How to Cope with the Dead in Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology. New Sources, Approaches, and Comparative Perspectives in the Light of a Recent Publication


  • Dominik Bonatz Freie Universität Berlin



Archaeology, dead, ancestor, funerary monument


Death remains a fascinating and challenging issue for archaeological research. Sometimes, however, it is astonishing how rationally and unemotionally archaeologists and anthropologists approach it. They take human remains and everything that surrounds them just like any other archaeological data set. Following the maxim “the dead do not bury themselves”, they mainly ask about for the social and political background of burials and funerary practices, and they try to reconstruct funerary rituals. Other questions that relate to the essential human experience of death rarely appear on the research agenda. In this respect, the recently published proceedings of an international workshop held in Florence in 2013 help me review the different approaches of ancient Near Eastern archaeologists and philologists who deal with phenomena of death and burial. Since the promising title of the book, published in 2016, is “How to Cope with Death” (in the ancient Near East), it will address the methodological question how to cope with death in Ancient Near Eastern archaeology. After a discussion centered on the papers collected in this volume (see appendix), the perspective will be enlarged by a refined look at the Syro-Hittite funerary monuments.