"Mortuary Ritual and Society in Bronze Age Cyprus" is a ground-breaking investigation of burial practices and social transformations in the era when Cypriot agricultural communities moved from village to urban life and became major players in the eastern Mediterranean copper trade. Confronting the many interpretive challenges posed by tombs used for multiple interments, the author develops an innovative theoretical and methodological approach that enables her to define and elucidate the shifting spatial relationships between tombs and habitation areas, the elaboration of rituals involving secondary treatment and collective burial, and changing patterns of mortuary expenditure and symbolism throughout the Bronze Age. Keswani proposes that during the Early-Middle Bronze periods, the growing elaboration of mortuary festivities and their crucial importance in negotiating status hierarchies contributed to the intensification of Cypriot copper production and the expansion of interregional exchange relations.
This helped set the stage for the rise of urban polities early in the Late Bronze Age, when the presence of hereditary elites first becomes apparent in the Cypriot archaeological record. Subsequent changes in mortuary practice suggest that the importance of collective burial rites and traditional modes of ritual display diminished over the course of the Late Bronze Age, as urban institutions multiplied and the bases of social prestige were transformed.
Priscilla Keswani received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan in 1989 and has taught at Washington State University and the Borough of Manhattan Community College. She has participated in archaeological field projects in Cyprus for many years and published a number of scholarly papers on Bronze Age burial practices, political organization, exchange systems, and pottery.
1. Introduction 2. Mortuary Ritual and Society: Some Theoretical Considerations 3. The Archaeological Record of Mortuary Practice in Cyprus: Formation Processes, Sampling Issues and a Methodology for Interpretation 4. The Early and Middle Bronze Age 5. The Late Bronze Age 6. Mortuary Ritual, Social Structure and Macro-Processual Change in the Cypriot Bronze Age