Commingled, communal and complex: reconstructing Iberian Copper Age mortuary practices

Author(s): Jess Beck

Year: 2015


Fragmentary and commingled human remains recovered from salvage excavations present bioarchaeologists with a number of interpretative challenges, including calculating MNI in the absence of detailed provenience information, untangling post-excavation commingling of remains, and analyzing high volumes of recovered material. Importantly, analytical techniques developed in recent research on forensic and archaeological taphonomy can help overcome some of these difficulties. Here I focus on the case of Marroquíes Bajos, a 113 hectare Copper Age enclosure site in Andalusia that was salvage-excavated in advance of urban expansion of the city of Jaén. Excavations revealed seven discrete mortuary areas, ranging from commingled deposits in wall trenches to richly accoutred interments in artificial caves. Using the lens of forensic taphonomy to assess the preservational patterning of skeletal and dental remains from three previously unstudied necropolises allows me to identify the types of burial practices likely used at each locale. In addition to unpacking Late Prehistoric funerary practices, investigating the demographic composition of these three mortuary populations through an analysis of dental development and wear provides insight as to how Copper Age communities at such large-scale centers were organized socially, illuminating the ways in which community identity was formed and maintained during the Iberian Chalcolithic.

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Commingled, communal and complex: reconstructing Iberian Copper Age mortuary practices. Jess Beck. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397708)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;