Lapita burial practices: evidence for complex body and bone treatment at the Teouma cemetery, Vanuatu, Southwest Pacific

Frederique Valentin, Stuart Bedford, Hallie R Buckley, Matthew Spriggs

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Excavation of the 3,000-year-old Lapita cemetery of Teouma (Efate, Central Vanuatu) has allowed the first detailed investigation of mortuary practices of these initial colonizers of the Vanuatu archipelago. Focusing on one component of funerary practice: the adult corpse and bone treatment of 25 mortuary contexts recovered at the site during excavations in 2004 and 2005, the present study reveals that beyond a complex procedure common for all the deceased, there is marked diversity of funerary behavior. Utilizing current knowledge and practice regarding the method of field anthropology or archaeothanatology, including the chronology of jointdisarticulation sequences, wewere able to establish the following practices: treatment of corpses by inhumation in a container-pit or wrappers-not immediately filled with sediment, followed by exhumation of the skull and other bones of the upper part of the skeleton, and secondary deposition of bones, including the cranium. The identified variations reflect particular attitudes toward human remains which might be connected to the social position of the deceased and/or individual choice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)212-235
    JournalJournal of Island & Coastal Archaeology
    Volume5
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2010

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