The first monumental cemeteries of western Europe : the „Passy type“ necropolis in the Paris basin around 4500 BC

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Philippe Chambon
Aline Thomas

Abstract

In the Seine-Yonne basin at around 4500 B.C. numerous cemeteries appeared, including giant “enclosures” which as a funerary manifestation would have no later equivalent in Europe. These constructions, whether tumuli, palisade enclosures, or mixed systems, sometimes exceed 300 m in length but contain very few burials. Beyond the classic interpretation, which sees high investment in a few individuals as reflecting a hierarchical society, structural analysis of these cemeteries shows the repetition of an elementary module, associated with consistent attributes, evoking hunting and more broadly, the wild. An exercise of association and exclusion brings into play the morphology and arrangements of the monuments, the gender of the inhumed individuals and their attributes. In the male monuments, a central figure is thus distinguished, sometimes with original physical characteristics and accompanied by an enigmatic insignia: a pointed bone instrument with a wide base, trivially called an “Eiffel Tower”. This figure is surrounded by other individuals interpreted as hunters on the basis of the accompanying objects. Other individuals probably served as no  more than passive figurants, rather like foils. In any case, the monumental cemeteries of the 5th millennium correspond to the earliest human groups for which we can identify diverse and repetitive statuses.

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How to Cite
Chambon, Philippe, and Aline Thomas. 2010. “The First Monumental Cemeteries of Western Europe : The „Passy type“ Necropolis in the Paris Basin Around 4500 BC”. Journal of Neolithic Archaeology 12 (2). https://doi.org/10.12766/jna.2010.37.