HELGA. Organic material and burial archaeology


HELGA. Organic materials and burial archaeology

This course will explore the many aspects relative to organic materials in funerary archaeological contexts. We will particularly highlight the past use, role, and preservation of textile, animal skin, and wood artefacts found in graves, as well as their modern recording, analysis, and interpretation. Our aim is to focus on the interrelations between organic artefacts, the body of the deceased, and burial processes in contemporary archaeological research, tapping into material categories that are often kept as side notes in archaeological literature. The goal of the course is to equip students from several faculties with a more holistic view of burial assemblages and funerary treatments, which will interest students coming from diverse methodological perspectives and specializing in different geo-historical areas.

From the very creation of a burial, many steps intervened in the manipulation and transformation of the deceased, which often involved quantities of easily perishable items, e.g. shrouds or coffins. These objects closely interacted with the body and, when they are preserved, they offer a wide range of information about funerary beliefs and burial practices, as well as everyday materials, crafts, and economic landscapes. Placed together in the grave, organic artefacts and bodies influenced each other, affecting the original positioning and decomposition of the human remains, as well as the general preservation and contamination of the burial. Today, these processes impact the possible analyses that can be carried out in the lab, potential conservation treatments, and ethical considerations. Therefore, this course will strive to present the burial phenomenon as a whole, showing the interrelations between different funerary stages, material traces, and study methods.

We will first provide a very strong material basis, introducing textiles, animal skins, wood and bone, through lectures, case-studies, and hands-on activities. We will then replace this material in the larger field of the archaeology of death, tracing the place of organic artefacts in the funerary sequence of events. A special attention will also be brought to natural sciences applied to organic materials and ethics. Finally, thematic days will focus of specific topics, e.g. the preparation of the body, soft furnishings in graves, the relation between wrappings and the body, and the question of how to assess now-invisible objects. The course will include visits to the SUND collection of human remains and the National Museum of Denmark.

Forskningsområde indgår som en integreret del på 2. og 4. semester af:
- Metode 2: dokumentation og analyse (Arkæologistuderende, 2. semester)
- Forhistorisk Arkæologisk metode 3: kritik og formidling  (Forhistorisk arkæologistuderende, 4.semester)
- Klassisk arkæologi: kulturmøde (Klassisk arkæologistuderende, 4. semester)
- Hverdagslivets kulturhistorie (Etnologistuderende, 2. semester)
- Kulturelle processer i Europa (Etnologistuderende, 4. semester)
- Græsk-romersk arkæologi og kunsthistorie (Græsk- og latinstuderende, 2. semester)
- Sprogkundskab (Græsk- og Latinstuderende, 6. semester)
- Område 2 (Historiestuderende, 2. semester)
- Globalhistorie (Historiestuderende, 4. semester)
Se Historie, BA, lektionskatalog forår 2024.

Engelsk titel

HELGA. Organic material and burial archaeology


Forskningsområde knyttet til 2. og 4. semesterkurser på Saxo-Instituttet.

Holdundervisning / forelæsninger / øvelser / ekskursioner

Andersson Strand, E. 2012. The textile chaîne opératoire: using a multidisciplinary approach to textile archaeology with a focus on the Ancient Near East. In C. Breniquet, M. Tengberg, E.B. Andersson Strand and M.-L. Nosch (eds), Préhistoire des Textiles au Proche-Orient/ Prehistory of Textiles in the Near East. Paris. Paléorient 38, Pluridisciplinaire Review of Prehistory and Protohistory of Southwestern and Central Asia. 21-40 (19 pages).

Andersson Strand, E, 2018. Early loom types in ancient societies in M. Siennicka, A. Ulanowska and L. Rahmstorf (eds) First Textiles, the beginnings of Textile Manufacture in Europe and the Mediterranean, Oxbow books, Ancient textile Series 32, Oxbow books. Oxford & Philadelphia. 17-29. (12 pages)

Cronyn, J.M. 1990. Chapter 6. Organic materials, In Elements of Archaeological Conservation (1st ed.). Routledge. (56 pages)  https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203169223

Duday, H. 2009. Chapter 1. Preliminary discussion and corpse taphonomy. In The Archaeology of the Dead: Lectures in Archaeothanatology. Oxbow Books, Oxford. (c. 20 pages)

Ekengren, F. 2013. Contextualizing Grave Goods: Theoretical Perspectives and Methodological Implications. In: Tarlow, S. & Nilsson Stutz, L. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 173–192. (19 pages)

Gillis, C. and Nosch B. M.L. 2007. First Aid of Archaeological textiles. Oxford. Oxbow books. (40 pages)

Harris, S. 2010. Smooth and Cool, or Warm and Soft: Investigating the Properties of Cloth in Prehistory. In E. Andersson Strand, M. Gleba, U. Mannering, C. Munkholt and M. Ringgaards (eds) North European Symposium For Archaeological Textiles X. Oxford. Oxbow 104-112 (8 pages)

Harrison, A. & Smalley, R. 2017. The care, conservation and study of archaeological textiles from Jordan and Sudan, with particular reference to the Fourth Nile Cataract mummies. In: Fluck, C., de Moor, A. & Linscheid, P. (eds.), Excavating, analysing, reconstructing textiles of the 1st millennium AD from Egypt and neighbouring countries, Proceedings of the 9th conference of the research group ‘Textiles from the Nile Valley’. Lanoo, Tielt, pp: 120–141. (21 pages)

Parker Pearson, M. 1999. The archaeology of death and burial. Texas A&M University Press. (250 pages)

Rahme, L. 2014. Traditional Tanning, Leather and Furskin. Sigtuna. Lottas Garfveri. (98 pages)

Nilsson Stutz, L. 2019. Sensing death and experiencing mortuary rituals. In: Skeates, R. & Day, J. (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology. Routledge, London, pp. 129–163. (34 pages)

Sprague, R. 2005. Burial Terminology: A Guide for Researchers. Rowman Altamira. Chapters on Discussion of the classification, Body preparation, Grave goods, and Disposal containers (31 pages)

Viñas Caron, L.C. 2022. Chapter 2. Historical parchment as a biomolecular record of sheep husbandry practices in the Iberian Peninsula. University of Copenhagen, PhD thesis. (32 pages)

Yvanez, E. 2016. Textiles and funerary rituals. The wrapping of offerings at Meroe and el-Hobagi. Sudan and Nubia 20, 75–81. (6 pages)


More material- and case studies specific texts will be added later.

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1 semester

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Studienævnet for Saxo-Instituttet
Udbydende institut
  • Saxo-Instituttet - Arkæologi, Etnologi, Historie og Græsk og Latin
Udbydende fakultet
  • Det Humanistiske Fakultet
  • Eva Birgitta Andersson Strand   (12-6d7e6969766c6d7a7b7b777648707d7536737d366c73)
  • Elsa Yvanez   (11-6c737a6835807d68756c81476f7c7435727c356b72)
Gemt den 10-11-2023

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