Call for Papers: REVISTA M. – Dossier 6: v. 3, n. 6, jul./dec. 2018


Past funerary archaeological records uncover a set of situational and ritualized practices that account for a problem common to all human societies: death. Understanding how death is seen and treated by different societies over time offers a rich field for archaeological and social research. Hence, we propose a dossier entirely dedicated to funerary archeology in order to draw up dialogues between different case studies, with various proposals and questions, centered on a common theme Performance, Death and Body.

Performance and ritual dynamics are important to the debate in Anthropology and Archaeology, and have become a cornerstone of new studies in funerary Archaeology. Today, it is increasingly necessary to consider the set of funerary practices in their heterogeneity and dynamism, i.e., as the result of human actions endowed with historicity that not only reproduce social values but also create, legitimize and reconfigure notions of different societies and, consequently, the social places of the individuals in their communities (be they alive or dead).

In archaeology, the significance of the body has grown in prominence along the years. Several researchers have drawn attention to the need to unite studies on graves and grave goods to that of corpses (Crossland, 2010). In France, the taphonomy of corpses developed by Duday and his colleagues since 1978 (Duday et al., 1990; Knüsel, 2014) have opened a new frontier of research. Advancing in the understanding of "funerary gestures", they created new methodologies to analyse the bioarchaeological traces, identifying the movement of the bones to reconstruct the burial and funerary treatments. Amongst English-speaking scholars, similar work was developed by the ‘archaeology of embodiment’. Developed since the 1980s, it is tributary both to bioarchaeological studies and to studies of phenomenology and theory of practice (cf. Shanks, 1995; Joyce, 2005; Lesure, 2005; Crossland, 2010). For both French and English-speaking colleagues, the body – like material culture – offers a medium of expression and is, to a certain extent, also an artefact endowed with a materiality of its own that builds identities and that is shaped by social experiences. For funerary studies, the inclusion of the body as an object of investigation allows us to debate not only how bioarchaeological data can contribute to a better understanding of the dead (for example through the study of diseases, physical traumas, access to nutrients and food, kinship affiliations), but also in which manner the body-artefact can help us to comprehend the means by which different performances and funeral rituals affect the treatment given to the dead in archaeological contexts (i.e. from the positions, orientations, alignments and locations in which the bones were found). Furthermore, it helps us to understand how a series of daily actions and repetitions can condition and shape our bodies before death, making age, gender and hierarchical differences more visible, or even emphasized, in funerary contexts. (Sofaer, 2006).

In this sense, drawing up from a multidisciplinary perspective (a dialogue between Archaeology, History, Anthropology and Sociology), this dossier also aims to bring about a theoretical and methodological debate for the study of the materiality of death. We therefore invite contributions that address any of the following themes:

  • Ritual performance;
  • Funerary treatments;
  • New theoretical approaches to cemetery studies;
  • Social or ethnic relations in cemetery studies;
  • Bioarchaeology in funerary studies;
  • New methods in forensic analysis;
  • New approaches to funeral depositions;
  • New findings from excavations of ancient cemeteries.


CROSSLAND, Zoë. Materiality and embodiment. In: HICKS, D.; BEAUDRY, M. C. (Eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 386-405, 2010.

DUDAY, Henri et al. L'Anthropologie «de terrain»: reconnaissance et interprétation des gestes funéraires. Bulletins et Mémoires de la Société d'Anthropologie de Paris, v. 2, n. 3, p. 29-49, 1990.

JOYCE, Rosemary A. Archaeology of the body. Annu. Rev. Anthropol., v. 34, p. 139-158, 2005.

KNÜSEL, Christopher J. Crouching in fear: Terms of engagement for funerary remains Journal of Social Archaeology, v. 14, n. 1, p. 26-58, 2014.

LESURE, Richard G. Linking theory and evidence in an archaeology of human agency: Iconography, style, and theories of embodiment. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, v. 12, n. 3, p. 237-255, 2005.

SHANKS, Michael. Art and an Archaeology of Embodiment: some aspects of Archaic Greece. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, v. 5, n. 2, p. 207-244, 1995.

SOFAER, J.R. The body as material culture: a theoretical osteoarchaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.