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Kate Harrell
Jan Driessen

Piece Out

Comparing the Intentional Destruction of Swords in the Early Iron Age and the Mycenae Shaft Graves

Kate Harrell


A survey of the iron swords from Early Iron Age (EIA) Attica and Lefkandi (1100-850 BC) in their archaeological contexts reveals interesting parallels with the swords from the Mycenae Shaft Graves (Middle Helladic III-Late Helladic II). Most of the EIA swords are bent, generally into rings, but others are interred without being damaged in any way. Significantly, bent swords are not considered by archaeologists to be any less valuable in their ancient context than the unaltered blades. Building on this approach, data from the Mycenae Shaft Grave swords will be shown to indicate that there is a rise in the fragmentation of these swords, particularly in Graves IV and V, that cannot be attributed to taphonomic processes; rather the data imply active human involvement in the fragmentation. A possible explanation for the fragmentation – and a suggestion for how the missing sword fragments were consumed – will be put forward

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Extrait du texte

The EIA bent swords from Attica, mainly Athens, and Lefkandi are spectacular finds since they so clearly preserve intentional human manipulation within heavily choreographed contexts. Beginning in Athens in the Middle and Late Protogeometric periods, a number of Naue II type iron swords have been found bent out of shape, generally into rings, and wrapped around the neck and shoulders of the funerary amphora. The practice of bending these swords is linked to changing burial customs: the abandonment of inhumation in family graves and the adoption of cremation and single interment in a cinerary urn. At Athens, these interments were placed within the new trench-and-hole type grave. The EIA bent swords are all the more striking since other contemporary trench-and-hole graves have been found with swords that were left unbent, underscoring the fact that human intention was a significant factor involved in the act of bending.

Earlier assessments of the act of intentional damage, frequently r...


Kate Harrell holds the Belgian American Education Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Aegean Archaeology at the Université catholique de Louvain.

© Presses universitaires de Louvain, 2015

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