Grave reopening in the Paris region

Grave reopening in the Paris region

How to approach and understand disturbed graves in a densely populated region undergoing constant development?
Here is a new paper by Astrid Noterman on grave disturbances in Île-de-France published in a special volume of the RAIF journal, and which discusses Merovingian burial practices in the Paris region. Between looting, accidental disturbance and reopening practice, a lot of complexity for the archaeologists and the need to develop excavation protocols to appreciate the broad range of post-depositional interventions during the Merovingian period and beyond.

NOTERMAN A. A., PECQUEUR L. (2023) – La réouverture des sépultures mérovingiennes franciliennes : le pillage en question, in: LE FORESTIER C. (dir.), Archéologie des nécropoles mérovingiennes en Île-de-France, Paris, Les Amis de la Revue archéologique d’Île-de-France, p. 271-285 (RAIF, supplément 7);view=article&layout=edit&id=490

The afterlife of Viking Age graves

A paper by Alison Klevnäs on post-burial interactions with Viking Age graves has recently been published in a beautiful new book called ‘The Norse sorceress: mind and materiality in the Viking world’ edited by Leszek Gardeła, Sophie Bønding, and Peter Pentz.

Klevnäs, A. (2023). Surely every live man fades among the dead. Fear and desire in the afterlife of Viking Age graves. The Norse sorceress: mind and materiality in the Viking world. L. Gardeła, S. Bønding and P. Pentz. Oxford, Oxbow Books: 172-184.


In search of an acceptable past

Another of our project publications has just come out, thanks to the hard work of Estella Weiss-Krejci and her co-editors of the new Open Access volume Interdisciplinary Explorations of Postmortem Interaction. Dead Bodies, Funerary Objects, and Burial Spaces Through Texts and Time.

Our paper, which you can download and read for free, took us into the history of archaeology for the first time.

Noterman, A. A. and A. Klevnäs (2022). In Search of an Acceptable Past: History, Archaeology, and ‘Looted’ Graves in the Construction of the Frankish Early Middle Ages. In: E. Weiss-Krejci, S. Becker and P. Schwyzer (eds). Interdisciplinary Explorations of Postmortem Interaction: Dead Bodies, Funerary Objects, and Burial Spaces Through Texts and Time. Cham, Springer International Publishing: 133-166.


The Early Middle Ages have provided material for imagining selves and groups in a wide range of contexts since the earliest beginnings of the historical and archaeological disciplines. Considerable recent research has shown how modern political conflicts and regional-national identities have crystallized in this period in particular. This essay traces ways in which early medieval remains, mainly from the richly furnished cemeteries, have been brought into play in developing scholarly and popular accounts of the history of France. During the second half of the nineteenth century, the recovery of considerable numbers of finely worked grave goods from the large rural cemeteries provided material for studying and reevaluating Merovingian-period societies, previously only glimpsed in written sources and largely out-competed as national ancestors by the popular appeal of Gaulish warriors. Yet paradoxically, another form of discovery in the same burial grounds seemed to place them back in the Dark Ages: many graves were found to have been ransacked and robbed soon after burial, making the communities of the time appear lawless and barbarous. Archaeological attitudes towards excavated early medieval graves, and in particular the many thousands of graves already reopened in antiquity, not only highlight key aspects of the development of the discipline, but also reveal ways in which the remains of the dead may be integral to processes of national identity construction.

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.