Athenian Cemetery Maps (Arrington)

Field Report: Production of color maps showing an Athenian public cemetery.

Archaeological Research Facility
Stahl Report

Nathan T. Arrington

UC Berkeley
(now Professor at Princeton)

Relief crowning a list of Athenian casualties, 394/3 B.C. <br />Athens, National Archaeological Museum 2744. Photo N.T. Arrington

The maps are reproduced in this article: “Topographic Semantics: The Location of the Athenian Public Cemetery and Its Significance for the Nascent Democracy,” Hesperia 79 (2010), pp. 499-539.

The maps detail the topography of the northwest of ancient Athens, and help establish the location of the Athenian public cemetery. They plot the course of the roads in the city, the walls of the city and shrines, the major landmarks, and sites where public graves and other material relevant to locating the cemetery were found. This material was recovered from a systematic and comprehensive survey of the rescue excavation reports published by the Greek archaeological service. All ancient sites and features were plotted in relation to the modern city of Athens, so that scholars can understand the relation of future work to those discoveries that already have been made. The use of color enabled by the Stahl grant increased the legibility of the maps.

The purpose of the study was to establish the location of the public cemetery and the date when it began to be used. Furthermore, the study sought to understand why this particular location was chosen. This question required a detailed analysis of the topography of the area, the history of use of the region, and the significance(s) that the different spaces held for the Athenians. The article concludes that the cemetery was established ca. 500 B.C. in an area with few earlier burials but rich in religious and civic associations. Moreover, the nascent democracy created a powerful semantic contrast by placing their new cemetery near a region with a long history of ties to the elite.