During the General Assembly of November 2019 of the Union Académique Internationale in Paris, the Brepols Prize was awarded to Ioannis Chalazonitis (F.R.S-FNRS – Université libre de Bruxelles) for his project "Legacy of the Riverland Heroes: Elite Graves and their Significance as a Focus of Social Cohesion in Archaic Communities of the Strymon River Plain".
Project: My project focuses on the study of Archaic (7th- and 6th-century BC) funerary practices on the Strymon river plain, in modern-day eastern Macedonia. I seek to determine the extent and manner in which ‘elite’ identities and ‘heroic’ ideologies were made manifest in burial sites of the region. My project also explores how the expression of this ideology in relation to the ancestral dead may have contributed to the forming of a collective identity in Greek and Thracian communities. Funerary contexts will be studied along three main axes. The first step will involve GIS analysis: Archaic cemeteries of the Strymon river plain will be examined in the context of their environment and landscape, as visible or discreet landmarks, with emphasis placed on their spatial relation to nearby settlements and communities. Secondly, individual graves will be approached as distinct assemblages, with priority given to establishing a typological reference for grave goods, identifying potential indicators of an ‘elite’ / ‘heroic’ ideology (e.g. weaponry, high-quality imports) and determining whether standardised ‘sets’ comprising specific types of grave goods are regularly encountered. This stage of the study will focus on archaeological reports from Archaic cemetery sites and on two (as yet unpublished) case studies: the ‘flat’ cemetery of ancient Tragilos and the tumulus of Mesolakkia. A third step will examine funerary space as a place of ritual, collective activity. Evidence of subsequent activity in or near Archaic burial sites will be reviewed and compared with confirmed cases of collective ancestral worship in the wider Aegean region. The final narrative of the project, addressing the main research questions and contextualising the funerary practices of the Strymon river plain in relation to the developing ‘elite’ political ideologies of the Archaic Greek world, will be formed throughout the course of the project, as a synthesis of my observations and conclusions.