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Patterns of Irregular Burials in Western Europe (1st-5th Century A.D.).

Milella M, Mariotti V, Belcastro MG, Knüsel CJ - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: Different types of IB (especially prone depositions and depositions with the cephalic extremity displaced) present a series of characteristics and associations between features that permit a more detailed conceptualization of these occurrences from a socio-cultural perspective that aids to elucidate their funerary meaning.Altogether, the present work stresses the variability of IB, and the need to contextualize them in a proper archaeological and historical context.It contributes to the discussion of IB by providing a specific geographic and chronological frame of reference that supports a series of hypotheses about the cultural processes possibly underlying their occurrence.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Anthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.

ABSTRACT

Background: Irregular burials (IB--burials showing features that contrast with the majority of others in their geographic and chronological context) have been the focus of archaeological study because of their relative rarity and enigmatic appearance. Interpretations of IB often refer to supposed fear of the dead or to social processes taking place in time-specific contexts. However, a comprehensive and quantitative analysis of IB for various geographical contexts is still lacking, a fact that hampers any discussion of these burials on a larger scale.

Methods: Here, we collected a bibliographic dataset of 375 IB from both Britain and Continental Europe, altogether spanning a time period from the 1st to the 5th century AD. Each burial has been coded according to ten dichotomous variables, further analyzed by means of chi-squared tests on absolute frequencies, non-metric multidimensional scaling, and cluster analysis.

Results: Even acknowledging the limits of this study, and in particular the bias represented by the available literature, our results point to interesting patterns. Geographically, IB show a contrast between Britain and Continental Europe, possibly related to historical processes specific to these regions. Different types of IB (especially prone depositions and depositions with the cephalic extremity displaced) present a series of characteristics and associations between features that permit a more detailed conceptualization of these occurrences from a socio-cultural perspective that aids to elucidate their funerary meaning.

Conclusions and significance: Altogether, the present work stresses the variability of IB, and the need to contextualize them in a proper archaeological and historical context. It contributes to the discussion of IB by providing a specific geographic and chronological frame of reference that supports a series of hypotheses about the cultural processes possibly underlying their occurrence.

No MeSH data available.


Geographical distribution of the prone burials and burials with the cephalic extremity displaced.Each dot represents a site. Grey and black dots indicate, respectively, prone burials and burials with the cephalic extremity displaced. Note the wide distribution of prone burials in both Continental Europe and Britain, and the cluster of burials with the cephalic extremity displaced in the latter.
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pone.0130616.g001: Geographical distribution of the prone burials and burials with the cephalic extremity displaced.Each dot represents a site. Grey and black dots indicate, respectively, prone burials and burials with the cephalic extremity displaced. Note the wide distribution of prone burials in both Continental Europe and Britain, and the cluster of burials with the cephalic extremity displaced in the latter.

Mentions: Each burial was scored according to ten variables (Table 1). Variables were selected in order to summarize the irregular features of each case as well as to maximize the comparability between cases while minimizing the bias introduced by the lax or unclear terminology employed in older publications. Accordingly, information on sex, age-at-death and pathological conditions was not included due to an overall lack of pertinent data or due to dubious attributions. Only the presence of subadults, which can be confidently assessed even from older publication, was considered. The same rationale led to the exclusion of features often interpreted in the context of IB (e.g. skeletons covered by stones, presence of amulets [4,8] or position of the grave with respect to the burial area [4]). The exclusion of cases for which variables were not reported led to a reduction of the initial sample to 375 inhumations (Fig 1 and S1 Table).


Patterns of Irregular Burials in Western Europe (1st-5th Century A.D.).

Milella M, Mariotti V, Belcastro MG, Knüsel CJ - PLoS ONE (2015)

Geographical distribution of the prone burials and burials with the cephalic extremity displaced.Each dot represents a site. Grey and black dots indicate, respectively, prone burials and burials with the cephalic extremity displaced. Note the wide distribution of prone burials in both Continental Europe and Britain, and the cluster of burials with the cephalic extremity displaced in the latter.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4482629&req=5

pone.0130616.g001: Geographical distribution of the prone burials and burials with the cephalic extremity displaced.Each dot represents a site. Grey and black dots indicate, respectively, prone burials and burials with the cephalic extremity displaced. Note the wide distribution of prone burials in both Continental Europe and Britain, and the cluster of burials with the cephalic extremity displaced in the latter.
Mentions: Each burial was scored according to ten variables (Table 1). Variables were selected in order to summarize the irregular features of each case as well as to maximize the comparability between cases while minimizing the bias introduced by the lax or unclear terminology employed in older publications. Accordingly, information on sex, age-at-death and pathological conditions was not included due to an overall lack of pertinent data or due to dubious attributions. Only the presence of subadults, which can be confidently assessed even from older publication, was considered. The same rationale led to the exclusion of features often interpreted in the context of IB (e.g. skeletons covered by stones, presence of amulets [4,8] or position of the grave with respect to the burial area [4]). The exclusion of cases for which variables were not reported led to a reduction of the initial sample to 375 inhumations (Fig 1 and S1 Table).

Bottom Line: Different types of IB (especially prone depositions and depositions with the cephalic extremity displaced) present a series of characteristics and associations between features that permit a more detailed conceptualization of these occurrences from a socio-cultural perspective that aids to elucidate their funerary meaning.Altogether, the present work stresses the variability of IB, and the need to contextualize them in a proper archaeological and historical context.It contributes to the discussion of IB by providing a specific geographic and chronological frame of reference that supports a series of hypotheses about the cultural processes possibly underlying their occurrence.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Anthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.

ABSTRACT

Background: Irregular burials (IB--burials showing features that contrast with the majority of others in their geographic and chronological context) have been the focus of archaeological study because of their relative rarity and enigmatic appearance. Interpretations of IB often refer to supposed fear of the dead or to social processes taking place in time-specific contexts. However, a comprehensive and quantitative analysis of IB for various geographical contexts is still lacking, a fact that hampers any discussion of these burials on a larger scale.

Methods: Here, we collected a bibliographic dataset of 375 IB from both Britain and Continental Europe, altogether spanning a time period from the 1st to the 5th century AD. Each burial has been coded according to ten dichotomous variables, further analyzed by means of chi-squared tests on absolute frequencies, non-metric multidimensional scaling, and cluster analysis.

Results: Even acknowledging the limits of this study, and in particular the bias represented by the available literature, our results point to interesting patterns. Geographically, IB show a contrast between Britain and Continental Europe, possibly related to historical processes specific to these regions. Different types of IB (especially prone depositions and depositions with the cephalic extremity displaced) present a series of characteristics and associations between features that permit a more detailed conceptualization of these occurrences from a socio-cultural perspective that aids to elucidate their funerary meaning.

Conclusions and significance: Altogether, the present work stresses the variability of IB, and the need to contextualize them in a proper archaeological and historical context. It contributes to the discussion of IB by providing a specific geographic and chronological frame of reference that supports a series of hypotheses about the cultural processes possibly underlying their occurrence.

No MeSH data available.