Sunday, March 4, 2012

0084 – Funerary practices in walled enclosures: the case of Leceia.

Structure with human remains at Leceia (after Cardoso, 1994:fig.40)

At the walled enclosure of Leceia, near Lisbon, some human remains were recorded inside a circular structures built with vertical slabs and rows of stones, reminding tholoi architectures.
This structure was interpreted as a garbage dump structure. Here is what the excavator said about this context (my translation):

“In Leceia we may have documented one of these conflict situations, occurred already in Middle Chalcolithic; in one structure of garbage accumulation (...) several uncompleted and scattered human remains (especially teeth) were collected mixed with domestic rubbish; the anthropological study indicated the presence of three adult individuals, males when it was possible established gender. Such results, together with the deposit conditions, related to unburied individuals, gives substance to the hypothesis that those are the remains of attackers that, after being slaughtered, didn’t deserve a grave like the ones from the settlement” (Cardoso, 1994:106).

This statement was produce before other human remains were known in other walled enclosures and, especially, before the striking evidences of funerary practices in ditched enclosures such as Perdigões and Porto Torrão.

Today this statement is questionable. Not just because of the uncritical use of the concept of garbage applied to Prehistory and for most of the so called garbage structures (Hill, 2000), but mainly because the evidences are showing that death management is much more complex during the 3rd millennium BC than we previously suspected and that the “megalithic solution” and primary depositions are just a restricted part of the rituals involved.

According to the recent evidence, characterized by a diversity of funerary practices inside enclosures that show a significant variety of body treatment and post mortem manipulations that can be addressed to ritual practices, this context needs to be reinterpreted in the light of wider empirical evidence and different theoretical backgrounds.

Hill, James D. (2000), "Can we recognise a different european past? A constrastive archaeology of Later Prehistoric Settlements in Southern England", (J. Thomas ed.) Interprettive Archaeology. A reader., London, Leicester University Press, p.431-444.

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