Welcome to the Grave Reopening Research (GRR) website

GRR is a network of archaeologists who investigate grave disturbance. Current members are Edeltraud Aspöck, Alison Klevnäs, Martine van Haperen, Astrid Noterman, and Stephanie Zintl. We share an interest in grave disturbance in the provinces of early medieval Europe, but also work on grave robbery, reopening, and related practices in other periods and places. GRR is a platform for joint publications, projects, and events. We use this website to highlight our upcoming presentations and publications.

Please contact us if you have a question about archaeological reopening. We’re particularly keen to hear about new excavations of early medieval robbed burials – please do get in touch if you find evidence that looks like ancient reopening.

See below for our latest news.

New publication : Ritualiser, gérer, piller. Rencontre autour des réouvertures de tombes et de la manipulation des ossements

Finally, here is the publication of the proceedings of the 9th Meeting of the Gaaf!
Remember, in May 2017, Astrid Noterman and Mathilde Cervel organised the first conference held in France on the topic of grave reopening. During 3 days, archaeologists, physical anthropologists, historians and ethnologists shared their questions, methods and approaches to the issue of grave reopening from the prehistoric period to the present day.

The publication is organized around three themes (grave robbery, management of burial space, and cult practices) and aims to bring together some thirty contributions from these days. It opens the discussion around various practices whose archaeological manifestation is identical: the manipulation of the deceased. What field methodology is applied to these structures? What can we learn from these changes in the societies of the past? What motivations drive the living to reintervene in the graves of their loved ones? These are all questions that French and foreign specialists are asking in this new Gaaf volume.

The book is available here : https://www.gaaf-asso.fr/publication/ritualiser-gerer-piller-rencontre-autour-des-reouvertures-de-tombes-et-de-la-manipulation-des-ossements/ and here: https://www.chauvigny-patrimoine.fr/Editions/fiche_memoires.php?sku=MEM052

Bonne lecture !

Table of Contents

IntroductionRequiem aeternam dona eis… Quelques remarques introductives autour de l’ouverture des tombes et la manipulation des corps – Cécile Treffort

1re partie – Le pillage des sépultures

  1. Le pillage des nécropoles à travers le temps en Champagne-Ardenne – Stéphanie Desbrosse-Degobertière, Cécile Paresys
  2. Pillages contemporains des inhumations ou fouilles anciennes ? L’exemple d’un site laténien à Witry-lès-Reims (Marne) – Natacha Crépeau, Mélody Félix-Sanchez
  3. Réouvertures de tombes et pillages à La Tène ancienne ? Le site de Pierre-de-Bresse “L’Aubépin” (Saône-et-Loire) – Carole Fossurier, Valérie Taillandier, Sébastien Chevrier
  4. Réouvertures de sépultures et pillages : l’exemple de la nécropole tardo-antique de Saint-Martin-le-Bas à Gruissan (Aude) – Mireille Cobos, Marie Perrin, Guillaume Duperron
  5. Pilleurs de tombes sur la colline du “Marxberg” : études de cas au sein de la nécropole de l’Antiquité tardive de Pons Saravi (Sarrebourg, Moselle, France) – Christèle Baillif-Ducros, Nicolas Meyer, Jimmy Coster, Yannick Milerski
  6. La perturbation des sépultures au haut Moyen Âge : discussion et collaboration européenne – Astrid A. Noterman, Edeltraud Aspöck, Alison Klevnäs, Martine van Haperen, Stephanie Zintl
  7. Lésions osseuses traumatiques : analyse comparative entre une étude expérimentale sur des os de porc et 19 individus de l’ensemble funéraire altomédiéval d’Ensisheim-Réguisheimerfeld (Haut-Rhin) – Julia Kientz, Tania Delabarde, Amélie Pélissier
  8. Les réouvertures de tombes de la nécropole du haut Moyen Âge de Vitry-la-Ville (Marne) : approches, méthodologies et résultats – Benjamin Tixier, Astrid A. Noterman avec la collaboration d’Alexis Corrochano, Gwenaëlle Grange
  9. Le pillage de sépultures sur le site “Michelet” à Lisieux (Calvados, IVe-IXe siècle). Essai de synthèse et révision des données – Julia Pacory, Astrid A. Noterman, Cécile Chapelain de Seréville-Niel, Didier Paillard
  10. La difficulté de dater le pillage de sépultures : l’exemple de la petite nécropole mérovingienne de Bergnicourt (Ardennes)- Nadège Robin, Soazic Bezault
  11. Au contact des morts : les actes post-funéraires du site de Monsidun, à L’Houmeau (Charente-Maritime) – Fabrice Leroy
  12. Des morts qui marchent : un témoignage archéologique des croyances médiévales (Saint-Georges-de-Montaigu, Vendée, XIe-XIIe siècle) – Véronique Gallien, Ludovic Schmitt, Yves Darton
  13. Les nécropoles de la Croix-Blandin (Marne) : pillages à l’époque contemporaine et manipulations d’ossements durant La Tène ancienne – Guillaume Seguin
  14. Du pillage au saccage : l’expertise archéologique d’urgence de la chapelle Saint-Georges de Céreste (Alpes de Haute-Provence) – Élise Henrion, Mathieu Vivas, David Lavergne, Xavier Margarit

2e partie – La gestion de l’espace funéraire

  1. Attente ou catastrophe ? Analyse d’une sépulture collective de la fin du Néolithique – Mélie Le Roy, Stéphane Rottier, Camille de Becdelièvre, Sandrine Thiol
  2. Réinvestissement et pillage d’une tombe monumentale étrusque : Grotte Scalina (Viterbe) – Paola Catalano, Giordana Amicucci, Vincent Jolivet, Edwige Lovergne
  3. Que reste-t-il de la nécropole païenne au-dessus de la catacombe chrétienne des Saints Pierre-et-Marcellin à Rome ? Le témoignage des inscriptions funéraires conservées dans cette catacombe au troisième mille de la Via Labicana – Edoardo Radaelli, Ilaria Gabrielli
  4. Réouvertures de tombes dans la nécropole antique de Saint- Vulbas (Ain) – Gwenaëlle Grange, Sabrina Charbouillot, Tony Silvino
  5. La mort en arpentage ou la délimitation des domaines et territoires antiques par l’instrumentalisation de la tombe : le cas de Monsidun à L’Houmeau (Charente-Maritime), approche préliminaire – Fabrice Leroy
  6. Réouvertures, superpositions, réductions… Manipulations dans la nécropole alto-médiévale (Ve-IXe siècles ap. J.-C.) de Vitry-sur-Orne “Vallange” (Moselle) : quel geste pour quelle nécessité ? – Amandine Mauduit
  7. Caveaux funéraires d’église : entre mémoire et oubli, présentation de cas en région Centre-Val de Loire (Tours, Blois, Épernon et Véretz) – Viviane Aubourg, Philippe Blanchard, Jean-Philippe Chimier, Didier Josset
  8. La mission française de recherche des corps de déportés en Allemagne, 1945-1960. L’exemple du camp de Gandersheim (Allemagne) – Jean-Marc Dreyfus
  9. Destruction de fosses clandestines et déplacement des morts à la fin de la dictature militaire uruguayenne (1983-1985) – José López Mazz

3e partie – Les pratiques cultuelles

  1. Un cas peu ordinaire de manipulation de squelette médiéval au sein d’un monument néolithique à Quiberon “Roch Priol” (Morbihan) – Olivier Agogué, Astrid Suaud-Préault
  2. Prélèvement et introduction d’ossements dans des sépultures de l’âge du Bronze à Riom, ZA de Layat
  3. (Puy-de-Dôme) – Ivy Thomson, Damien Martinez
  4. Homme Vs animal : une même intention cultuelle dans les silos du second âge du Fer du Bassin parisien ? – Valérie Delattre avec la collaboration de Ginette Auxiette
  5. Pratiques funéraires au second âge du Fer et fosses siloïformes : la question des dépôts primaires et secondaires du site B de “la Haute-Voie”, à Loisy-sur-Marne (Marne) – Élodie Wermuth, Régis Issenmann
  6. Les fragments d’éternité. La manipulation d’ossements dans le judaïsme et le christianisme, entre le pragmatisme, la sacralité et le châtiment – Piotr Kuberski
  7. L’in-quiétude des morts : typologie des pratiques et enjeux sociaux-culturels des manipulations “post-rituelles” des vestiges funéraires – Aurélien Baroiller

Conclusion – Enluminures, dessins, restitutions. Quelles images pour la réouverture des sépultures et la manipulation des ossements ? – Astrid A. Noterman, Mathilde Cervel

 

New book! Grave disturbances: the archaeology of post-depositional interactions with the dead. Oxbow 2020.

We’re delighted to announce the publication of a new book on reopening of burials, edited by Edeltraud Aspöck, Alison Klevnäs and Nils Müller-Scheeßel. It starts with a comprehensive introduction to the topic and presents eleven case studies of archaeological approaches to disturbed burials in different parts of the world. The chapter by Stephanie Zintl covers recent work on reopening in early medieval Europe. It’s available to pre-order from Oxbow: https://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/grave-disturbances.html

Description
Archaeologists excavating burials often find that they are not the first to disturb the remains of the dead. Graves from many periods frequently show signs that others have been digging and have moved or taken away parts of the original funerary assemblage. Displaced bones and artefacts, traces of pits, and damage to tombs or coffins can all provide clues about post-burial activities. The last two decades have seen a rapid rise in interest in the study of post-depositional practices in graves, which has now developed into a new subfield within mortuary archaeology. This follows a long tradition of neglect, with disturbed graves previously regarded as interesting only to the degree they revealed evidence of the original funerary deposit. This book explores past human interactions with mortuary deposits, delving into the different ways graves and human remains were approached by people in the past and the reasons that led to such encounters. The primary focus of the volume is on cases of unexpected interference with individual graves soon after burial: re-encounters with human remains not anticipated by those who performed the funerary rites and constructed the tombs. However, a first step is always to distinguish these from natural and accidental processes, and methodological approaches are a major theme of discussion. Interactions with the remains of the dead are explored in eleven chapters ranging from the New Kingdom of Egypt to Viking Age Norway and from Bronze Age Slovakia to the ancient Maya. Each discusses cases of re-entries into graves, including desecration, tomb re-use, destruction of grave contents, as well as the removal of artefacts and human remains for reasons from material gain to commemoration, symbolic appropriation, ancestral rites, political chicanery, and retrieval of relics. The introduction presents many of the methodological issues which recur throughout the contributions, as this is a developing area with new approaches being applied to analyze post-depositional processes in graves.

Table of Contents
1. The archaeology of post-depositional interactions with the dead. An introduction – Edeltraud Aspöck, Alison Klevnäs and Nils Müller-Scheeßel

2. Unruly bones and efficacious stones. Materialities of death in Early Christian post-burial interactions in central eastern Sweden – Fredrik Fahlander

3. Grave disturbance in early medieval Poland – Leszek Gardeła

4. Disturbed relatives. Post-burial practices among the Nomadic Khazars of the Lower Volga (7th-8th centuries CE) – Irina Shingiray

5. Things we knew about grave robbery: reassessing ideas on how and why graves were reopened in the Merovingian period – Stephanie Zintl

6. Disturbance of early medieval graves in southwestern Gaul. Taphonomy, burial reopening and the reuse of graves – Yves Gleize

7. What happened at Langeid? Understanding reopened graves after time has taken its toll – Cecilia Wenn

8. Iron Age ancestral bonds. Consecutive burials and manipulated graves in the Dürrnberg cemeteries (Austria) – Holger Wendling

9. Disturbing the dead. Reopening of stone cists in the Macedonian Gevgelija and Valandovo plains – Daniela Heilmann

10. In search of the modus operandi. Reopenings of Early Bronze Age burials at Fidvár near Vráble, southwest Slovakia –
Nils Müller-Scheeßel, Jozef Bátora, Julia Gresky, Samantha Reiter, Kerstin Stucky and Knut Rassmann

11. Disturbance of graves among the ancient Maya – Estella Weiss-Krejci

12. ‘It was found that the thieves had violated them all’. Grave disturbance in Late New Kingdom Thebes – David A. Aston

GIS mapping

This week the project ‘Interacting with the dead: belief and conflict in early medieval Europe’ based at Stockholm University is being visited by Emma Brownlee from the University of Cambridge, who’s helping us get started with GIS mapping. She’s giving us some training in the use of up to date mapping software, helping us set up the maps we need, and answering our many questions about the types of analysis which are possible and how best to organize our data to utilize them. Not the best time of year to see Stockholm  – as this picture shows, it’s very, very dark on a November afternoon! Best to stay in indoors and try out some hot spot analyses.

New publication on reopening in early medieval Germany

At last – Stephanie Zintl’s PhD thesis has been published! The two volumes contain an overview on the history of research, methods and interpretations regarding reopened graves of the Merovingian period and an extensive case study based on several cemeteries in the region of Regensburg, Bavaria. The main observations and conclusions can be found here. Three of the cemeteries are published in the second volume.

Zintl, S. (2019). Frühmittelalterliche Grabräuber? Wiedergeöffnete Gräber der Merowingerzeit. Regensburger Studien 24 (hrsg. vom Stadtarchiv Regensburg) Regensburg 2019. (2 volumes)

Dialogues with the dead in Vikings

A new paper by Professor Howard Williams from the University of Chester and GRR member Alison Klevnäs brings mortuary archaeology to meet popular TV, discussing encounters with the remains of the dead seen in the History Channel’s Viking series.

(Williams, H. & Klevnäs, A. 2019. Dialogues with the Dead in Vikings. In Vikings and the Vikings: The Norse World(s) of the History Channel Series, edited by P. Hardwick & K. Lister. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland.)