“Impressive in its geographical and temporal scope, this fascinating compendium of case studies sheds new light on atypical, or ‘deviant,’ burial. Each case study is a gem, replete with rich descriptions of unusual burials and the sociopolitical contexts that produced them.”—Carrie L. Sulosky Weaver, author of The Bioarchaeology of Classical Kamarina: Life and Death in Greek Sicily
“This ambitious and engaging volume presents a series of instructive case studies of unusual or otherwise ‘abnormal’ funerary contexts from throughout the ancient world—confronting head-on some of the most challenging theoretical issues in contemporary bioarchaeology and mortuary analysis.”—Haagen D. Klaus, coeditor of Bones of Complexity: Bioarchaeological Case Studies of Social Organization and Skeletal Biology
Abnormal burial practices have long been a source of fascination and debate within the fields of mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology. The Odd, the Unusual, and the Strange: Bioarchaeological Explorations of Atypical Burials investigates an unparalleled geographic and temporal range of burials that differ from the usual customs of their broader societies, emphasizing the importance of a holistic, context-driven approach to these intriguing cases.
From an Andean burial dating to 3500 BC to mummified bodies interred in the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Sicily, during the twentieth century, the studies in this volume cross the globe and span millennia. The unusual cases explored here include Native American cemeteries in Illinois, “vampire” burials in medieval Poland, and a mass grave of decapitated soldiers in ancient China. Moving away from the simplistic assumption that these burials represent people who were considered deviant in society, contributors demonstrate the importance of an integrated biocultural approach in determining why an individual was buried in an unusual way.
Drawing on historical, sociocultural, archaeological, and biological data, this volume critically evaluates the binary of “typical” versus “atypical” burials. It expands our understanding of the continuum of variation within mortuary practices, helping researchers better interpret burial evidence to learn about the people and cultures of the past.
Tracy K. Betsinger is associate professor of anthropology at SUNY Oneonta. Amy B. Scott is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of New Brunswick. Betsinger and Scott are coeditors of The Anthropology of the Fetus: Biology, Culture, and Society. Anastasia Tsaliki is a forensic and cultural consultant based in London with an expertise in unusual body disposals and social exclusion.