Tombs as Places of Cult and Imagination
9th International Spring School (9th - 13th March 2008)
Death is certainly not only the biological end of one»s life, but moreover the very starting signal for a whole sequence of ritual practices connected to the preparatory aspects of the burial, the burial itself and various activities aiming at the remembrance or continuation of the deceased. Nonetheless, archaeological remains of burial practices are often our only path for understanding local communities and their social structures and this demonstrates how deeply connected to materiality death actually is. The so-called history and archaeology of death can offer invaluable information on aspects as diverse as family interrelations, sanitary and alimentary habits, economic and social status, and demography. As regards the intense interconnection between death and religion, burial practices are an undisputable manifestation of a society's respect or disrespect towards its immediate past. Their inherent fixation towards the past is perhaps one of the reasons for the burial practices being so astonishingly neutral to major religious changes (for example the spread of Christianity). Beyond this, tombs can function as an important sign underlining one»s and his family»s social and even ethnic identity (the tomb of Eurysaces the baker in Rome or the conscious use of funeral cippi by Phoenicians in Late Geometric and Archaic Greece), but they can also create an imaginary, artificial picture of the deceased (Cestius' pyramid in Rome).
The 9th International Spring School will focus on the Ancient Mediterranean. Based on the literary, archaeological, and epigraphic evidence, our goal is the understanding of the religious and social issues involved in burial practices and rituals at the tomb. This will constitute a point of departure in order to investigate the mythical, philosophical, and theological conceptualisation of the life to death transition, of the »ontology« of the dead. Lectures and seminars will offer insights into different periods and contexts, from Archaic Greece down to texts by Lucian and the martyrological discourse of the Second Sophistic or Christian practices of Late Antiquity.