Department of Classics and Archaeology

Rethinking Mycenaean Death: A view from Laconia

Project summary

This project offers fresh insight into how Mycenaean society conceived of death and the afterlife, with focus placed on the under-studied deathscape of Laconia in southern Greece. 

Miniature jug from Epidaurus Limera


Project aims

The project aims to: 

  • Reconstruct the emergence and development of the Mycenaean mortuary tradition in Late Bronze Age Lakonia; 
  • To examine the landscape of death, the funerary and post-funerary traditions and the associated afterlife beliefs;
  • To provide new evidence for the continuation of funerary architectural trends from the Early and Middle Bronze Age past, with emphasis on the introduction of the chamber tomb type on the Greek mainland;
  • To discuss status, gender and age as reflected by the burial offerings;
  • And, ultimately, to reconstruct the diachronic process of invention of tradition and identity in Mycenaean communities.

Project outcomes

The project provides – for the first time – a comprehensive account of the burial tradition in the region by examining the landscape of death and burial architecture, the funerary and post-funerary customs and rituals, and patterns of offering deposition over the longue durée – from the transitional Middle Helladic/Late Helladic period to after the collapse of the Mycenaean palaces. It investigates patterns of continuation in local funerary traditions from the Early and Middle Bronze Age past, and challenges the traditional view that Laconia became tera relicta in the years of the deep crisis that followed the fall of the Mycenaean palaces. 

The project also brings to publication the chamber tombs at Epidavros Limera on the Malea peninsula, the earliest of their type on the Mycenaean mainland. In fact, Epidavros Limera was one of the very few Late Bronze Age Aegean sites that flourished uninterruptedly from the transitional Middle/Helladic period to after the collapse of the palatial administration and the early stages of the Greek Early Iron Age.

The research culminated in the publication of the monograph Death in Mycenaean Laconia: A Silent Place by Chrysanthi Gallou.

Book summary

Death in Mycenaean Laconia is the first book-length systematic study of Late Bronze Age burial tradition in Laconia, Greece (17th to 10th c. BC) and the first to systematically present and discuss the entire corpus of Mycenaean tombs and funerary contexts excavated and/or reported in the region from the 19th century to present day. It also brings to publication the chamber tombs at Epidavros Limera that remained largely unknown since their excavation by the Greek Ministry of Culture in the 1930s and 1950s.

Indicative of the great archaeological importance of the site is the comment by Professor Dickinson, one of the leading Aegeanists of our time: ‘Overall the crucial Middle Helladic-Late Helladic transition is badly documented in Laconia, or rather, the information that we have does not tell us what we most want to know… The most significant discovery, the chamber tombs of unusual shape around Epidavros Limera, which certainly date back to this time, remains difficult to assess, since the earlier prehistory of the neighbourhood is essentially unknown’ (Dickinson, O.T.P.K. 1992. Reflections on Bronze Age Laconia. In: Sanders, J.M. (ed.), Filolakon. Lakonian Studies in Honour of Hector Catling. Oxbow Books. p. 110).

Gallou's study of the funerary assemblages suggests that Epidavros Limera was responsible for the introduction of the chamber tomb type on the Greek mainland in the latest phase of the Middle Bronze Age, which goes significantly beyond the present state of knowledge in Aegean scholarship and makes a major contribution to the study of burial traditions in prehistoric Greece. 


  • C. GALLOU, in press (2020). LH IIIC and Submycenaean Laconia. In: G. Middleton (ed.), Collapse and Transformation. The Late Bronze Age to early Iron Age in the Aegeanpp. 51-59. Oxbow Books.
  • C. GALLOU. 2019. Death in Mycenaean Laconia: A Silent Place.  Oxbow Books. 
  • C. GALLOU, 2016. Mycenaean skulls: “αμενηνά κάρηνα"or social actors in Late Helladic metaphysics and society? In: E. Alram-Stern et al. (eds), Metaphysis. Ritual, Myth and Symbolism in the Aegean Bronze Age. Proceedings of the 15th International Aegean Conference, Vienna, Institute for Oriental and European Archaeology, Aegean and Anatolia Department, Austrian Academy of Sciences and Institute of Classical Archaeology, University of Vienna, 22-25 April 2014, pp. 405-414. Peeters.
  • C. GALLOU, 2009. Epidaurus Limera: The tale of a Laconian site in Mycenaean times. In: W.G. Cavanagh, C. Gallou, M. Georgiadis (eds), Sparta & Lakonia: From Prehistory to Pre-modern times: Proceedings of the Conference held in Sparta, organised by the British School at Athens, the University of Nottingham, the 5th Ephoreia of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and the 5th Ephoreia of Byzantine Antiquities, 17-20 March 2005, pp. 85-93. Athens: British School at Athens. 


Supported by

The project has received generous funding from the University of Nottingham (Arts Faculty Fellowship), the J.F. Costopoulos Foundation, the Shelby White & Levy Léon Foundation for Archaeological Publications, INSTAP, The Mediterranean Archaeological Trust, The British Academy (Overseas Conference Grant), The Robert Kiln Charitable Trust and private sponsors. 


Project team

Chrysanthi Gallou


Related research groups

Centre for Spartan and Peloponnesian Studies (CSPS)



  • Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports
  • Archaeological Society at Athens



University of Nottingham (Arts Faculty Fellowship)

J.F. Costopoulos Foundation

Shelby White & Levy Léon Foundation for Archaeological Publications

Institute for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP)

The Mediterranean Archaeological Trust

The British Academy (Overseas Conference Grant)

The Robert Kiln Charitable Trust

The project also received private sponsorship. 




Department of Classics and Archaeology

University of Nottingham
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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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