Session: #346

Theme & Session Format

6. Material culture studies and societies
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Mortality, Materiality, and Meaning – Employing Archaeological Material Science for the Reconstruction of Funerary and Ritual Practices
Developing analytical methods, from microscopic analysis and molecular-based approaches, organic residues, ancient DNA to chemical structures and isotope ratios, allow us to study mortuary practices in a more detailed and inclusive way. As an intentional and direct deposition, the material evidence produced by treatments of the human body after death, and the rituals that surround them, hold a great investigative potential, reflecting the social context, identity and dietary habits of the living, as well as their relationships towards death and afterlife. Furthermore, specific burial conditions can offer a better preservation to more sensitive materials like those of organic nature that are more susceptible to decay and biological oxidation, including the body itself, food and beverages, textiles, raw and construction materials, natural products, and manufactured substances, among others. However, if those remains are not detectable by the naked eye, valuable information could be overlooked and excluded from the interpretation of burial practices. That is why synergetic research, including aspects of archaeological material science, is beneficial for the integral understanding of funerary rituals through time. Examining the materiality of burials on a microscopic and atomic level enables the exploration of a wide spectrum of subjects central to mortuary archaeology allowing a more subtle reconstruction of all the processes involved in dealing with death. This session welcomes researchers, regardless of the study region or chronology, to share the methods and results of their interdisciplinary projects focused on material remains from funerary spaces. Therefore, studies involving advanced techniques for the analysis and reconstruction of funerary and ritual behaviour are encouraged.
archaeology of death, reconstruction of diet, ritual practices, interdisciplinary research, archeological material science
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Main organiser:
Ana Fundurulic (Italy) 1,2
Rebecca MacRoberts (Portugal) 2
1. Sapienza University of Rome
2. University of Évora, HERCULES Laboratory