Placing and remembering the dead in late Neolithic Malta

bioarchaeological and spatial analysis of the Xagħra Circle Hypogeum, Gozo

Jess E. Thompson*, Eóin W. Parkinson, T. Rowan McLaughlin, Robert P. Barratt, Ronika K. Power, Bernardette Mercieca-Spiteri, Simon Stoddart, Caroline Malone

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This paper integrates the results of recent bioarchaeological and spatial analyses at one of the largest collective burial sites in Europe, the Xagħra Circle Hypogeum on Gozo. This suite of new approaches has addressed demography, funerary practices, interactions with the dead, and the changing use of space. Modelling structural events and reconstructing funerary practices from 2900 to 2350 cal BC, we trace persistent variation and flexibility in the use of space over time. Taphonomic analysis shows that young individuals (from foetal age and above) were included within the burial space, and their depositions occasionally informed subsequent interments. Such results resonate beyond this site and enhance our understanding of society in third millennium BC Malta. We advance a model of broad accessibility to the burial space, strengthening emerging narratives of heterarchical social dynamics in the Maltese islands.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalWorld Archaeology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Apr 2020

Keywords

  • collective burial
  • GIS
  • Malta
  • Mediterranean
  • Neolithic
  • taphonomy

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