Grave reopening and the new Handbook of Archaeothanatology

Recently published in the Routledge Handbook of Archaeothanatology, a paper written by Edeltraud Aspöck, Astrid A. Noterman et Karina Gerdau-Radonić on the use of archaeothanatology methodology in the study of ancient reopened and robbed graves in western Europe and present-day Peru.

The contribution is divided into 3 chapters. This first one introduces the taphonomic characteristics of reopened individual inhumations typically found in two archaeological periods with large-scale grave reopening for object removal: the central European Early Bronze Age and the European Early Medieval periods. Of particular interest in this chapter is the micro-archaeological study of a reopened Early Bronze Age inhumation grave from Austria, with the archaeothanatological approach extended to the disturbed parts of the skeletons to achieve a detailed perspective of the treatment of the human remains when the grave was reopened. The second chapter presents examples from the archaeothanatological analysis of graves from early medieval cemeteries from eastern France and shows how taphonomic observations provide information on the relative timing of an intrusion, the type of artefacts removed and on the funerary practices of the period. Finally, the analysis of a disturbed deposit from Central Peru (Pachacamac, Lima) in a final chapter highlights the differences between a destructive looting episode and ritualistic grave reopenings.

Aspöck E., Gerdau-Radonić K. and Noterman A. A. (2022) – ‘ Reopening graves for THE removal of objects and bones: cultural practices and looting’, in Knüsel C. J. & Schotsmans E. M. J. (Eds), The Routledge Handbook of Archaeothanatology. Bioarchaeology of Mortuary Behaviour, Routledge, London.

New publication on reopening evidence in northern France

After Stephanie Zintl’s PHD thesis, it is now Astrid Noterman’s turn to have her doctoral work published!
The publication is in French, but those who do not master the language of Molière will also be able to access the contents of the book as each chapter is supplemented by a summary in English.

The reopening of graves during the Early Middle Ages has long been recognised by archaeologists and historians across Western Europe. Traditionally described as ‘robbing’, practices associated with the removal of selected artefacts and manipulations of human remains are documented in a large number of cemeteries in northern France during the Merovingian period (6th-8th centuries CE). Based on data from more than 40 cemeteries and applying archaeothanatological analysis, this study explores the archaeological evidence for the reopening, at the levels both of the burial structure and of its contents (container, artefacts, skeletal parts). The chronology, motives and authors of the post-depositional intrusions are discussed and a new reading is offered of widespread customs shown to be part of the life course of early medieval cemeteries.

Noterman, A. A. (2021). Approche archéologique des réouvertures de sépultures mérovingiennes dans le nord de la France (VIe-VIIIe siècle), Oxford, BAR Publishing, International Series.