EUROPEAN SCIENCE FOUNDATION EXPLORATORY WORKSHOP

EARLY SYMBOLIC SYSTEMS OF COMMUNICATION
IN SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE


KARLOVO, BULGARIA, 14-20 APRIL 2002, SUMMARIES
EUROPEAN SCIENCE FOUNDATION

PREHISTORY FOUNDATION
Continuity and Change in Burial Customs: Examples from the Carpathian Basin

Clemens Lichter
German Archaeological Institute in Turkey, Istanbul, Turkey
clichter@gmx.de

W
ithout doubt, graves represent an invaluable source of information that greatly widens our perspective on prehistoric culture. In addition to the light burials shed on the anthropological, chronological and economical status of prehistoric cultures, one consideration that must not be overlooked involves the culture-specific disposition of the burial itself. Various rituals were involved in setting aside the deceased. Such rituals, including norms, prescriptions, and tradition in laying the dead to rest are addressed in the archaeological world as “burial customs.” Through analysis and comparison of these burial customs one may learn a great deal about the interrelationships of the individual cultures (even independently of the artifacts themselves)—comprising as it were the individual interlocking pieces of the greater picture of the archaeological puzzle—revealing, that is, a more overall view of transcultural relationships.
The object here is to present burial remains from the Neolithic Period and Copper Age in Transdanubia, Alföld and Transylvania within the Carpathian Basin, comparing them both geographically and chronologically so as to outline the general development in the region over the late seventh through the fourth millennia.
     Consideration of the elements basic to inhumation of the deceased—the posture of the body, its orientation, and of course the adornment and offerings accompanying the burial—reflect various similarities and differences between cultures that are geographically and/or chronologically close to one another. A definite and well-documented geographical division between the various cultures in the Carpathian Basin is first apparent in the Late Neolithic; this is the earliest period for which there is sufficient evidence throughout the region. Our observations on the Early and Middle Neolithic periods are limited in context; either there are very few graves known from certain regions, or the graves that are known represent only intramural burials. Consequently, our assessment of these earlier periods can reflect no more than trends or tendencies. Overall we can follow a continuous development, nevertheless influenced by local trends persisting in each of the geographical regions.
     In our search for why and how the differences in the burial customs outlined above developed between the various cultures and cultural groups within the region, the distribution of raw materials used by chipped stone industry and the northern border of the Early Neolithic cultures Starcevo-Körös-Cris prove particularly useful.
     Regions characterized by burial customs not only reflect the geographical areas of various Neolithic and Copper Age cultures and reveal a continuous development throughout Neolithic and Chalcolithic times, but also support the distribution of other materials. With this we realize what a valuable source for cultural interpretation we have in the study of burial customs.
cprslc@msn.com
2002 © European Science Foundation
2002 © Prehistory Foundation & Reports of Prehistoric Research Projects
2002 ©The Author
Editor: Lolita Nikolova, Ph.D.
All rights reserved. Published: 12/21/02
Since 06/21/02
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