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Welcome to African Archaeology!

The Journal of African Archaeology is an international peer-reviewed periodical appearing half-yearly since 2003. It publishes original papers addressing recent research and developments in African archaeology and related disciplines. The journal's main purpose is to provide scholars and students with a new pan-African forum for discussing relevant topics on the cultural dynamics of past African societies.

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Vol. 10 (1) 2012

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A. de Voogt & V. Francigny

Opening a Grave in Antiquity – Formation and Interpretation in the Kingdom of Meroe

Journal of African Archaeology, Volume 10 (1), 2012, pages 59-70, DOI 10.3213/2191-5784-10204

Abstract
During Late Antiquity in the Middle Nile Valley, the cemeteries of the Kingdom of Meroe had their graves visited many times after the first burial took place. Even if robbers left a burial chamber open, it could still be reused soon after for another individual accompanied by a regular funerary ceremony. The term "grave activity" is introduced here to describe any human intervention likely to modify the environment of a tomb. It includes any (re-)opening of the grave related to looting activity or reburial practice. "Grave activity" may affect the structure, the position and presence of one or more bodies as well as the presence (or absence) of funerary deposits. A disturbed grave should be studied by disentangling these activities. This can be achieved with a reconstruction of the chronology and the types of activity as well as the particular consequences of each. While these activities are usually highly confusing to archaeologists, it is shown how a systematic documentation can be used to offer a better understanding and interpretation of Meroitic funerary practices.

Résumé
Dans la vallée du Nil Moyen, durant l'Antiquité tardive, les tombes des cimetières du royaume de Méroé étaient fréquemment rouvertes après que le premier enterrement ait eu lieu. Même dans le cas où la chambre funéraire était laissée béante après un pillage, elle pouvait toujours servir ultérieurement à un nouvel enterrement accompagné de sa cérémonie funéraire. L'expression "grave activity" (activité sépulcrale) est ici utilisée pour décrire toute intervention humaine susceptible de modifier l'environnement d'une tombe. Elle inclut les ouvertures de tombes consécutives au pillage ou à la pratique de la réinhumation. L'activité sépulcrale peut affecter la structure, la position d'un ou de plusieurs individus ainsi que la présence ou la disposition d'un dépôt funéraire. Il est impératif, dans le cas d'une étude de tombe perturbée, de pouvoir différencier les différents stades de cette activité. Pour cela, il faut établir la chronologie et la typologie des événements survenus, avec pour chacun le détail des effets structurels sur la tombe. Alors que l'activité sépulcrale est généralement source de confusion pour les archéologues, cet article montre comment une documentation systématique orientée sur cette question offre des éléments réponses, et invite à une meilleure compréhension des pratiques funéraires méroïtiques.




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Sonja Magnavita, Peter Breunig, Sam Nixon

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Jonathan R. Walz, USA

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Shadreck Chirikure, South Africa
A. Catherine D'Andrea, Canada
Manfred K.H. Eggert, Germany
Elena Garcea, Italy
Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, USA
Timothy Insoll, UK
Tom Huffman, South Africa
Eric Huysecom, Switzerland
David Killick, USA
Savino di Lernia, Italy
Alexandre Livingstone Smith, Belgium
Scott MacEachern, USA
David Mattingly, UK
Susan Keech McIntosh, USA
David W. Phillipson, UK
Gilbert Pwiti, Zimbabwe
Peter Robertshaw, USA
Robert Vernet, France
Lyn Wadley, South Africa

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Annabelle Gallin, France
Richard Byer, Germany

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