Death and Burial


The archaeology of death and burial is central in our attempts to understand vanished societies. Through the remains of funerary rituals we can learn not only about the attitudes of prehistoric people to death and the afterlife, but also about their way of life, their social organisation and their view of the world. During this course I will review the latest research in this important field, and describes the sometimes controversial interpretations that have led to advances in our understanding of life and death in the distant past.

In search of a comprehensive and international survey, I will draw on case studies from different periods and locations all over the world- the Palaeolithic in Europe and the Near East, for instance, the Mesolithic in northern Europe and the Iron Age in Asia and Europe. I shall also consider evidence from precontact North America, ancient Egypt, Madagascar, and from the Neolithic and Bronze Age in Britain and Europe.

Using archaeology as a basis I hope to reconstruct pictures of ancient and not so ancient funerary ritual and practices, at the same time telling much about the social structures and beliefs of the people under investigation. Also I shall examine the political and ethical controversies surrounding human remains and the problems of reburial, looting and war crimes.