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This chapter considers whether cave burial in Britain starts in the Late Mesolithic or the Early Neolithic. It explores the evidence from cave and shell midden burial sites with early 4th millennium BC dates. There are examples from western Scotland of similar burial rites at Late Mesolithic Cnoc Coig and Early Neolithic Carding Mill Bay. There are also different styles of Neolithic midden burial in rock shelters at Raschoille and An Corran. There were also a number of other possible midden burials in other part of Britain. Cave burial practice could be considered as evidence for continuity between the Late Mesolithic and the Early Neolithic in these regions. There are cave burials with early dates, and these may provide indications of cave burial as a Late Mesolithic practice. However, it is more likely that these represent the very earliest manifestations of a ‘culturally’ Neolithic burial practice.

in Neolithic cave burials

This concluding chapter starts by restating the importance of the intermediary period as a key to understanding funerary practice. The agency of bodies, objects and caves is central to how we understand this intermediary period. The temporality of the intermediary period is shown to be constituted by physical indices of change. This is explored by contrasting the temporality of secondary burial rites with the temporality of successive inhumation in both caves and cairns. The agency of caves is examined through studies of cave orientation and of the way that tufa and pre-existing middens act as both indices and agents of change in burials. The chapter concludes by integrating many of these approaches in two case studies of relational landscapes of Neolithic cave burial in South Wales and North Yorkshire. It is concluded that the material narratives of change around cave burial in the Neolithic led to the development of a specific rite of cave burial after around 3300 BC.

in Neolithic cave burials
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This chapter examines the diversity of Neolithic cave burial practices after around 3800 BC. In this period there is evidence of a secondary burial rite which is focussed on the cranium. There is also one possible example of mummification or the curation of body parts as part of extended funerary practices. Other secondary burial rites can be recognised in a small number of sites. There are also a very small number of primary burials. The most common burial rite in this period is successive inhumation, which is well documented at a number of sites. There are also sites where multi-stage rites of some kind clearly took place, but without sufficiently well-preserved evidence to describe them in more detail; and other sites where there are Early Neolithic dates determined  from poorly understood single bones. This diversity of burial practice seems to be linked to the fact that all of these different kinds of rite are also attested at other kinds of Early Neolithic site as well as caves.

in Neolithic cave burials
Open Access (free)
Deaths and politicised deaths in Buenos Aires’s refuse

The appearance of corpses in rubbish tips is not a recent phenomenon. In Argentina, tips have served not only as sites for the disposal of bodies but also as murder scenes. Many of these other bodies found in such places belong to individuals who have suffered violent deaths, which go on to become public issues, or else are ‘politicised deaths’. Focusing on two cases that have received differing degrees of social, political and media attention – Diego Duarte, a 15-year-old boy from a poor background who went waste-picking on an open dump and never came back, and Ángeles Rawson, a girl of 16 murdered in the middle-class neighbourhood of Colegiales, whose body was found in the same tip – this article deals with the social meanings of bodies that appear in landfills. In each case, there followed a series of events that placed a certain construction on the death – and, more importantly, the life – of the victim. Corpses, once recognised, become people, and through this process they are given new life. It is my contention that bodies in rubbish tips express – and configure – not only the limits of the social but also, in some cases, the limits of the human itself.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Burying the victims of Europe’s border in a Tunisian coastal town

The Mediterranean Sea has recently become the deadliest of borders for illegalised travellers. The victims of the European Union’s liquid border are also found near North African shores. The question of how and where to bury these unknown persons has recently come to the fore in Zarzis, a coastal town in south-east Tunisia. Everyone involved in these burials – the coastguards, doctors, Red Crescent volunteers, municipality employees – agree that what they are doing is ‘wrong’. It is neither dignified nor respectful to the dead, as the land used as a cemetery is an old waste dump, and customary attitudes towards the dead are difficult to realise. This article will first trace how this situation developed, despite the psychological discomfort of all those affected. It will then explore how the work of care and dignity emerges within this institutional chain, and what this may tell us about what constitutes the concept of the human.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Deposits, waste or ritual remnants?

Among the numerous human remains found in circular pits belonging to the fourth millennium BCE cultures north of the Alps, there are many examples of bodies laid in random (or unconventional) positions. Some of these remains in irregular configurations, interred alongside an individual in a conventional flexed position, can be considered as a ‘funerary accompaniment’. Other burials, of isolated individuals or multiple individuals buried in unconventional positions, suggest the existence of burial practices outside of the otherwise strict framework of funerary rites. The focus of this article is the evidence recently arising from excavation and anthropological studies from the Upper Rhine Plain (Michelsberg and Munzingen cultures). We assume that these bodies in unconventional positions were not dumped as trash, but that they were a part of the final act of a complex ritual. It is hypothesised that these bodies, interpreted here as ritual waste, were sacrificial victims, and a number of possible explanations, including ‘peripheral accompaniment’ or victims of acts of war, are debated.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
The manifold materialities of human remains

In this article we explore the relational materiality of fragments of human cadavers used to produce DNA profiles of the unidentified dead at a forensic genetics police laboratory in Rio de Janeiro. Our point of departure is an apparently simple problem: how to discard already tested materials in order to open up physical space for incoming tissue samples. However, during our study we found that transforming human tissues and bone fragments into disposable trash requires a tremendous institutional investment of energy, involving negotiations with public health authorities, criminal courts and public burial grounds. The dilemma confronted by the forensic genetic lab suggests not only how some fragments are endowed with more personhood than others, but also how the very distinction between human remains and trash depends on a patchwork of multiple logics that does not necessarily perform according to well-established or predictable scripts.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Burials, body parts and bones in the earlier Upper Palaeolithic

The rich earlier Mid Upper Palaeolithic (Pavlovian) sites of Dolní Vĕstonice I and II and Pavlov I (∼32,000–∼30,000 cal BP) in southern Moravia (Czech Republic) have yielded a series of human burials, isolated pairs of extremities and isolated bones and teeth. The burials occurred within and adjacent to the remains of structures (‘huts’), among domestic debris. Two of them were adjacent to mammoth bone dumps, but none of them was directly associated with areas of apparent discard (or garbage). The isolated pairs and bones/teeth were haphazardly scattered through the occupation areas, many of them mixed with the small to medium-sized faunal remains, from which many were identified post-excavation. It is therefore difficult to establish a pattern of disposal of the human remains with respect to the abundant evidence for site structure at these Upper Palaeolithic sites. At the same time, each form of human preservation raises questions about the differential mortuary behaviours, and hence social dynamics, of these foraging populations and how we interpret them through an archaeological lens.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal