Beyond the grave: the funerary landscapes of the Italian peninsula, ca. 1-700 CE
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date24/03/2023
Much of our understanding of the funerary archaeology of Roman, late antique, and early medieval Italy is based upon a restricted number of case study sites. Where regional syntheses have been undertaken, these typically focus on rural areas to the exclusion of urban data, examine only a small geographical area such as single city, or consider only a limited time span. This thesis moves beyond these shortcomings by considering larger areas over a longer period–the first seven centuries CE–to provide a fuller understanding of diachronic change in Italy’s funerary landscapes. Analysis centres on two case study regions, the densely urbanised landscape of Central Campania in the south and the less urbanised lands of Trentino in the north. I employ a range of spatial and statistical techniques within ArcGIS supplemented by individual site-level case studies to cast new light on burial within the wider landscape. It argues that in areas of denser urbanisation, the placement of burials can be distorted by the presence of important commemorative (and competitive) venues like cities. This may indicate that not everyone who lived and died in the countryside was buried nearby, though considerable variation in the density of suburban burials can also be observed through time and space, underlining that this was not a static phenomenon. Many people, however, were certainly buried in the countryside, and this thesis also examines the placement of their graves relative to other landscape features like rural settlement, field boundaries and roads. It finds that assumptions about the proximity of burials to settlements and field boundaries are not tenable in all cases, though they should not be overlooked. In contrast, the placement of burials along roads remains relatively secure through time, suggesting that visibility and accessibility remained important factors in choosing of burial places. This assessment of Italy’s funerary landscapes concludes by considering other key factors connected to memory: the differential longevity of funerary site use and the late antique practice of burial within repurposed earlier structures. Taken together, these themes have important implications for how ancient communities living within diverse landscapes thought about their past and expressed themselves in their present.