Funerary rituals from prehistory to modern period

The increasing complexity and temporal layering in relation to the change of the human ecological niches (environment/climate/food/social relationships) over time, requires attention in the interpretation of past behavior, especially in funerary contexts. The relationship between man and environment and man and death as well, has indeed changed over time. The study of the human skeletal remains provides an important interpretative contribution to this topic.

In prehistory, especially before the appearance of the first burials (around 200 ka BP), the available documentation consists chiefly of human skeletal remains. Thus, in this context the anthropological and bioarchaeological approaches are particularly important in palaeoepidemiological perspective, considering the biological profile (age at death, sex, health) of the human remains, and to study and interpret the results of intentional body and skeleton treatments. These studies are conducted observing and recording type, severity and distribution of peri mortem and post mortem bone lesions with support from microscopic techniques (stereomicroscopy, scanning electron microscopy).

In this frame, we introduced and promoted at the national level a new research line to study the so-called 'anomalous burials' (prone, mutilated, incomplete skeletons, broken and fragmented bones, accumulations of skulls, etc.) that has revealed unconventional but quite common funerary practices and rituals.

Collaborators: Valentina Mariotti (PhD in Anthropology, UNIBO), Viola Tanganelli (PhD in Biologia Evoluzionistica, UNISI)

For national and international collaborations, see the website Maria Giovanna Belcastro