Dead and gone: On the absence of graves.
Every now and then, archaeologists come across periods or regions that seem to lack graves. Instead of addressing these absences, researchers often resort one of several standard explanations, such as “We haven’t found the burial location yet” or “Apparently, these people employed ways of disposal that cannot be traced in the archaeological record”. While such observations are entirely justifiable, they also leave many unaddressed questions. Did this society opt for archaeologically invisible ways of disposal of their loved ones? Why are these graves missing? Case studies from our PhD projects on mortuary archaeology, relating, respectively, to the Bronze Age in Greece and the Iron Age in northwestern Europe, aim to investigate such questions. Whereas archaeologists are generally reluctant to interpret “non-data”, we pose that the absence of graves also provides invaluable clues as to how people perceived life and death in prehistoric societies.
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