During the Iron Age, mirrors were frequently deposited in wealthy burials across
all of Temperate Eurasia. Although mirrors had by that time existed for thousands of
years, they experienced an upswing in popularity which coincided with intensified
intercultural links resulting from globalization.
This dissertation is a cross-cultural analysis of mirror burials in Temperate
Eurasia, ca. 700 BC-AD 700, focusing on the questions of what mirrors could
communicate, and to whom, and what characteristics were important in establishing
mirrors as grave goods preferred among many cultures. This analysis brings together
information on disparate areas of mirror use which have previously only been considered
in isolation, discussing mirror use in mortuary contexts as one activity which united these
various regions in spite of local variations.
The mirrors are assessed in terms of their physical and phenomenological
properties, along with their position and orientation in burials, utilizing three scales of
analysis. These are a descriptive sample (I = 129), a series for which detailed
information about mirrors and burials is provided and discussed; a conservative sample (I
= 77), a selection of those sites with the best documentation which were used to calculate
descriptive statistics; and an extended inhumations sample (n = 101), which includes only
the inhumations from the descriptive sample, plus a few additional inhumations for which
only minimal information was available. The extended inhumations sample was used to
calculate descriptive statistics about mirror placement relative to the body of the deceased. Added context and a series of testable hypotheses were derived from an examination of
mirrors in literature, folklore, images, and psychological and behavioral studies.
The results provide evidence for a growing focus on self-examination and
memorialization of selves within the context of increasing consciousness of globalization.
In addition, mirrors provide direct evidence for that globalization, qua networks of
exchange and interaction in late prehistoric Eurasia.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. April 2012. Major: Anthropology. Advisor: Peter S. Wells. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 463 pages, appendices A-C.
Moyer, Alexandra Caroline.
Deep reflection: an archaeological analysis of mirrors in Iron Age Eurasia..
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