Still only just back from the EAA Istanbul conference and I am still enthusing about the papers I heard. I have just written 3 blogs thus far about sessions (a) my own session Dead Ends, Funerary Flops and Monumental Failures: Archaeologies of Mortuary Disasters, (b) an archaeorant at the MERC session and (c) the review of the rich range of mortuary archaeology sessions on offer.
In this post, I want to briefly shout-out thanks to a superb EAA session: T06S027 – Burial Communities in Long Term Perspective (Organised by Julio Escalona Monge, Orri Vesteinsson and Inai Martin Viso)
Note: If anyone objects to these photographs accompanying this article, I will remove them immediately at the request of the session organisers or speakers.
This was an exciting and far ranging day-long session, it wasn’t the ‘general burial session’ I expected it to be. Furthermore, it was mainly comprised of historical archaeology case studies rather than the usual domination by prehistoric studies. Moreover, the discussion at the very end proved very fruitful thanks to the direction of the organisers and a superb question by Jan Bill.
Unfortunately, I missed the early afternoon slot of the papers while I was away attending the MERC round table (wish I had stayed put). Still, in what I saw there were useful overview papers by Therus on changing burial practices in Viking Age Uppland (Therus had by far the best moustache at the EAA). Tys then explored parish formation in the Frankish lowlands from a burial perspective, rightly pointing out the contrasting approaches to this phenomenon by archaeologists and historians. Julio Escalona Monge looked at 10th-11th-century Castile and pushed a new hypothesis for the relationship between bishops, monasteries and territories from a burial perspective.
These three early medieval papers were more than enough to satisfy me. Yet there was more. Novakova explored the Hellenistic Polis and mortuary archaeology as power legitimisation. Lelekovic looked at changing burial practices in Roman Illyricum including fabulous bustum cremation graves; he was repeating a paper he gave at the Pilsen EAA but justifiably so since the session he had been in was a complete disaster and most papers had been cancelled. Souquet-Leroy took the discussion into the modern period looking at burial practices of Protestants in 16th to 18th-century France and their choices and customs for burial; challenging and confirming aspects of the historical record.
Given my interests in early medieval archaeology and mortuary archaeology, the above papers all hit the mark nicely. Still, my personal favourites were four presentations: Vigil-Escalera discussed the burial together in cemeteries of Muslims, Jews and Christians in early medieval Iberia because this paper challenged assumptions about religious segregation in death usually back-projected from later centuries.
I also really liked Rubio Diez looking at fabulous and not-directly-dated rock-cut tombs in south-western Duero Basin attributed to the post-Roman period and creating a hypothesis to explain and explore their location in the landscape as ‘peasant monuments’.
I was taken by surprise by a stunning paper by Zoega looking at pre-churchyard family cemeteries in conversion period Iceland because of their neat circular boundaries that reminded me of early medieval western British and Irish sites and the evidence that graves were exhumed systematically but not completely when churchyards were established. Finally, Sian Anthony finished the session with a superb paper on the Assistens Kirkegaard in Copenhagen as it emerged in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The papers I missed looked equally exciting, so I am disappointed I chose to miss them.
On a selfish and self-indulgent note, I particularly liked this session because the presenters had the good sense to quote my work explicitly on at least two separate occasions. Only minimal bribery was required! Go me!
Also, one of the paper unwittingly gave me a brilliant idea for a paper since I find myself in disagreement with their interpretation of the Viking Age and its burials… So a truly inspiring session and a rich range of burial case studies to be heard.