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A ‘civilised’ death? The interpretation of provincial Roman grave good assemblages

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDeath and Changing Rituals. Function and Meaning in Ancient Funerary Practices
EditorsRasmus Brandt, Hakon Roland, Marina Prusac
Place of PublicationOxford
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781782976424
ISBN (Print)9781782976394

King's Authors


This paper reviews change in funerary rituals in north-west Europe from the first century BC to early third century AD. Burial practice in this period is often perceived by scholars as conservative, reflecting greater continuity of indigenous Iron Age tradition than other aspects of life under Roman rule. This paper argues that this characterization is flawed, since it underestimates change and, more importantly, evaluates burial practice in isolation, making insufficient use of the contextual evidence available to interpret Roman period mortuary rituals. Taking its cue from the study of prehistoric burials, particular attention is given to the identity for the dead constructed by participants during the funerary ritual from the objects placed with the body or its cremated remains. These recurring symbols embody and evoke an urbane sociability that epitomises ‘Roman’-style savoir faire as much, if not more, than adherence to local tradition.

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