Shortly before 850 B.C. there was a rapid advance on three fronts: in sea communications within the Aegean, in exchanges with the Near East, and, consequently, in the material prosperity of those cities taking the most active part in these exchanges. The most substantial evidence of this progress comes from well over a dozen graves at Athens and Lefkandi, all of which were furnished with a richness and variety not seen anywhere in Greece since the ruin of the Mycenaean palaces. The burials coincide with a brief period of artistic ferment in Athens-perhaps c. 855-830 B.C.-which saw the transition from the Early to the Middle stage of Attic Geometric pottery. Contemporary with these burials, progress of a different sort can be observed in Crete and the Dodecanese; for other regions, where the relative chronology is less clear, the narrative will be resumed in the next chapter.
The earliest of these rich graves is that of a woman, cremated on the north slope of the Areopagus shortly before the end of EG II. Her urn is a magnificent amphora with double-arc handles on the belly (fig. 13b), a type which had often served for Protogeometric female cremations; in Geometric times it appears to have been reserved for ladies of high rank, to judge from the rich offerings found in the same contexts. Perhaps this particular lady's status is more precisely indicated by a truly amazing vessel in the form of a long narrow chest and a lid surmounted by five model granaries in a row (fig. 13a). Its purpose is clearly symbolic rather than practical. Smaller clay chests, with plain lids, had already acquired a connotation of wealth in Protogeometric Athens; and one of these, an Athenian export, had been offered in an exceptionally rich grave at Lefkandi 1 just before 900 B.C. Seen in this light, the Areopagus lady's chest is uniquely ostentatious. Her model granaries, and their number, may possibly be a badge of the pentakosiomedimnoi, the highest social class of early Athens, whose members could produce 500 measures of grain each year from their estates. 2
The lady had been furnished with gifts suitable to her rank, in quantity as in quality. The thirty-four painted vases-all but nine smashed on her pyre-are among the most sophisticated and inventive work of their time. Also from the pyre came fragments of twenty-one handmade incised vessels, and nine other