A meal for the dead. Animal bone finds in Roman graves


  • R.C.G.M. Lauwerier


(p. 184)

In 1980 and 1981 part of a 4th century cemetery in Nijmegen was excavated by the State Service for Archaeological Investigations in the Netherlands (R.O.B.), within the framework of the Eastern River Area Project (Bloemers, Hulst & Willems, 1980). The cemetery, situated on the terrain of the nursing-home 'Margriet', is one of the two cemeteries that most probably belonged to the late-Roman stronghold on the 'Valkhof' and its surroundings (pers. comm. J.H.F. Bloemers).

In some graves dishes were found containing animal bones as gifts for the dead. As material for archaeozoological investigation usually only the remains of meals are available: garbage and refuse of meals eaten in the past. The interesting thing about the bone material from the cemetery is that we are not dealing with the garbage and refuse but with the meal itself: a sort of plate-service for the dead.

In this short contribution I wish to discuss the bone material found on the dishes and in connection with this I shall compare the meal for the dead with meals for the living in Roman times.