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date: 26 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This paper discusses the development of funerary rites in the Neolithic of central Europe. Diversity is already evident in the early Neolithic Linearbandkeramik (c. 5500–4950 BC), where cemetery burial co-exists with practices focusing on the dissolution of the body, and this is discussed with reference to ideas of personhood. These trends continue into the middle Neolithic, although the details especially of the cemetery rite change. From the Michelsberg horizon onwards (c. 4200–3500 BC), there are almost exclusively fragmented human remains from pits and enclosures, with the dead defining the edges of communities in new ways. Finally, the evidence from the Mittelelbe-Saale area shows the continued diversity of mortuary rites even within restricted regions. Overall, the form of mortuary rites, and the extent to which they are implicated in creating identities at various social scales, changes with wider social trends. To understand the variability and creativity of these rites, they can therefore not be studied in isolation.

Keywords: Neolithic central Europe, personhood, mortuary rites, cemetery burial, fragmentation, collective burial, Linearbandkeramik, Michelsberg, Mittelelbe-Saale area

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