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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.


Britain.a) Non-metric multi-dimensional scaling of burial similarities. Note the association of grave furnishing (grave goods and coffins) with prone burials and burials with the cephalic extremity displaced. b) Cluster analysis of burial features.
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pone.0130616.g002: Britain.a) Non-metric multi-dimensional scaling of burial similarities. Note the association of grave furnishing (grave goods and coffins) with prone burials and burials with the cephalic extremity displaced. b) Cluster analysis of burial features.

Mentions: Of the 375 IB studied in this work, 71% (266) are from Britain and 29% (109) from Continental Europe. Our dataset is strongly biased toward prone burials and burials with the cephalic extremity displaced (Table 2). Accordingly, we decided to focus on these features in order to explore their geographical distribution. Prone burials show a wide distribution that covers the entire geographical area examined, while burials with the cephalic extremity displaced are almost always found in southern Britain, with only few examples from Continental Europe (Fig 1). Other differences between Britain and Continental Europe are illustrated by the chi-squared test on single variables (Table 2). Continental Europe presents a significantly higher frequency of prone burials, presence of grave goods, presence of a coffin, and presence of nails. On the other hand, Britain is characterized by a significantly higher frequency of displacement of the cephalic extremity. As far as the association between variables is concerned, Continental Europe shows significantly higher associations between prone burials and the presence of grave goods and coffins, respectively (Table 2), while Britain shows significantly higher frequencies of prone burials with the cephalic extremity displaced and of the latter with grave goods, coffins, and footwear. NMDS demonstrates specific trends in both Britain and Continental Europe. In Britain (Fig 2A), the most frequent types of features occupy the lower part of the center of the plot, and exhibit a position relative to each other consistent with their pattern of co-occurrence. Accordingly, prone burials and displacement of cephalic extremity are not isolated from each other, a pattern reflecting their partial association in Britain. Presence of grave goods, presence of coffins, and footwear are associated with both cephalic extremity displacement and prone burials in Britain.


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

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

Britain.a) Non-metric multi-dimensional scaling of burial similarities. Note the association of grave furnishing (grave goods and coffins) with prone burials and burials with the cephalic extremity displaced. b) Cluster analysis of burial features.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone.0130616.g002: Britain.a) Non-metric multi-dimensional scaling of burial similarities. Note the association of grave furnishing (grave goods and coffins) with prone burials and burials with the cephalic extremity displaced. b) Cluster analysis of burial features.
Mentions: Of the 375 IB studied in this work, 71% (266) are from Britain and 29% (109) from Continental Europe. Our dataset is strongly biased toward prone burials and burials with the cephalic extremity displaced (Table 2). Accordingly, we decided to focus on these features in order to explore their geographical distribution. Prone burials show a wide distribution that covers the entire geographical area examined, while burials with the cephalic extremity displaced are almost always found in southern Britain, with only few examples from Continental Europe (Fig 1). Other differences between Britain and Continental Europe are illustrated by the chi-squared test on single variables (Table 2). Continental Europe presents a significantly higher frequency of prone burials, presence of grave goods, presence of a coffin, and presence of nails. On the other hand, Britain is characterized by a significantly higher frequency of displacement of the cephalic extremity. As far as the association between variables is concerned, Continental Europe shows significantly higher associations between prone burials and the presence of grave goods and coffins, respectively (Table 2), while Britain shows significantly higher frequencies of prone burials with the cephalic extremity displaced and of the latter with grave goods, coffins, and footwear. NMDS demonstrates specific trends in both Britain and Continental Europe. In Britain (Fig 2A), the most frequent types of features occupy the lower part of the center of the plot, and exhibit a position relative to each other consistent with their pattern of co-occurrence. Accordingly, prone burials and displacement of cephalic extremity are not isolated from each other, a pattern reflecting their partial association in Britain. Presence of grave goods, presence of coffins, and footwear are associated with both cephalic extremity displacement and prone burials in Britain.

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.