Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Title

The Archaeology of Mortuary Ritual as Rite of Passage in Prehistoric Europe

Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in Anthropology

First Advisor

Matthew L. Murray

Second Advisor

Jay Johnson

Third Advisor

Kate Centellas

Abstract

This thesis examines the ways in which mortuary ritual functioned as a rite of passage at three sites in prehistoric Europe: Wor Barrow on Cranborne Chase, Tumulus 17 in the Speckhau Mound Group at the Heuneburg, and the Hochdorf tomb in southwestern Germany. The sites were selected with diversity among the dimensions of mortuary practice, including the presence and types of grave goods, the structure of the grave, and the treatment of the corpse, as a priority. By examining the ways in which cemeteries functioned as spaces of personal and group separation and transformation, I seek to clarify the role that death played in these societies as a precursor to transformation both of the deceased individual and of the living who remain. I have developed a set of archaeological correlates of each of the phases of the rite of passage of death, and this paper both elucidates and evaluates the set of correlates. Examining mortuary contexts with the understanding that mortuary ritual is a rite of passage both for the deceased and for the living rather than ceremonies to mark the cessation of life leads to a more thorough understanding of the data.

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