Anthropology 103 Essay Proposal
How does the study of Burial populations help us understand social relations in an ancient society? And explore the relationship between burial rituals, the development of ‘abstract’ and symbolic forms of culture and communication, and how this ties into social relations.
In this Essay, I will explore and analyze archaeological evidence of the development of Burial practices in Europe in the Palaeolithic and Neolithic eras, and explore the dynamics between these burial rituals, and development of complex social relations, structures and modes of symbolic communication. I believe that Burial practices illuminate complex social structures in a certain society. People of the time with high status were generally buried with various objects of ‘prestige’. Moreover, these practices highlight the development of religion, and an ‘abstract’, philosophical sense of thinking, a sort of ‘humanness’. This ‘humanness’ or, concern for the dead, and development of complex social relations and structures would have had several other implications in society. Societies would have had a more permanent home base, at least in the winter, and would have had to communicate and cooperate amongst each other to acquire foods, and best use unique and important skill that only certain individuals possessed. Burial mounds were also found with various artefacts and idols that were manufactured especially for the burial, to communicate status difference and this abstract emotion towards their dead. After providing and analyzing various archaeological data on burials in Europe at that time and how they illuminate a culturally changing world, the growth of the human mind and complex socio-cultural relations, I will provide a case study on Burial mounds in Coast Salish society, pre-contact, and discuss how these tall, larger than life grave sites served to communicate social structures and stratification.
References: Lieberman, Philip. 1991. Uniquely human: The evolution of speech, thought, and selfless behavior. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press
Bahn, Paul G
Conard, Nicholas. “Paleolithic Ivory Sculptures from Southwestern Germany and Origins of Figurative Art.” Nature 426 (2003): 243-62.
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