funerary goods

Greek Gold Olive Wreath, 4th Century BC

There are signs that this wreath was damaged in a fire which suggests that that it was used as a funerary wreath and became scorched during the burning of a funeral pyre.

A wreath made from wild olive branches, also known as kotinos, was the prize for the winner at the ancient Olympic Games. According to Pausanias, the sacred olive tree at Olympia, from which the champion’s wreaths were made, came from the land of the Hyporboreans. It was brought to Olympia by Herakles and planted near the temple dedicated to his father, Zeus, in his honor. Legend says that it was Iphitos who first used a crown of wild olive leaves from sacred tree, called the kallistephanos, to crown victors at the Olympic games.

Olive wreaths were also made for the champions of the Panathenaic Games in Athens. Mythology says that these wreaths were made from the sacred olive tree that grew from where Athena struck her spear on the ground at the Acropolis. For the ancient Greeks, the olive tree was a symbol of peace, wisdom and triumph.

Gold wreaths were made imitating  their natural counterparts in various forms, including oak, olive, ivy, vine, laurel and myrtle. Most of these trees or plants have associations with various deities. Because of their fragility, gold wreaths were probably not meant to be worn very often, only during special functions. They were also dedicated to the gods in sanctuaries and placed in graves as funerary offerings for wealthy or important people. Though they were known in earlier periods, gold wreaths became much more popular in the Hellenistic age, probably due to the greatly increased availability of gold in the Greek world following the conquests of Alexander the Great.

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Hellenistic Gold Wreaths

In Ancient Greece, wreath crowns were given as prizes to the victors of athletic and artistic competitions. The wreaths were often made from the branches of Laurel, Myrtle, Oak, and Olive trees. These trees in Ancient Greece were symbolic of various number of concepts such as wisdom, triumph, fertility, peace, and virtue. 

Gold wreaths were meant to imitate their natural counterparts.  However, due to their fragile nature, they were only worn on very special occasions.  Many gold wreaths were dedicated as temple offerings and served as funerary goods for royalty and the wealthy elite. The vast majority of gold wreaths date to the Hellenistic Period, after the conquests of Alexander the Great, although they have been known to have existed since the Classical era. They exemplify the exceptional skill of goldsmiths during the Hellenistic period.

Images:
1) Gold Laurel Wreath from Cyprus, 4th-3rd Century BCE.  Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, Germany.

2) Gold Wreath of Oak Leaves from the Royal Tombs of Aigai. 4th Century BCE. The Louvre.  

3) Gold Myrtle Wreath. 4th-3rd Century BCE. The Benaki Museum, Athens.

4) Gold Wreath of Oak Leaves and Flowers from Attica. 2nd-1st Century BCE. Canadian Museum of History, Quebec. 

5) Gold Wreath of Oak Leaves and Acorns. 4th Century BCE. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

6) Gold Myrtle Wreath from Corinth. 4th-3rd Century BCE. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

A view of the north chamber of the Huitzilapa shaft tomb in Jalisco complete with funerary goods and human remains. Teuchitlan culture. Dated to 100 BCE.

Roman Gold Ivy Wreath with Berries, c. (?)

In ancient times real wreaths of ivy were worn during the festival of Dionysus. The god Dionysus (Roman Bacchus) was usually depicted wearing an an ivy wreath in ancient Greek and Roman art. A wreath such as this one was probably used as funerary goods for a wealthy individual.

Another example of an ancient ivy wreath….

drackomancer-deactivated2015042  asked:

What is the difference between gender and sex? How can these be examined (or determined) in the archaeological record?

This question was also submitted by sonoftheoceans. I am getting quite detailed in this answer as the subject matter crosses over with my forensics class.

Gender and sex are fundamentally different, but related concepts. Sex refers to biological sex, which a continuum with two ending reference points (Male and Female) upon which various physical traits are ranked. At the most basic biological definition, biosex males produce sperm gametes, and biosex females produce egg gametes. Gender refers to the social constructs that are built around biosex. Unlike sex, which is a continuum between points, gender is a realm of endless possibility. Someone of a female gender in one society will not have the same definition of what it is to be a woman than someone of a female gender in a totally different society. In short, unlike sex, there are not simply two genders. Though we often assume sex and gender to be synonymous in day to day to life for the sake of simplicity, this is not an appropriate assumption to bring to the archaeological record.

Sex can be determined with relative accuracy by examining the human skeleton, if the skeleton is complete enough. The best method is through gross examination of certain key traits upon the pelvis or skull. Although general robusticity can be an indicator, it is not very reliable, as frame size varies with ancestry. The most reliable indicators are those on the pelvis: The female pelvis is large and more “turned out” looking than the male. The pelvic inlet (the space at the top of the pelvis through which a baby would enter the vaginal canal) is rather heart shaped in males, while being completely circular in females. In addition, the coccyx protrudes further underneath the pelvic bones in males than in females, making childbirth impossible. The area immediately below the pubis (subpubic concavity) is shaped like an upside down V in males, while it is a very clear U in females. These differences are so extreme that even an untrained eye can tell the difference between a male and female pelvis, and though sex characteristics do vary quite a bit, the pelvis is not usually the site of the ambiguity. Lastly the sciatic notch, the inner curve of the illiac blade, is much wider in females than males.

There are also a number of characteristics on the skull which can be used to situations where the pelvis is not present. These are far more relative and variable than pelvic characteristics, and vary with ancestry as well. Generally, males will have supraorbital tori (eyebrow ridges on the skull), though european females may have these as well. The mastoid process (a small peninsula of bone directly behind the ear) is longer and larger in males than females, and males also tend to have a more pronounced mental eminence (chin point) and nuchal crest (a little bump of bone at the back of the occipital bone). The edges of eye sockets tend to be sharper in females than males as well, and in non-european groups, males tend to have slightly flared mandibles.

The archaeologist or osteologist would examine the skeleton and rank each macroscopic feature (We learned 15 bony features in my forensics class that can be used, I’ve only discussed the most basic above) and rank each feature with an M or F for “probable male” or “probable female” depending. Once finished, the researcher would go through all of these traits and select the sex which is supported by the greatest number of characteristics. This methodology is important because of the fact discussed earlier that even biological sex is a continuum between two extremes. Just because one feature (such as the subpubic concavity) is obviously at the female end of the spectrum does not mean that the individual was a biosex female. In most archaeological cases, not every indicator will preserve. In cases like that, it becomes even more important that every landmark present is examined, especially when the pelvis is missing. It is also worth noting that everything I just discussed only applies to the adult skeleton. Sexing children is much more difficult, and is a subject for another time.

Gender is much more difficult to see in the archaeological record, and there is a huge problem with researchers casting modernized western gender ideals back onto the archaeological record. Generally the only hints we have at gender in the funerary context are grave goods. Labor is considered to be nearly universally divided in terms of gender role (an assumption that we have to make to get work done, but which is in and of itself inherently flawed). Because sex and gender are correlated (though still not synonymous) it can mean that a consist finding of certain grave goods correlated with a certain sexed skeleton in a cemetery can indicate representation of gender. It is frightening and amazing, however, how the same goods placed with a different sexed skeleton can produce wildly different interpretations. My textbook (Mike Parker Pearson) gives the example of how in the American Midwest, males found with trade goods were assumed to be participating in long distance, complex trade networks. When a female was found with the same goods, the assumption was that they were gifts from her male relatives. In another example, there have been numerous cases where burials were found containing warriors and their weapons, and the grave was assumed to belong to a male without an actual osteological examination even taking place. Many of these have been corrected since the rise in feminist archaeological scholarship.

It’s an important fact to remember when examining burials, that there are more than two genders, and that even in systems were there are 3 or more recognized genders, members of that society can still be transgender. It’s extremely difficult to discern such a thing, especially if they were not recognized by their peers as belonging to another gender besides the one they were assigned at birth. We do not bury ourselves. We are buried by our survivors and ultimately the image of our selves that is presented through mortuary practice is a constructed image presented by those who are hopefully our loved ones. If a person’s family doesn’t recognize who they are, than that image may not passed on with them after death. A trans person today who is buried with the clothing and artifacts of the wrong gender (the gender ascribed at birth) will be unlikely to be recognized as their correct gender in 1000 years. Although the identity of “transgender” as we understand today is a relatively new identity, trans people have always been with humanity. It is only the label, the social identity which has changed.

A female skeleton buried with artifacts typically considered male for that society could mean many things. He may have been a trans man, or perhaps they were a member or a third or other gender. Perhaps she was a woman who took on a man’s gender role in a limited capacity for a short time for social or ritual purposes. In a situation like this, historical documentation and/or ethnographic analogy can be extremely helpful. It’s important to determine how many genders the society in question recognized, and what defined those genders. We often use “man” and “woman” to designate the two genders that most closely correlate with the male and female biological sexes, but as I said earlier, it is impossible to say that a woman from the Americas has the same gender as a woman from India. The societies in question are too different, and so the genders it constructs will be totally different as well.

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