14th meeting – The funerary landscape from Prehistory to Antiquity

Article published on 18 October 2022 | Catégorie(s) : Gaaf news

Contact : gaaf2023paysagefuneraire@gmail.com

“The simplest and most banal of landscapes is at the same time social and natural, subjective and objective, spatial and temporal, material and cultural production, real and symbolic. Landscape is a system that straddles the natural and the social. It is a social interpretation of nature.”
Georges Bertrand

How to think the funerary landscape? It is probably trite to say that landscapes in funerary contexts are both natural and social, but they also have an environmental dimension that can be appropriated by individuals in all aspect of their lives, including death. Is it not the fate of many deceased persons to be bound to the earth at the time of their burial?
Challenging topic in archaeology, funerary landscape in ancient times combined a wide range of elements in its both creation and development such as natural elements (vegetation, relief, water…), funerary system, but also culture/social structures. Archaeological evidence is limited with few remains of grave markers, funerary monuments, paths and vegetation that have been preserved over the centuries. While the different components of the funerary spaces were visible and meaningful for the livings, archaeologically they remain difficult to perceive. However, mortuary archaeology in recent decades has changed our understanding of funerary landscapes through the increase of rescue and research excavations, which sometimes cover large areas that allow exploring different territories over a long period. Consequently, the complete life-cycles of a landscape dedicated for a time to funerary activities, its creation, its persistence and its transformation when the dead are forgotten can now and then be discussed.
This meeting of the Gaaf comes as a follow-up to a previous conference on medieval and modern funerary landscapes. Taking into account a long period of time, from Prehistory to Antiquity, it includes societies that are known or not through written or iconographic sources. The meeting is organised around three main themes that will discuss methods, as well as internal and external experiences of landscape in burial grounds. The focus will be first on the internal description of the cemetery – a view from inside with the landscape used as a support for burying the bodies of the deceased. Then, the discussion will turn to the place of the funerary space, whether visible or hidden, in the landscape of a territory.
The contributions will concern methodological and thematic approaches as well as chronological ones. All disciplines related to the subject will be able to contribute to these questions (archaeology, anthropology, paleoenvironmental sciences, genetics, dating methods, geophysics and LiDAR…).

Axis 1: What methods should be used to reconstruct the natural and anthropic elements of funerary spaces (written sources, paleoenvironment, prospecting, etc.)?
The funerary space and its insertion in a natural or anthropized space can be apprehended with the help of various sources that vary according to the morphology and relief, the chronology or the sector of implementation. Research history and recent methodological developments play a fundamental role in the understanding of funerary landscapes, which can be reconstructed at different scales, from the intra-site to the territory, and using different approaches.
This first theme aims to approach the funerary landscape at the scale of the cemetery or territory (built structures, vegetation, access/traffic routes, sacred spaces, etc.) by questioning the sources, their contributions and their limits. The discussion must therefore be based on the use of available sources, whether ancient (written, iconographic, epigraphic, etc.) or recent (excavation data, aerial, geophysical or LiDAR surveys), as well as on paleoenvironmental analyses (carpology, geomorphology, malacology, palynology, etc.) and on the different dating methods allowing to propose an evolution of the funerary space (stratigraphy, grave goods, types of samples for radiocarbon dating, OSL, Chronomodel…).

Axis 2: Internal landscape of burial grounds: grammar of social, symbolic and technical uses of funerary spaces
Burial grounds respond to a set of social, symbolic and technical rules expressed in the construction of the graves, the selection of grave goods and the treatment of the dead. All of them shape the internal landscape of the cemeteries and insert them into their natural environment.
In a tangible way, monuments, paths and other structures partition or separate spaces, gather or single out the dead. The spatial distribution of the archaeological remains may reveal “empty” spaces in the cemetery, exposing various installations that were not initially dedicated to the dead and whose functions are not immediately identifiable. One way of understanding this complex process is to approach these areas as evidence of the appropriation of parts of the internal landscape of the burial ground and its transformation into a funerary space (places for the treatment of the dead, funerals, commemorations, etc.). In a sense, the landscape can be perceived as a support for organizing, delimiting, separating, and honouring the dead through topography, the presence of waterways, ditches, particular vegetation, monuments, paths and traffic axes or any other marking and sectoring device.
This axis 2 proposes to discuss the visual and functional identities of the “burial grounds”, which result from a combination of factors ranging from practical and social motivations, through the modalities of functioning to their evolution over time. We will try to identify the place given to the natural components of the landscape and the part they play in the elaboration of the visual identity of the burial site. For societies with written sources, the role of natural elements and their transformation could be investigated in the epigraphy and decorations of monuments or funerary containers, in the use of funerary law (funerary concessions and use of burial grounds), or in the philosophical/religious understanding of Death. The social landscape of the cemeteries could also be approached through the identity of the deceased (age, sex, kinship, status, social family). According to the type of sources (biology of skeletons, architecture/funerary furniture, written sources), we would like to open the discussion on the social and identity factors involved in the appropriation and modification natural spaces for funerary purposes by ancient societies.

Axis 3: Funerary spaces/landscapes and territory: visibility, role, network
This axis focuses on the visual aspect of the ancient funerary landscape, questioning on the scale of the territory, which was also shaped for other uses such as exploitation, housing, communication, appropriation, worship… What about the coexistence of these different areas of activity with the presence of the deceased? Was the funerary landscape hidden, exposed, subjected to view or distanced? A landscape-representation, with its monuments, the choice of its location or its durability of use, could also mark the territory. We will also address the notion of the border between the world of the dead and that of the living: was the landscape delimited, open, distended or, conversely, combined with settlement?
Although the grouping of the dead is regularly observed in archaeology, it was not an absolute rule in ancient times. Attention will be paid to the spatial distribution of the dead based on age at death or status. The existence of networks connecting the different funerary spaces to each other or linking settlements and the dead will also be questioned, as well as the principles of mutation of funerary landscapes. Finally, we will discuss the choice of natural environments (plateau, valley, cave, crevice, river…) in relation to the inhumation and cremation practices.

Submission form :
The deadline for the contributions is October 16, 2022 and via gaaf2023paysagefuneraire@gmail.com

Organizing committee: C. Fossurier (Inrap, UMR 7268 ADES)Y. Labaune (Service Archéologique de la Ville d’Autun, UMR 6298 ARTEHIS)R. Labeaune (Inrap, UMR 6298 ARTEHIS)C. Laforest (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, UMR 5199 PACEA)I. Le Goff (Inrap, UMR 7206 Eco-anthropologie)V. Taillandier (University of Lille, UMR 8164 HALMA)A. Thomas (MNHN, UMR 7206 Eco-anthropologie)A. Burgevin (Inrap, UMR 6249 Chrono-environnement)

Scientific Committee: V. Bel (Inrap, UMR 5140 ASM)L. Bonnabel (Inrap, UMR 8215 Trajectoires)P. Chambon (CNRS, UMR 7206 Eco-anthropologie)J.-P. Chimier (Inrap, UMR 7324 Criteres)G. Daoulas (Inrap, UMR 7209 AASPE)F. Delrieu (SRA Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, UMR 5138 Arar)C. Fossurier (Inrap, UMR 7268 ADES)M. Gaultier (Sadil, UMR 7324 Criteres)A. Hostein (EPHE, UMR 8210 AnHimMA)Y. Labaune (Service Archéologique de la Ville d’Autun, UMR 6298 ARTEHIS)R. Labeaune (Inrap, UMR 6298 ARTEHIS)C. Laforest (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, UMR 5199 PACEA)I. Le Goff (Inrap, UMR 7206 Eco-anthropologie)S. Martin (Inrap, UMR 5140 ASM)P. Nouvel (University of Burgundy, UMR 6298 ARTEHIS)R. Peake (Inrap, UMR 6298 ARTEHIS)F.-X. Simon (Inrap, UMR 6249 Chrono-environnement)V. Taillandier (University of Lille, UMR 8164 HALMA)M. Talon (SRA Bourgogne – Franche-Comté, UMR 8164 HALMA)A. Thomas (MNHN, UMR 7206 Eco-anthropologie)V. Van Andringa (EPHE, UMR 8546 AOrOC)