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Death, Burial, & Commemoration in the Roman World - ARC00097M

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Maureen Carroll
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

This module surveys the diverse array of Roman burial practices, across Italy and the provinces of the Roman Empire, including Gaul, Britain, North Africa, and the Danube region. It explores the meanings inherent in funerary rites, and sets burials in their landscape, settlement, and ideological contexts. The module examines the significance of the material culture employed in burial practices, including grave goods, funerary monuments, and epitaphs.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2020-21

Module aims

  • To introduce students to the range of funerary evidence from the Roman world, including burials, grave furnishings and funerary monuments

  • To critically examine the evidence for, and interpretations of, burial practices in the Roman world

  • To develop a critical understanding of the ways in which Roman burial practices conveyed messages about ethnicity, social status, gender 

  • To examine the evidence for regional diversity in Roman funerary practices and change over time in burial and commemorative practices

  • To develop abilities to integrate diverse sources of evidence, including archaeological, historical, scientific and epigraphic evidence

  • To develop research, analytical and presentation skills

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module the students will be able to:

  • Recognise the diverse nature of Roman burial practices in Italy, continental Europe, and north Africa

  • Demonstrate awareness of the diversity of sources used to examine burial practices, including those drawn from documentary analysis and archaeological science, as well as the material remains of funerary practices

  • Critically evaluate the evidence related to death and burial in the Roman world

  • Discuss the ways in which funerary practices were employed to convey messages about status and identity

  • Analyse and reflect critically upon a range of interpretations of archaeological and historical evidence

  • Present ideas confidently in discussion and debate

  • Work with a team to create projects

  • Convey complex ideas in an analytical framework through essay writing 

Module content

This module surveys the diverse array of Roman burial practices, across Italy and the provinces of the Roman Empire, including Gaul, Britain, North Africa, and the Danube region. It explores the meanings inherent in funerary rites, and sets burials in their landscape, settlement, and ideological contexts. The module examines the significance of the material culture employed in burial practices, including grave goods, funerary monuments, and epitaphs. The role of funerary customs in conveying messages about status, gender, and ethnic identities also will be explored, as will the manner in which burials mediated processes of social and cultural change. The module is interdisciplinary in focus, and integrates the funerary record with documentary sources and approaches from archaeological science, including bioarchaeological analysis and stable isotope evidence for diet and migration, to enable us to utilize the funerary record as a means of exploring Roman lifeways, as well as understanding death as a rite of passage. The module will explore key Roman burial sites including Rome, Ostia, and Pompeii (Italy), Lyon, Nîmes, and Cologne (Gaul), York and London (Britain), Hammamet and Carthage (Tunisia), Graz (Austria), and Aquincum (Hungary).

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay 3500 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay 3500 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Written and verbal feedback within 6 weeks

Indicative reading

B. Borg (2019) Roman Tombs and the Art of Commemoration: Contextual Approaches to Funerary Customs in the Second Century CE. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

M. Carroll (2006). Spirits of the Dead. Roman Funerary Commemoration in Western Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press

M. Carroll (2013). Ethnicity and gender in Roman funerary commemoration: Case studies from the empire’s frontiers, in L. Nilsson Stutz and S. Tarlow (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 559-579

M. Erasmo (2008). Reading Death in Ancient Rome. Columbus: Ohio State University Press

E.-J. Graham (2015). Corporeal concerns: the role of the body in the transformation of Roman mortuary practices, in  Z.L. Devlin and E-J. Graham (eds), Death Embodied: Archaeological Approaches to the Treatment of the Corpse. Oxford: Oxbow, pp. 41–62

V.M. Hope (2009). Roman Death: the Dying and the Dead in Ancient Rome. London: Bloomsbury

V. M. Hope and J. Huskinson (eds) (2011). Memory and Mourning: Studies on Roman Death. Oxford: Oxbow, 2011

J. Pearce and J. Weekes (eds) (2017). Death as a Process. The Archaeology of the Roman Funeral. Oxford: Oxbow

T.L. Prowse, H.P. Schwarcz, S.R. Saunders, R. Macchiarelli, and L. Bondioli (2004). Isotopic paleodiet studies of skeletons from the Imperial Roman-age cemetery of Isola Sacra, Rome, Italy. Journal of Archaeological Science 31(3): 259-272

R. Redfern, H. Shaw, J. Montgomery, J. Evans, and R. Gowland (2016). Identifying migrants in Roman London using lead and strontium stable isotopes. Journal of Archaeological Science 66: 57-68

L. Stirling (2004). Archaeological evidence for food offerings in the graves of Roman North Africa. In R.B. Egan and M.A. Joyal (eds), Daimonopylai: Essays in Classics and the Classical Tradition. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Centre for Hellenic Civilization, pp. 427-451

J.M.C. Toynbee (1996). Death and Burial in the Roman World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

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