2024 Gaaf Meeting – The Invisible in the Grave

From Tuesday 28 May to Thursday 30 May 2024

Call for papers for the Annual Gaaf Meeting!
Deadline 15 December 2023.

Link to the submission form here.

What is the invisible? It is that which is not immediately visible to the eye. The search for the invisible is at the heart of archaeology – a scientific discipline that brings objects to light, unearths forgotten contexts and searches for structures that have been lost from the ground surface. The strength of the archaeology discipline lies in its ability to make visible what is no longer visible through the use of a variety of excavation and analytical techniques. And what about the invisible inside the grave? In this specific context, the aim of the archaeologist is to reconstruct what did not survive, from the body to the textiles, the funerary architecture, the perishable objects and all the organic elements doomed to decay. In other words, the task is to reveal the components of the grave that have become so decayed they are no longer caught by the trowel, whether they are too small to be seen, too fleeting or too confused to be identified.
For funerary archaeology interpretation of indirect evidence is central. Taphonomic study of graves is a key way to highlight “the archaeological invisible”. It focuses on skeletal order and disorder, on the consequences of constraints on the remains, on the spatial distribution of the artefacts that barely left traces …
The aim of the 2024 Gaaf Meeting is to change the scale of our observations by including inputs from  various disciplines such as life and earth sciences, physic, chemistry and imaging. Taken together, these disciplines expend the range of remains that can be recorded. The conference will give the opportunity to discuss recent and future developments, but also the various approaches stemming from archaeosciences, whether they are now standard or still prospective. We are particularly interested in two-way papers that will combine archaeology and archaeosciences.

Although methodology issues can be addressed, the conference will strongly be focused on the rediscovered materiality of biological or organic elements that have all but disappeared, regardless of whether they are from inhumation graves, cremations, primary or secondary contexts. Where possible, speakers will be asked to consider the contribution of these “archaeological invisibles” to an understanding of the burial, based, for example, on a visual reconstruction of the grave. Graphic reconstructions are also welcome.
Archaeosciences have shaped new ways to analyse burial practices. They will be explored and discussed during the conference: how can they be combined with other data and soil archives to revise grave typologies? What does the composition of the graves, now less incomplete, reveal about burial practices or the status of the deceased? What do these fleeting traces of the corpse’s journey express? And what about the function and trajectory of the objects accompanying the deceased? Or why not bring into the discussion the sensitive materiality conveyed by the organic elements, such as odours, textures, colours, emotions… thus enhancing our perceptions of ancient funerary realities?

The conference will be organised around four themes: the corpse, the elements used to build the grave, the organic elements, and the sensory perception of the grave. To this end, the conference will be open to other documentary sources: texts, iconography, history, anthropology and ethnology.


I – The corpse and its materiality

II – The architectural elements used to build the grave

III – The organic material placed in the grave

IV – And when ‘the archaeological invisible’ becomes visible


Organizing committee Stéphanie Desbrosse-Degobertière (Inrap, UMR 6273)Cécile Paresys (Inrap, UMR 7264)Isabelle Richard (Inrap, UMR 7264)Isabelle Le Goff (Inrap, UMR 7206)

Scientific committee Elisabeth Anstett (CNRS, UMR 7268)Yann Ardagna (Aix-Marseille Université, UMR 7268),Gautier Basset (SRA, UMR 5199)Mathilde Bolou (Antea Archéologie)Gaëlle Clavandier (Université Jean Monnet Saint Etienne, UMR 6872)Sylvie Coubray (Inrap, UMR 7209)Geneviève Daoulas (Inrap, UMR 7209)Stéphanie Desbrosse-Degobertière (Inrap, UMR 6273)Kai Fechner (Inrap, UMR 7041)Nicolas Garnier (indépendant, UMR 8546 et 8009)Sacha Kacki (CNRS, UMR 5199)Pauline Kirgis (Université de Bordeaux, UMR 5199)Isabelle Le Goff (Inrap, UMR 7206)Sophie Martin (Inrap, UMR 5140)Fabienne Médard (Anatex, UMR 5138)Théophane Nicolas (Inrap, UMR 8215)Cécile Paresys (Inrap, UMR 7264)Amélie Pélissier (Archéologie Alsace)Elodie Reboul (Metz Métropole)Isabelle Richard (Inrap, UMR 7264)Aurore Schmitt (CNRS, UMR 7268)Pascal Verdin (Inrap, UMR 7264)Julia Wattez (Inrap, UMR 5140)

Organisation contact :

  • rencontre2024@gaaf-asso.fr
  • Auditorium Fernand Pelloutier, 1 place de Verdun, 51000 Châlons en Champagne