A Mortuary Perspective on Political Changes in Late Minoan II–IIIB Crete
In this article, I explore political developments on Crete in the Final and Postpalatial periods (the ceramic phases Late Minoan II to IIIB) through the evidence of high status mortuary practices. Patterns in tomb architecture, burial assemblages, and cemetery distributions provide insights into various changes in elite ideologies and in the island's political geography. In analyzing political dynamics, I consider agendas that operated on the intra-island level, to balance the frequent tendency to focus on external (mainland) agency in explaining the cultural and political transformations that occurred on Crete during this period. At the start of the Final Palatial period, new burial customs were introduced at the dominant center of Knossos. The new customs appear to have functioned as a medium for status competition in a horizon of political instability. Following an initial phase of mortuary experimentation, however, changes in the later Final Palatial period suggest a standardization in elites' strategies of mortuary self-representation at this center. Beyond Knossos, similar tomb practices began to occur at several centers in the later Final Palatial period, with an increase in mortuary display in the early Postpalatial phase that seems to indicate resurgent regional elites seizing the political opportunities attendant upon Knossos's collapse. Other aspects of the Postpalatial political geography highlighted are a shift in the focus of mortuary ostentation toward the far west of the island in LM IIIB, and more generally, evidence for further, local elites beyond the known regional centers across the island.