Not so new any more, but never posted: my excavation of an early Bronze Age reopened grave in eastern Austria

pl 7a  webseiteAs part of my post-doc project on ‘the microtaphonomy of reopened graves’ (at the OREA Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences) I excavated a reopened grave from the early Bronze Age period (so-called Wieselburg Culture) in eastern Austria to investigate what we can learn about reopened graves if we focus on the evidence of the reopening.

For the excavation and analysis I use a multi-dimensional approach: single-finds recording (collaborating with our research group Quaternary Archaeology), sedimentanalysis, micromorphology, archaeothanatology.

Excavations took about 2 months because – lucky me – the grave was particularly deep and contained two inhumations: a first body was buried in a coffin at the bottom of the grave pit, then the grave was reopened and a second body was placed on top. The photo shows the remains of the bottom burial which was reopened. The boxes are Kubiena tins for micromorphological soil samples. Analysis is still ongoing.

Grave reopening EAA Glasgow 2015 – a follow up by Nils Müller-Scheessel to ‘our session’ in Oslo!

The session by Nils Müller-Scheessel and Matej Ruttkay at EAA Glasgow is a follow up of our 2012 EAA session in Oslo and the focus is on taphonomy – so I am going to present results from my post-doc project – anyone else from the group thinking to attend?

EAA 2014

Edeltraud Aspöck will also visit the EAA 2014 in Istanbul and present a paper in session T06S025 Chasing Death Ways: new methods, techniques and practices in documenting and interpreting the funerary record, organised by Hayley Mickleburgh, Dr. Karina Gerdau Radonic, Rita Peyroteo Stjerna, Mari Tõrv.

Paper title will be:

The (micro)taphonomy of reopened graves

Abstract:  It is frequently the case that human remains which have been buried in graves are not left to ‘rest in peace’ eternally. There are a wide range of documented historical and ethnographical reasons and circumstances for the reopening of graves. For example, graves have been reopened as part of funerary rituals, for the removal of grave goods or body parts for symbolic reasons, as part of ancestral rites, or simply in order to be ‘robbed’ for materialistic reasons.

Understanding the reasons behind the reopening is often limited by a lack of understanding of the archaeological record. The methodological object of my post-doc project is to develop a new taphonomy-based method for the archaeological analysis of reopened graves. In this paper I will present preliminary results of the project, focusing on the results of my fieldwork on a reopened early Bronze Age inhumation grave in Austria. A bundle of methods has been applied, including archaeothanathology, single finds recording, soil analysis (micromorphology). The suitability of the applied methods for understanding the formation and the reopening of the grave will be discussed.