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‘Manly hearted’ Mycenaeans (?): challenging preconceptions of warrior ideology in Mycenae’s Grave Circle B
(Journal of Greek Archaeology Volume 1 2016) by Kristin E. Leith. Pages 45-72.ISBN JGAVOL12016LEITH.

Some Mycenaean archaeologists see elite Mycenaean culture as a social hierarchy in which gender ideology and roles are articulated through strictly segregated male and female social domains, the long-standing consensus being that males were hierarchically ranked over females. This social division is predicated upon archaeologists’ preconceptions concerning the appropriate assignation of certain types of material culture to male and female burials: weapons are seen as the material signature of the active elite warrior male, while adornment and luxury goods are seen as the attribute of the passive elite female. The use of this androcentric, sometimes warrior-centric, model to explain Mycenaean culture can be traced to the discovery of the Shaft Graves, which initially appeared to provide historical testament to the existence of the iconic male warrior culture described in Homer’s Iliad. Since then, a large body of scholarship has been devoted to explaining the ideologies of male status and prestige. Yet, the variety of burial assemblages in the Shaft Graves is striking, and the possible provision of a warrior kit with Burial 58 Myc, a rich female burial from Grave Circle B, raises questions concerning the expression of elite statuses during this crucial transition period - a period that saw the emergence of a new kind of hierarchy. It also raises specific questions concerning the nature of elite Mycenaean warrior ideology and its ascribed location within a defined male social domain. By analysing weaponry distribution and inclusion practices within the highly elite context of the Shaft Graves (active 1700-1450 BC), this paper highlights the inventive nature of elite early Mycenaean burial practice and also explores the possible ‘anomaly’ of a female warrior burial. It argues that the expression of elite Mycenaean warrior ideology was more fluid and inclusive than has been previously assumed, and that a model of gendered domaining is not only limiting, but obscures the creative, ‘work-in-progress’ approach to male and female distinction and differentiation in the Shaft Graves.

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