Publication Date

April 2016


Kate Birney


Anthropology, Archaeology


English (United States)


This thesis aims to contribute to an agentive and comparative framework for future archaeologists to study burials in which the corpse appears to have been disturbed after initial deposition. The first case study is based on archaeological sites Winnall II from Anglo-Saxon England and Bogøvej from Viking Denmark, both of which demonstrate apotropaic burials; burials that involve post-depositional rites intended to thwart the malevolent power of the corpse. The second case study is from Tikal, a Maya site from Guatemala, and involves an aristocratic corpse being exhumed and used in a reburial ritual designed to enforce a political alliance. The third case study examines instances of grave robbing in ancient Egypt. Grounded in textual and archeological evidence, I will look at two elite New Kingdom tombs that have been ransacked and looted. In examining what the dominant structures are that determine burial treatment, the normative conception of the fate of the dead and/or of the corpse, and whether the instance of manipulation of the corpse reinforces or subverts these structures, one can determine whether or not the corpse was indeed “violated”.



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