Death, Dying and Horlicks: Structured Deposits as Problematic Stuff in European Prehistory

Author(s): Lindsey Büster

Year: 2018


Personal possessions are inherent in the construction and maintenance of social identity. In some prehistoric cosmologies, artefacts may even have been integral to an individual’s personhood. As such, they can become culturally and ritually charged objects within a community. What happens then to this social remnant of an individual when they die? Objects that are on the one hand redundant but on the other too problematic to be casually discarded. In the increasingly materialist and consumerist societies of the modern west, the ‘stuff’ we leave behind can be difficult to deal with. This is demonstrated, for example, in the establishment of dedicated ‘house clearance’ firms, while in other cases it becomes the focus of family feuds. In prehistoric societies, when the number of objects associated with specific individuals was far fewer, it is likely that such items carried even greater symbolic charge and that the problematic nature of the material residue of the deceased was further amplified. Can we detect these tensions archaeologically? This paper argues that the ‘structured deposits’ of European prehistory represent the ‘problematic stuff’ of the past, and can provide greater insights into individual and communal experiences of death, dying and bereavement among past societies.

Cite this Record

Death, Dying and Horlicks: Structured Deposits as Problematic Stuff in European Prehistory. Lindsey Büster. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 442512)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -13.711; min lat: 35.747 ; max long: 8.965; max lat: 59.086 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20784