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Of death and debt. A history of the body in Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Yorkshire

  • Gavin M. Lucas (a1)

Abstract

This paper addresses the way in which social identity is articulated through the body at death and linked up with cycles of gift-giving and the architecture of tombs during the Neolithic and earlier Bronze Age in eastern Yorkshire. The dynamics of funerary rites are explored and longer-term historical changes in the archaeological record are interpreted in terms of modifications to these ‘everyday’ dynamics. Grave goods, seen as part of a network of gift-giving, articulate this process by closing/initiating debts in the course of death which threatens to rupture this network. In a later transformation, however, different practices involving grave goods serve to marginalise death from strategies for the maintenance of social identity.

Cet article représente la façon dont l'identité sociale est d'une part, représentée à travers le corps après la mort, et d'autre part liée à des cycles de dons et à l'architecture des tombes, au Néolithique ainsi qu'au début de l'Age de Bronze dans le Yorkshire du Sud Est. La dynamique des rites funéraires est étudiée et les changements historiques à plus long terme dans le récit historique sont interprétés en termes de modifications de cette dynamique quotidienne. Les richesses funéraires, considérées comme un élément du cycle de dons, articulent ce processus soit en mettant un terme soit en initialisant une dette dans Ie processus de la mort qui menace de causer la rupture de ce cycle. Cependant, dans une transformation plus tardive, des pratiques différentes servent à marginaliser la mort des stratégies destinées à préserver l'identité sociale.

Dieser Beitrag befaßt sich mit der Art und Weise, auf die beim Tod mit Hille des Körpers soziale Identität ausgedruckt wird und in Kreisläufe des Geschenkegebens sowie in die Grabarchitektur während des Neolithikums und der frühen Bronzezeit im östlichen Yorkshire (England) eingebunden ist. Die Dynamik von Bestattungsriten werden untersucht und längerfristige historische Veränderungen im archäologischen Material werden als Modifikationen dieser ‘alltäglichen’ Dynamik interpretiert. Die Grabbeigaben, die hier als Bestandteil eines Netzwerkes des Geschenkegebens betrachtet werden, drücken diesen Prozeß dadurch aus, daß sie im Verlauf des Todes, der dieses Netzwerk aufzubrechen droht, Schulden abschreiben bzw. begründen. Später verändert sich dies allerdings, wenn verschiedene Praktiken, die auch die Grabbeigaben betreffen, zum Einsatz kommen, um den Tod in Hinsicht auf Strategien zur Erhaltung der sozialen Identität als unwichtig abzutun.

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Of death and debt. A history of the body in Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Yorkshire

  • Gavin M. Lucas (a1)

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