Settlement burials existed in dynastic Egypt, like in other agricultural societies throughout the world. Since the ancient Egyptians thought that the dead should be separated from the living, it is important to consider the meaning of this. This paper carries out a comprehensive study of settlement burials in dynastic Egypt.
Although both children and adults were buried within settlements, the interments of the latter always pre- or post-date the period of occupancy of the settlement. It is therefore possible to say that the separation of the dead and the living was carried out for adult burials. For analysis in this study, settlement burials are divided into three types based on the age of the deceased and the simultaneity of burial and settlement: (Type 1) child burials contemporary with a settlement, (Type 2) pre- or post-dated settlement burials only children were interred, and (Type 3) pre- or post-dated settlement burials where children and adults were mixed.
The age distributions for Type 1 and 2 are somewhat different: the former type is exclusively of children under six months old, while the latter also includes children of up to two years. This tendency suggests that “true” settlement burial in dynastic Egypt may have been a burial custom only for fetuses and very young infants, and that nursing children were at least buried in settlements, even if in houses already abandoned. Except for the age distribution, the difference between Type 1 and 2 is obscure. Since some Type 2 burials were found in the same space as Type 1, these might share the perceptions of the place as a burial site. Other Type 2 burials seem to follow the idea of separation of the dead from the living. The variety of child settlement burials suggests that the ancient Egyptians treated the young dead as having a different kind of existence from the adult dead.