This chapter surveys burial practices across Iron Age Europe, working outwards from the Circum-Alpine zone. During this period, only a fraction of the population was formally buried, in varying proportions over time and space. These were generally members of the political, economic, and religious elite, as is most clear in the case of richly furnished and monumental graves. Among communities of equivalent political complexity, however, some practised more modest burial, lacking clear status differentiation in their graves. Funerary practices carry ideological messages about how communities wish to appear, symbolically materializing the relations of the social group with the land on which they live and perpetuating the memory of certain people in the consciousness of the survivors. The social significance of Iron Age mortuary practices is examined: detailed analysis of differences between graves and cemeteries provides a wealth of information ranging from individual social relationships to economic and political organization.
Materializing Light, Making Worlds: Optical Image Projection within the Megalithic Passage Tombs of Britain and Ireland
Aaron Watson and Ronnie Scott
The distinctive architecture of Neolithic passage tombs reproduces the fundamental format of a camera obscura. Could Neolithic people have projected animated images of the outside world into the chambers of these monuments? Fieldwork in Wales and Scotland reveals that the methods required to generate optical projections inside passage tombs are straightforward and do not require a lens. At those sites that feature a solar alignment it is possible to project an enlarged disc of the sun into the chamber, while the landscape is visible within others. Some of the most distinctive effects featured projections of people; spectral human figures that moved through the monument, or even appeared to emerge from the walls. These phenomena are striking to witnesses in the present day. In the Neolithic, such intense multisensory events might have transformed passage tombs into places where people engaged with spectacular and otherworldly experiences.
The chapter opens by defining ‘Roman’ and ‘children’ (in Roman sarcophagus terms) and problems inherent in both. The discussion starts with a brief description and outline of Roman burial practices involving sarcophagus burials, including how the city of Rome may have differed from e.g. northern Italy in terms of children and sarcophagi. The discussion then moves onto the reliefs that decorated sarcophagi and to the key question of how far their iconographies presented childhood as a differentiated stage of life and one which had particular resonances with Roman social ideals as played out in family terms, investigating the underlying issues in how children get represented, issues of family continuity, the portrayal of innocence, the dichotomy between unsocialized versus civilized, and the impact of Christianity.
Children are often underrepresented in ancient Greek cemeteries in terms of retrievable burials, and their visibility in major formal city cemeteries can vary considerably with time and space. However, given that child mortality—especially perinatal death—must always have been high, there remain questions regarding the nature and location of the disposal of deceased children in periods and places where it is clear they did not receive formal burial alongside adults in city cemeteries. This chapter seeks to gather and analyse in a more systematic manner the evidence for child burials outside city cemeteries and to put forward some suggestions regarding the disposal of children where their burials continue to elude us; it also examines more specifically the locations of retrieved child burials and highlights the considerable variations in acceptable destinations for deceased children in the ancient Greek world.