Upheaval or business as usual at Roman Knossos: what do the bones say?

Activiteit: Academic presentationAcademic


Studies in the past have considered whether the Roman invasion, establishment of a colony, and subsequent increased connectivity within Mediterranean networks caused substantial social and cultural change or brought significant numbers of incoming people. These studies have considered epigraphy, linguistics, onomastics, (Baldwin Bowsky 1995; 1997; 2002; 2004), pottery (Eiring 2000; 2004; Forster 2001; 2009; Baldwin Bowsky 2011), baths (Kelly 2013) and other aspects of the archaeological and historical records (Paton 1994; 2004; Sweetman 2007; 2010). Sweetman has also discussed the changes that occurred in the Late Antique period and Christianisation (Sweetman 2004; 2005) but the study of the human bones can add to this knowledge. The burial sphere in general and the skeletal remains in particular have remained underutilised resources. The integration of all these different lines of evidence can enable a social history to be written for Knossos.
This paper considers the impact of the Roman invasion, establishment of a colony, the changing urban character, differential mobility and connectivity, and introduction of Christianity on the everyday lives of the Knossian people. The study of the human skeletal remains demonstrates increased social inequality in the early Roman period and a shift in dietary practices in the late Roman period.
Although certain key ‘Roman’ burial features, cremation in particular, are missing from Knossos (and Crete more broadly), there were noticeable changes to funerary customs though not detectable until the first century AD. The burial evidence (tomb types and grave goods) at Knossos demonstrates significant differences in funerary customs between the Hellenistic, Early Roman and Late Roman periods but while these changes can be connected with processes associated with the incorporation into the Roman Empire and introduction of Christianity, they were not immediate changes that coincided with the social changes. Therefore, a certain conservatism is evident in the delayed changes in tomb forms which makes it difficult to identify narrow dates for some of the burials.
The integration of the mortuary evidence with the other archaeological and historical evidence from Knossos enables a social history of life at Knossos to be posited in connection with the broad scale socio-political upheavals affecting Crete and the wider Roman Empire at this time.
Evenementstitel13th International Congress of Cretan Studies
LocatieAgios Nikolaos, GreeceToon op kaart