Anomalous Mortuary Behaviour and Social Exclusion in Iron Age Italy:
A Case Study from the Veneto Region
Keywords:abnormal mortuary behaviour, funerary deviancy, Iron Age Italy, marginality, social inclusion
This article explores the relation between abnormal mortuary behaviour and social exclusion in first millennium bc northeast Italy by analysing a sample of some 2000 cremation and inhumation graves from the Veneto region. By drawing from research on funerary deviancy and anthropological, archaeological and bioarchaeological approaches to social inequality, the analysis offers an investigation of Venetic socio-political practices of inclusion in vs exclusion from society, sometimes resulting in niches of extreme social marginality. First, I discuss how cremation represented the normative burial rite in Iron Age Veneto as well as a ritual meant to underline the social meaningfulness of dead individuals granted high degrees of social recognition. Second, I focus on the rarer inhumation ritual and its possible role in substantiating the incomplete social integration of the deceased. Third, I detail how selected practices carried out on non-cremated human remains, such as disarticulation, mutilation and burial outside the formal cemetery, may have been deviant funerary rituals potentially intended to exclude the deceased from society. Finally, this study discusses how the complexity of Venetic funerary practices sometimes resulted in the adoption of rituals not easily definable in terms of ‘deviancy’ and ‘normalcy’, which were variously adopted at different sites and in different chronological phases to express multifaceted concerns about the role of the dead within their community and the variable degrees of social inclusion granted to different individuals.
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