CYCLADIC SOCIETY

Social hierarchy

Although the absence of written sources makes it difficult to detect social stratification in the Cyclades during the third millennium BC, settlement and cemetery layout provides valuable insights into the period’s social organization

Social Stratification in the Cyclades

Although the absence of written sources makes it difficult to detect social stratification in the Cyclades during the third millennium BC, settlement and cemetery layout provides valuable insights into the period’s social organization. The careful construction of certain tombs, their location within the cemeteries, and the grave goods they contained all provide evidence for social stratification. 

The two diadems from Syros and Amorgos were undoubtedly power emblems, which may indicate the existence of power. Prestige objects, such as jewellery, objects made of precious metals, or the rare silver-plated bronze dagger, suggest the existence of a higher social class. Lastly, carved seals provide evidence both for a well-organized financial exchange system and for the existence of persons with authority. The simple four-legged stools and elaborate thrones associated with seated figurines are valuable indications of social hierarchy within the household or community.

Towards the end of the Early Cycladic period, when unrest spread throughout the Aegean, a new type of male figurine appeared, one bearing a baldric and, occasionally, an incised dagger. Identified as a hunter or warrior, this figurine type may reflect the existence of actual warriors during this period of strife. Either way, its features indicate a different status from that of other Early Cycladic figurines.

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