Ethnoarchaeology of funeral practices: Aspects of the management of current dolmens and collective tombs in the tribal societies of Sumba Island (Indonesia)

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Christian Jeunesse
Anthony Denaire
Bruno Boulestin
Noisette Bec Drelon


This paper presents the first results of an ethnoarchaeological project on the Indonesian island of Sumba, focusing on the study of the practice of collective burials. The aim is to develop reference models that can be used in our studies of European Neolithic societies. As with any ethnoarchaeological approach, the aim is not to provide ready-made solutions, but to enrich the range of possible hypotheses. Three aspects are given special attention in this article: First, the existence of “dolmen pools”, i. e. groups of dolmens used simultaneously by the same social group, second, the interpretation of “gaps” in the use of particular megalithic tombs, and third, the contribution of the Sumba data to the understanding of kinship relationships as provided by palaeogenetics. For each of these aspects, we show which social logic the occupation or non-occupation of the dolmens follows. In this way, the “dolmen pool” model can also help in the interpretation of Neolithic burial practices in megalithic graves, which are difficult to explain with the current interpretative approaches.

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Jeunesse, Christian, Anthony Denaire, Bruno Boulestin, and Noisette Bec Drelon. 2021. “Ethnoarchaeology of Funeral Practices: Aspects of the Management of Current Dolmens and Collective Tombs in the Tribal Societies of Sumba Island (Indonesia)”. Journal of Neolithic Archaeology 23 (December), 61–82.