Biocultural Analysis of Atypical Mortuary Pattern Symbolism in Three Medieval Transylvanian Millstone Burials


This is an abstract from the "SAA 2019: General Sessions" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Unusual treatments of the dead frequently merit extensive archaeological attention as they provide windows on a society’s concepts of personhood, use and manipulation of symbolic representations, and cosmology. In this work, we examine the use of millstones placed atop funerary contexts at the Papdomb site located in Văleni, Romania (A.D. 1100-1800). The site encompasses the remains of a medieval church and its associated cemetery. Some 579 burials have been recovered from site. During the 2015 excavation, three simultaneously buried individuals were uncovered from beneath a broken millstone within the walls of the church. Multi-person interments are not unusual at the site, however, the association of three adults underneath a broken millstone required additional investigation. The literature regarding use of millstones in burial is limited and offers only broad generalizations. Here, in contrast, we explore a range of specific possible interpretations, ranging from simple, postdepositional movement of the millstone to considerations of the practical and religious importance of millstones through various cultures and times. By exploring the multiple meanings, symbolisms, and mythologies associated with millstones, this works contributes to the reconstruction of mortuary symbolisms in Romania and approaches to interpreting atypical or unique burial contexts in general.

Cite this Record

Biocultural Analysis of Atypical Mortuary Pattern Symbolism in Three Medieval Transylvanian Millstone Burials. Lauren Reinman, Katie Zejdlik, Nyárádi Zsolt, Andre Gonciar. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 449444)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: 19.336; min lat: 41.509 ; max long: 53.086; max lat: 70.259 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 25833