BUILDING A BURIAL ON A BUDGET: MORTUARY PRACTICE AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC BOUNDARY-MAKING IN ANCIENT ARMENIA
Bocchieriyan, Salpi Anna
Western scholarship on the Hellenistic and Roman Near East has long neglected to adequately address non-elite mortuary practice. Scholarship biased in favor of elite mortuary materials has led to the exclusion of ample non-elite data available in Armenian scholarship. While the accessibility of these data is affected by publication languages, their incorporation into broader discussions on mortuary practice in the Hellenistic and Roman Near East is long overdue. It is frequently noted that variability is characteristic of ancient mortuary practice in Ancient Armenia; however, this diversity in practice has yet to be satisfactorily explained. Drawing on anthropological approaches to mortuary archaeology, this study draws on a selection of case study sites – Artashat (2nd c BCE–5th c CE), Yeghvart (1st c BCE), Dvin (1st c CE), Vartpagh (2nd c CE–4th c CE), and Beniamin (1st c BCE–4th c CE) – to attempt preliminary answers to questions of social difference and boundary making in a mortuary context. Anthropological archaeology has been crucial in interpreting mortuary data in Western scholarship over the last several decades. However, this approach has yet to be applied to the mortuary data from ancient Armenia. Thus, this project will rely on two primary axes of material variation – grave architecture and body treatment – that previous scholarship has shown to relate to identity and boundary making. The myriad choices available to groups and individuals in mortuary practice can often be constrained or expanded depending on personally held or socially ascribed socio-economic identities. By considering these two elements across the five case study sites this pilot study begins to ask anthropological questions about identity, social boundary making, and their intersection within mortuary practice in ancient Armenia. Through the systemization of the mortuary data and various axes of material variation, and the application of mortuary theory in anthropology, this thesis advances two hypotheses. First, that economic ability and/or ethno-religious identity shaped the choices available in tomb architecture. Second, that economic ability and resource scarcity shaped the choices available in mortuary body treatment. Undoubtedly, more data are needed to further test these hypotheses. This study represents an initial step towards incorporating materials excavated in present day Armenia into Western scholarship on Hellenistic and Roman mortuary practice and can inform wider discussions in the study of death and burial in the Near East.
Ancient Armenia; Armenia; Burials; Mortuary Practice; Social Difference; Socio-Economic Identity
Barrett, Caitlin; Smith, Adam
Master of Arts
dissertation or thesis