1st Edition

Archaeological Perspectives on Burial Practices and Societal Change Death in Transition

Edited By Frida Espolin Norstein, Irene Selsvold Copyright 2025
    296 Pages 41 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Archaeological Perspectives on Burial Practices and Societal Change examines the relationships between burial practices and societal transformations in the past.

    This book highlights the centrality of burials as archaeological material for the understanding of societal change. It critically reassess past approaches, and suggests new ways of understanding the relationship between burial practice and change in archaeology. Particular attention is given to archaeological periods where change was especially intense, so-called transition periods. The volume has a wide chronological and geographical scope, spanning the Early Bronze Age to the present day, and ranging geographically from Cyprus to Scandinavia. Recent developments within archaeological methods and theory have sparked discussions about the mechanisms and reasons behind societal changes in the past. This book aims to revive interest in understanding and explaining these changes, which are fundamental questions to the discipline of archaeology. The volume is organised in three themes. The first, Practices, Communities, and Agents of Change, examines the roles individuals and communities play in transforming burial customs, highlighting the non-linear and often chaotic nature of these changes. The second theme, Migration, Identities, and Narratives of Change, challenges traditional narratives of migration and identity formation, proposing more nuanced understandings of how burial practices encapsulate these complex processes. The final theme, Transitions, Tempos, and Complexities, explores the multifaceted nature of societal transitions, emphasizing the importance of diverse tempos and scales in understanding these shifts.

    Archaeological Perspectives on Burial Practices and Societal Change is for students and researchers in archaeology, primarily mortuary archaeology and archaeological theory.


    1. Death and transformation: Burial practices and societal change

    Frida Espolin Norstein, Irene Selsvold, and Sofia Voutsaki

    Theme 1: Practices, communities, and agents of change

    2. Mortuary practices and societal change in Early Mycenaean Greece

    Sofia Voutsaki

    3. Grave Participants: Rethinking Funerary Participation as Strategies for Social Change

    Brian Costello and Reanna S. Phillips

    4. Change and continuity: Cremation and inhumation during the Christianisation period in Scandinavia (c. 800–1200 CE)

    Frida Espolin Norstein

    5. Dying Well in a Damaged Planet: Emergent Burial Practices and the Ecologies of the Dead

    Troy Fielder

    Theme 2: Migration, identities, and narratives of change

    6. The urning question – Cultural change in Roman-period Slovenia seen through the choice of funerary urns

    Kaja Stemberger Flegar

    7. The Viking-Period burials of the Hebrides: The maritime landscape, grave goods, and change

    Joseph Thomas Ryder

    8. Narrating ethnic identity and competition in Lombard southern Italy through burial practices (6th-7th centuries)

    Giulia Zornetta

    9. Golden funerary masks and societal change narratives in Ancient Macedonia

    Jessica Clementi

    Theme 3: Transitions, tempos, and complexities

    10. Building the Christian cemetery: Religious evolution in burial practices in the NW of the Iberian Peninsula

    Patricia Valle Abad; Laura Blanco-Torrejón

    11. Cypriot burial practices at the close of the Bronze Age: Continuities and changes in the light of the 12th century BCE transformations

    Teresa Bürge

    12. Changing burial practices in Late Antiquity: embracing complexities

    Irene Selsvold

     13. Rethinking burial practices and period transitions through a posthumanist and new materialist lens

    Rachel J. Crellin

    Concluding remarks

    14. Death Changes Everything. Archaeology and the human scale of change.

    Liv Nilsson Stutz


    Frida Espolin Norstein is a researcher in archaeology at Stockholm University, specialising in Viking Age funerary practices in northern Europe with a particular interest in artefact studies, ritual practices, regional variation, and the process of Christianisation. She is currently researching the use of grave goods in the construction of personhood in Viking Age graves.

    Irene Selsvold is a postdoctoral researcher in Classical Archaeology at the University of Gothenburg, University of Leicester, and University of Oslo. She specialises in the funerary practices of late Roman Asia Minor and Italy and the Christianisation of urban spaces in Late Antiquity. An active field archaeologist, she has participated in excavations in Greece, Norway, Türkiye, and Italy. She is currently excavating involved in fieldwork in Vulci, Italy with the Understanding Urban Identities (UUI) project.