is, as it were, handed down from their ancestors. The deposition of offerings, whether valuables or pottery, is not a perquisite of the elite graves; it is a moral norm that pervades the entire population. This may explain why the transformation of the mortuary practices was so deep and so rapid: it involved not merely the adoption of new display strategies by an elite, but a deeper, global redefinition of both personal and group identity. The transformation of the mainland societies, then, was due not only to mounting pressure from the Minoan palaces or the expanding Aegean networks, but also to the internal response to this pressure, that is, to cultural demarcation. This proposition takes us beyond the dichotomy between external factors and internal conditions which plagues archaeological explanations of social change. After all, internal and external are relative notions: boundaries are set up and dissolved according to historical conditions.

Let us recapitulate and address the main issues addressed in this paper: how to identify power in the archaeological record, and how to explain social change. I have suggested that the political discourse of prehistoric societies is to be found in the movement and manipulation of prestige artefacts which are the signs of power and excellence. Patterns of elaboration or aesthetic impoverishment, sequences of emulation, spatial variation and fluctuations in wealth are the archaeologically recoverable traces of strategies, imbalances and shifts of power. Before summarising my thoughts on social change, I must emphasise that we cannot construct general models or offer universal explanations of change. Change is historical and contingent, rooted always in specific circumstances. My approach, shaped by the Mycenaean developments, is not necessarily applicable elsewhere, although I hope that it may prove relevant. I have argued that social change is not the inevitable outcome of economic growth. Change may come about through the manipulation of consumption and demand rather than through control over productive practices. It may also be effected through the transformation of the traditional sumptuary practices: conspicuous consumption can become a strategy of accumulation, social fragmentation and asymmetry; gift exchange can be subtly transformed into a strategy of subordination and hierarchisation. However, change is resisted and contested; the emergence of differentiation is not the unfolding of a pre-existing potential, but a tense and unstable process. Nor can social change be explained through internal factors alone; change is neither purely endogenous nor purely exogenous; rather, it comes about through the fusion of internal conditions and external circumstances. To sum up my argument for the Mycenaean case: the intrusion of Minoan or generally Aegean prestige goods and value systems disrupted the segmentary exchange

networks and more egalitarian ethos of the MH period. The transition to the LBA saw the introduction of a new mode of prestige: the acquisition and lavish disposal of fine and exotic objects with the dead. Thus, conspicuous consumption in the mortuary sphere became the main strategy of symbolic accumulation and social differentiation, while gift exchange created relations of dependence and obligation between Mycenae and the local leaders. The ostentatious disposal of goods became the main mechanism of social change, as it unleashed a spiral of competition, emulation and further elaboration. Finally, the restriction of mortuary display to the palatial sites signalled the emergence of a hierarchical social formation and a centralised political system: the palatial system.

This article is based on a paper presented during the Conference on The Identity of Bronze Age Europe which was held at the British Museum on 27-29 October 1994 under the auspices of the Council of Europe. I would like to thank the organisers of the Conference for inviting me to give a paper and the Faculty of Classics, Cambridge for financial assistance with the travel costs. I would like to express my gratitude to Professor C. Doumas for his insightful criticisms, as well as Professor J. Bouzek and Dr K. Demakopoulou and the two anonymous referees for their comments. Finally, I am grateful to Rosamund Annetts who checked and improved my English.

Abbreviations. The following abbreviations are used in this paper:

EBA: Early Bronze Age MBA: Middle Bronze Age LBA: Late Bronze Age MH: MM: LH: LM: Middle Helladic period Middle Minoan period Late Helladic (or Mycenaean) period Late Minoan period

'Helladic' is the special term used to describe the BA sequence in mainland Greece; 'Minoan' denotes the parallel sequence in Crete.

Chronology. The absolute chronology of these periods is now being debated and revised (see papers in Hardy and Renfrew 1990), but here I follow the traditional chronology. For the purposes of this paper the approximate dates will suffice:
C. C.


3000-2000 BC 2000-1600 BC 1600-1100 BC


C. C. C. C.

1600-1500 1500-1400 1400-1300 1300-1200




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The creation of value and prestige in the Aegean Late Bronze Age The main questions addressed in this paper are these: How can we conceptualise power? How can we identify power relations in the archaeological record? How can we explain the emergence of asymmetrical power relations? These questions will be approached by discussing the creation of value and prestige in primitive societies, with particular emphasis on the practice of conspicuous consumption. I shall argue that an object's value is created not only through labour at the moment of production, but also during its circulation within gift exchange networks, and through its consumption (destruction, deposition) in ostentatious ceremonies. While both gft exchange and conspicuous consumption are central strateges for the creation of value and prestige, I suggest that there is a crucial difference between them: conspicuous consumption brings about the abolition of the reciprocal relationship on which gft exchange is based. The initiation (and indeed the institutionalisation) of conspicuous consumption is therefore an important strategy in creating, rather than simply expressing or legtimating, asymmetrical relationships. The theoretical discussion will be applied to a specific historical problem: the transformation of the largely egalitarian kin-based Middle Bronze Age societies of the southern Greek mainland into

the hierarchical Mycenaean (i.e. Late Bronze Age) palatial system. I shall argue that conspicuous consumption in the mortuary sphere was not simply a symptom, but a crucial element of the deep structural transformation that swept the southern mainland at the transition to the Late Bronze Age.

La creation de la valeur et du prestige a la fin de 1'Age de bronze dans la zone de la mer Egee Les questions principales qui sont traitees dans cet article sont les suivantes: Comment peut-on conceptualiser le pouvoir? Comment peut-on identifier les relations de pouvoir dans le domaine archeologique? Comment peut-on expliquer l'emergence de relations de pouvoir asymbtriques? Ces questions seront traitees en examinant la creation de la valeur et du prestige dans les sociCtCs primitives, on insistera plus particulierement sur la pratique de la consommation ostentatoire. O n montrera que la valeur d'un objet est cr&e non seulement par le travail produit au moment de sa production, mais aussi pendant qu'il circule a l'interieur de reseaux d'echange de cadeaux, au travers de sa consommation (destruction, deposition) pendant des cCrCmonies ostentatoires. Bien que Yechange de cadeaux et la consommation ostentatoire soient deux strateges centrales dans la creation de la valeur et du prestige, je voudrais souligner qu'il existe une difference cmciale entre elles: la consommation ostentatoire entraine l'abolition des relations reciproques sur lesquelles est base 1'Cchange de cadeaux. L'introduction (et meme l'institutionnalisation) de la consommation ostentatoire constitue par consequent une strategic importante dans la creation, plutdt que dans la simple expression ou lCgitimation des relations asymbtriques. La discussion theorique est appliquee a un probleme historique specifique: la transformation des societes basCes sur la famille, en g6nCral egalitaires, dans le sud de la Grece continentale, au milieu de la periode de l'Age du Bronze, en un systeme hierarchique mycenien grandiose (c-i-d. la fin de l'Age de bronze). Je montrerais que, dans la sphere mortuaire, la consommation ostentatoire n'etait pas simplement un symptdme mais un Clement crucial de la profonde transformation qui s'est rCpandue dans tout le sud de la Grece continentale pendant la periode de transition qui mena la fin de YAge de bronze. Die Schaffung von Wert und Prestige in der spatbronzezeitlichen Agais Die Hauptfragen, die in diesem Aufsatz angesprochen werden, sind folgende: was konnen wir unter 'Macht' verstehen? Wie konnen wir Machtbeziehungen im archaologischen Material identifizieren? Wie konnen wir das Aufkommen asymmetrischer Machtverhaltnisse erklaren? Ich nahere mich diesen Fragen durch eine Diskussion der Schaffung von Wert und Prestige in primitiven Gesellschaften, unter besonderer Be~cksichtigungder Praktik des Prestigekonsums (conspicuous consumption). Ich argumentiere, dai3 der Wert eines Objektes nicht nur durch Arbeit im Moment seiner Produktion geschaffen wird, sondern auch durch seinen Umlauf in Geschenkeaustausch-Beziehungen sowie durch seinen Verbrauch (Zerstorung, Deponierung) in pomposen Zeremonien. Sowohl Geschenkeaustausch als auch Prestigekonsum sind wichtige Strategien fur die Schaffung von Wert und Prestige, doch gibt es einen entscheidenen Unterschied zwischen beiden: Prestigekonsum bringt die Beendung der reziproken Beziehung mit sich, auf der 'Geschenkeaustausch bemht. Die Einfuhrung (und vor allem Institutionalisiemng) von Prestigekonsum ist deshalb eine wichtige Stratege bei der Schaffung asymmetrischer Beziehungen - und nicht bloi3 ihr Ausdruck oder ihre Legtimiemng. Die theoretische Diskussion wird an einem speziellen historischen Problem zur Anwendung gebracht: die Umformung der groi3tenteils egalitaren, venvandtschaftsorientierten Gesellschaften der mittleren Bronzezeit des siidgriechischen Festlandes in das hierarchische Palastsystem der mykenischen (d.h. spatbronzezeitlichen) Zeit. Ich argumentiere, dai3 Prestigekonsum im Bereich des Totenkultes nicht nur schlicht ein Symptom, sondern ein entscheidendes Element des tiefreichenden Stmktunvandels war, der am Ubergang zur Spatbronzezeit durch das siidliche Festland fegte.