Online ISSN : 1884-1392
Print ISSN : 0473-3851
ISSN-L : 0473-3851
SPECIAL ISSUE: Paleolithic and Neolithic Archaeology in the Near East: Recent Achievements by Japanese Expeditions
Burying the Dead and Keeping the Living Close: Burials and Spatial Location in the Epi-Paleolithic and Neolithic of the Levant
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2022 Volume 57 Pages 93-112


Neolithic societies have been characterized by a long-term process of evolution in funerary practices and shift of burial locations. Thousands of burials uncovered from different regions have shed light on various aspects of human behavior in these societies. The spatial location of burials and burial customs underwent significant changes throughout the development of these societies from the hunter-gatherer way of the life in the Natufian to the settled farming societies in the Neolithic period. People tended to bury their dead within the settlement boundaries and in close association with residential buildings. Burials took place beneath the floor of residential and non-residential buildings bearing symbolic significance, between buildings and in courtyards. The building-burial relations were intertwined with ritual in the Neolithic, particularly household and community rituals that were integrated into daily life. Therefore, there was a spatial-based relationship between the location of the burials and the communal activities that were undertaken which also reinforced memories of place. This legacy continued into the Pottery Neolithic period, however, a shift from indoor to crowded outdoor cemeteries has been documented at several sites. The changes in the location of the burials and the decline in building-burial relations might be attributed to social changes during the transition from the Late PPNB to the PN periods. People in the PN period did not maintain a fixed ancestral abode as was the case in succeeding periods. Rather, there was diversity in the burial context that reflected the diversity of household practices and increased household autonomy. This paper presents a chronological overview of the shift in burial location during the development of Neolithic societies through investigation of the spatial context of burials and the association between the living and the dead.

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