Institute of Archaeology


Flora Michelaki

Flora Michelaki

Mortuary architecture, depositional behaviour and social change in the tholos cemeteries of south-central Crete, 3000-1700 BC.


Email: f.michelaki@ucl.ac.uk
Section: World Archaeology

  • Todd Whitelaw

Mortuary architecture, depositional behaviour and social change in the tholos cemeteries of south-central Crete, 3000-1700 BC.

The bulk of the evidence for the Pre- and early Protopalatial societies of Crete comes from cemetery sites, and particularly from the monumental round (tholos) tombs of south-central Crete, largely excavated early in the 20th century, or salvaged after extensive looting, from the 1950s to 1980s. The tombs, often occurring in pairs and within more complex cemeteries (including rectangular buildings, extra-mural burials, and enclosed and paved areas), have been particularly intensively investigated in the western Mesara plain and the Asterousia mountains immediately to the south.

For over a millennium, this was the type of tomb principally used for burial throughout this region, only rarely occurring elsewhere on the island. Along with localised patterns in artefacts styles, increasingly recognised, this mortuary tradition serves to define a common cultural area, which can be analysed as a coherent microcosm, providing a detailed perspective on social and political transformations during the period of the development of the first complex societies in Crete, represented by the palace-centred states of the Middle Bronze Age.

The aim of my research is to examine their architectural and depositional complexity of the cemeteries in south-central Crete during the Prepalatial and Protopalatial periods and to explore what they can tell us about broader social behaviour, its variations between communities and transformations through time.

My research focuses on the detailed data available from a selection of published, unpublished and old, re-examined tholos cemeteries which is analysed in terms of their material culture and the use of their architectural space within their precincts through their history of use by aiming to understand how each cemetery was used, and how those patterns of use changed over its life, and to what degree the patterns of development at individual cemeteries are distinct, represent local sub-regional patterns, or can be recognised as regional phenomena.

Additionally, the scope is to define what activities and rituals have been conducted by their users and what these can tell us about broader social changes among communities through time and their perceptions of death, particularly exploring changing emphases on individual, the burying group and the community.


  • Costopoulos Foundation
  • British School at Athens. Vrowny Hankey Memorial Fund for Aegean Studies


    • BSc, Archaeology, University of Cardiff, 1999
    • MA, Archaeology and Prehistory, University of Sheffield, 2000

    Campbell-Green, T. & Michelaki, F. (2012). Cemetery, Ceramics and Space: Food Consumption and Ritual at the Early Bronze Age Tholos Cemetery of Moni Odigitria, South Central Crete, in Collard, D., Morris, J., Perego, E. & Tamorri, V. (eds.), Food and Drink in Archaeology 3. University of Nottingham Postgraduate Conference 2009. Prospects Books.

    Michelaki, F., Campbell-Green, T. & Branigan, K. (2011). Pottery Usage in the Prepalatial cemetery at Moni Odigitria. Proceedings of 10th International Cretological Congress (Chania 2006), A2. Chania: Literary Society "Chryssostomos" - Typocreta, 571-82.

    Michelaki, F. & Vasilakis, A. (2010) Jewelry and Other Small Finds, in Vasilakis, A. & Branigan, K. (eds.), Moni Odigitria. A Prepalatial Cemetery and Its Environs in the Asterousia, Southern Crete. INSTAP Academic Press, 187-99.

    Conference papers

    October 2012 - 11th International Cretological Congress (Rethymnon, Crete): "Mortuary architecture and depositional behaviour in the tholos cemeteries of south-central Crete, 3000-1700 BC: the case of Kephali Odigitrias at Skaniari Lakkos".

    April 2009 - Food & Drink On Archaeology (Nottingham University - Postgraduate Conference): "Cemetery, ceramics and space: food consumption and ritual at the Early Bronze Age tholos cemetery of Moni Odigitria, South Central Crete, Greece". Joint paper with Dr. T. Campbell-Green.

    October 2006 - 10th International Cretological Congress (Chania, Crete): "Pottery Usage in the Tholos Cemetery at Moni Odigitria". Joint paper with Dr. T. Campbell-Green.