Death at Birth: Changing Mortuary Practices from the Late Ptolemaic to the Romano-Christian Period in Egypt

Author(s): Sandra Wheeler; Tosha Dupras; Lana Williams

Year: 2015


Human burials and mortuary practices are the result of cultural attitudes and ideological beliefs that have been selected and shaped by the living for the dead. These beliefs and concomitant mortuary practices have changed through time, thus the treatment, space, and place for the dead varies, particularly in the context of the very young. While it is likely that adults were given the opportunity to make decisions about their own place of burial, treatment of the body, or grave assemblage, in the context of infants and children, these decisions were made for them by adults. The changing mortuary practice of burying fetuses, infants and children in and around the Late Roman period village of ancient Kellis are examined. Fetuses and infants are severely underrepresented in the earlier, Ptolemaic period rock-cut tombs, while their numbers are abundant in the cemeteries during the later, early Christian periods, suggesting a shift in beliefs concerning the space and place of these burials. This paper emphasizes the need to explicitly address the mortuary treatment and context of fetuses, infants and children during the period of shifting ideological beliefs and practices from the ancient Egyptian to those recognizable as early Christian in Egypt.

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Cite this Record

Death at Birth: Changing Mortuary Practices from the Late Ptolemaic to the Romano-Christian Period in Egypt. Sandra Wheeler, Lana Williams, Tosha Dupras. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395723)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;