Death as a Process: The Archaeology of the Roman Funeral [Paperback]

J. Pearce (Editor); J. Weekes (Editor)

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ISBN: 9781785703232 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Series: Studies in Funerary Archaeology | Volume: 12 | Year of Publication: 2017 | Language: English 272p, H240 x W170 (mm) b/w

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Death as a Process


The study of funerary practice has become one of the most exciting and rapidly developing areas of Roman archaeology in recent decades. This volume draws on large-scale fieldwork from across Europe, methodological advances and conceptual innovations to explore new insights from analysis of the Roman dead, concerning both the rituals which saw them to their tombs and the communities who buried them. In particular the volume seeks to establish how the ritual sequence, from laying out the dead to the pyre and tomb, and from placing the dead in the earth to the return of the living to commemorate them, may be studied from archaeological evidence. Contributors examine the rites regularly practised by town and country folk from the shores of the Mediterranean to the English Channel, as well as exceptional circumstances, as in the aftermath of the Varian disaster in Augustan Germany.

Case studies span a cross-section of Roman society, from the cosmopolitan merchants of Corinth to salt pan workers at Rome and the rural poor of Britannia and Germania. Some papers have a methodological focus, considering how human skeletal, faunal and plant remains illuminate the dead themselves and death rituals, while others examine how to interpret the stratigraphic signatures of the rituals practised before, around and after burial.

Adapting anthropological models, other papers develop interpretive perspectives on the funerary sequences which can thus be reconstructed and explore the sensory dimensions of burying and commemorating the dead. Through these varied approaches the volume aims to demonstrate and develop the richness of the insights into Roman society and culture which may be won from study of the dead.

Table of Contents

Jake Weekes and John Pearce
Introduction: Death as a process in Roman funerary archaeology
John Pearce
Space, object, and process in the Koutsongila Cemetery at Roman Kenchreai, Greece
Joseph L. Rife and Melissa Morison
Archaeology and funerary cult: stratigraphy of soils in the cemeteries of Cispadana
Jacopo Ortalli
Buried Batavians: mortuary rituals of a rural frontier community
Stijn Heeren and Joris Aarts
Funerary Archaeology at St Dunstan’s Terrace, Canterbury
Jake Weekes
They fought and died – but were covered with earth only years later: “Mass graves” on the ancient battlefield of Kalkriese
Achim Rost and Susanne Wilbers-Rost
Recent work on Romano-British cemeteries
Paul Booth
Funerary complexes from imperial Rome: a new approach to anthropological study using excavation and laboratory data
Paola Catalano, Carla Caldarini, Flavio De Angelis and Walter Pantano
“How did it go?” … putting the process back into cremation
Jacqueline I. McKinley
Animals in funerary practices: sacrifices, offerings and meals at Rome and in the provinces.
Sébastien Lepetz
 (Afterword) Process and polysemy: an appreciation of a cremation burial
Jake Weekes

Reviews & Quotes

"This book is an important contribution to the analysis of Roman funerary rites. It demonstrates the valuable insights that application of scientific techniques can provide, as well as the implications that excavation methods can have for interpretation of the material. It is well edited."
Christina Aamodt
Ancient West & East (27/08/2020)

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