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Food for the dead, fuel for the pyre: Symbolism and function of plant remains in provincial roman cremation rituals in the necropolis of Bracara Augusta (NW Iberia)
Quaternary International ( IF 2.003 ) Pub Date : 2020-09-15 , DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2020.08.054
Filipe Costa Vaz; Cristina Braga; João Pedro Tereso; Cláudia Oliveira; Lara Gonzalez Carretero; Cleia Detry; Bruno Marcos; Luís Fontes; Manuela Martins

This paper analyses and discusses the fuel and plant offerings found in 174 primary (pyre remains) and secondary contexts (ritual pits) of the necropolis of Via XVII in Bracara Augusta (Braga), in northern Portugal. This site is one of the largest Roman funerary complexes in the Iberian Peninsula, spanning from the last decades of the 1st century BC to the 7th century AD.

More than 42500 charcoal fragments, comprising 44 different taxa, were analysed. Wood from deciduous Quercus was the most frequent, although other taxa such as Fraxinus sp., Fabaceae, Salix sp., Prunus sp., Rosaceae Maloideae and Castanea sativa were also relevant. The main criteria for the wood collection and use in the pyres might have been its availability in the region, although symbolic factors cannot be discarded. Evidence of wood from Fagus sylvatica and Pinus sylvestris, allowed to discuss the range of wood catchment area.

A total of 407 remains of fruits and seeds were also identified in the samples, including shells of Juglans regia nuts, seeds and cones of Pinus pinea, endocarps of Prunus avium, P. domestica and P. persica, cotyledons of domestic pulses and a fragments of Cupressus sempervirens fruits. These remains were associated with symbolic and ritual aspects of the roman cremation ceremony.

The results obtained were interpreted and contextualized according to their known use in the ritual process of Roman cremations by reviewing data from classical literary sources and other sites throughout the Roman Empire.

更新日期:2020-09-15

 

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