Seated memory: New insights into near eastern Neolithic mortuary variability from Tell Halula, Syria

Emma Guerrero, Miquel Molist, Ian Kuijt, Josep Anfruns

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27 Citations (Scopus)


Despite a long history of field research in the Neolithic of the Near East, archaeologists have a remarkably poor understanding of the degree of variation in mortuary practices within and between major Neolithic settlements. Such an understanding is critical for reconstructing the social, economic, and ritual interconnections between people in villages and, by extension, how researchers model social organization in early agricultural villages. Mortuary data from Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) components of Tell Halula, a large Neolithic village in the middle valley of the Euphrates River, Syria, illustrate how household members buried their dead in standardized ways. These practices included burial of individuals only inside of buildings, in only one area of the main room, in single graves, and always in a fully upright, seated position. Houses were rebuilt in the same location, and rebuilding was always designed so that new houses had space for new burials. These residential buildings served as active spaces of life and death during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic at Tell Halula. Viewed collectively, the mortuary practices of Tell Halula are remarkably different from those of other contemporaneous Neolithic villages and challenge researchers to both document regional variation in shared cultural practices and model the social processes that contributed to shared regional practices and, simultaneously, to variation in how specific practices were enacted as events. © 2009 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-391
JournalCurrent anthropology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2009


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