Call for Papers: Mortuary Archaeology Today

Approaches, methods and ethics
Symposium and Workshop
University of Groningen
April 19-20, 2018

Archaeology has focused on the mortuary context since its inception. The earliest antiquarians took advantage of prominent burial monuments and other grave contexts in their search for curios and information about past societies. While burials tell us much about the ways in which people buried their dead, they have also been a valuable resource for reconstructing the ways in which people lived. Today, the technical advances made in the study of human remains themselves allow for more detailed study of past peoples than ever before. With that change has come an added responsibility concerning the proper handling of human remains. During this symposium, co-organised between the Universities of Groningen and Leiden, we aim to start a discussion between researchers interested in studying cultural and emotional aspects of burial practices, and those using human remains as a data source for lifestyle and population studies, to which the issue of ethical practices is crucial.

On Thursday April 19, a one day symposium open to the general academic community will be held. The day’s talks are divided into three sessions (see below) and we cordially invite you to submit a proposal for a 15-20 minute paper intended for one or more of these sessions.

The next day, a workshop will focus discussion on the results of these three sessions. The aim of the interactive workshop sessions is to engage ReMA and PhD students in critical review of mortuary archaeology today and to explore opportunities for collaborative research. For ARCHON students or others taking the workshop for ECTS, reading will be circulated beforehand.

On Friday afternoon, an excursion taking in some of Groningen’s funerary monuments is open to all participants.

Deadline: January 20, 2018
Abstracts for the symposium should be between 250-500 words (Please include which session your paper is suitable for, and a few extra lines on yourself and your research)

Email your abstracts and/or registration to: mortuaryarchaeologytoday [at]
You can enroll for Thursday’s symposium or for both days
A small attending fee will be asked of non-presenting attendees (10€ for one day; 15€ for two, lunch and drinks are included)

ARCHON members will need to contact b.oosterwijk [at] about obtaining ECTS
(1 for the standard report on a symposium, or 2 for also participating in the workshop)

SESSION 1 Bioarchaeology and the use of funerary remains for population studies
This session will examine the possibilities and limits of the (microscopic) study of human remains. We welcome papers on laboratory research such as isotope and ancient-DNA analyses, but also on morphological studies of bones and/or cremated remains. As examples - the results of recent demographic studies (population, migration, health etc.), new methodologies or current problems.

SESSION 2: Funerary archaeology and exploring approaches to death and mourning
This session will focus on the meanings behind particular mortuary rites and what they represent for both the deceased and those coping with their death. What do differences and commonalities mean? How do we deal with the intersection between ritual/religious and the individual emotional impact of mourning? How can the funerary context help us to understand the motives and values of past peoples? Considering all of this, can we really attempt to understand someone’s life (and the impact of their
death) from their burial context?

SESSION 3: Human remains and ethical practice in archaeology
Thanks in large part to postcolonial discourse, the handling of human remains meets with a lot of ethical questions – and not only in situations concerning indigenous groups. When museums decide not to display even uncontested human remains, can we communicate our human history fully, without the main actors in the showcase? In this session we want to explore the ethics of working with human remains, from the excavation (or choice not to excavate) to post-excavation, and curation/reburial.

For registration or queries contact: mortuaryarchaeologytoday [at]

Chartered Institute for Archaeologists
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