Pottery from Neolithic Ossuaries I and II from Alepotrypa cave, Diros

Ossuaries I and II from Alepotrypa cave in Diros, Mani, south Peloponnese, have yielded the remains of numerous human burials, accompanied by ceramics. It is in Ossuary I that the earliest pottery in the cave is documented, dating to the end of the 7th millennium BC. It bears features (such as texture, firing, applied knobs and lugs, and profiles) reminiscent of similar attributes attested at other sites of the same period in the mainland.

Ossuary II has yielded the sizeable deposition from large fragments of household pottery to human skulls as well as skeletal remains from the secondary treatment of human burials. The stratigraphy suggests that the bones and crania were placed on a platform where they seem to have been visible, and that offerings can be attributed to them. Some of these skulls and bones were contained within jars. The overall pottery assemblage I have studied includes medium and large, coarse vessels, some decorated with plastic ornament. The findings may indicate deliberate breakage on the site or the deliberate deposition in the funerary ground of broken containers that were no longer in use. To my view the assemblage can be interpreted as an expression of formalized mortuary rituals conducted by the occupants of the time in honor of ancestors. These practices of honor may also entail claims of ownership or history, related to the space of the cave, possibly as part of competition or power dynamics between local communities.


Research project conducted by Dr. G. Papathanasopoulos.