The Politics of Placing the Dead in Bronze Age Transylvania

Type of Work




Journal Title

Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports

Journal ISSN


Journal Volume

34, Part A

First Page





Where people bury their dead is a critical part of mortuary rituals. This paper examines the relationship between the placement of the dead within a landscape and the social roles of the dead in the lives of the living. We examine the distribution of mortuary sites in southwest Transylvania during the Early and Middle Bronze Age (2700–1500 BCE), a period of significant socioeconomic transformation. We document a shift in the locations of cemeteries that is linked to the changing roles of the dead within society. During the Early Bronze Age, people placed their dead in highly visible tomb cemeteries in upland landscapes with access to metal and highland pasture. We argue that the living used mortuary practices to contest access to resources. During the Middle Bronze Age, however, people were primarily cremated and buried in flat urn cemeteries in similar contexts as settlements. We argue that this transition signifies changing institutions of metal procurement as well as a shift in the roles of the dead in the lives of the living. The analysis of cemetery placement has significant potential for revealing the organization and evolution of how bodies are used for political purposes in a broad range of geographic and chronological contexts.

Hamilton Areas of Study


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