15-2017, tome 114, 3, 2017, p. 469-496 - Aurore Schmitt, Maxime Remicourt et André D'Anna - Inhumations individuelles en contexte domestique au Néolithique final en France méridionale. Une alternative à la sépulture collective ?

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15-2017, tome 114, 3, 2017, p. 469-496 - Aurore Schmitt, Maxime Remicourt et André D'Anna - Inhumations individuelles en contexte domestique au Néolithique final en France méridionale. Une alternative à la sépulture collective ?

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Dans le Midi de la France, de très nombreuses sépultures collectives datant du Néolithique final ont été recensées. Des inhumations individuelles en contexte domestique sont également attestées sur plusieurs gisements. Nous ajoutons à ce corpus trois sites provençaux : le Clos de Roque (Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, Var), les Fabrys (Bonnieux, Vaucluse) et les Martins (Roussillon, Vaucluse). Le premier a fait l'objet d'une fouille récente, les deux autres opérations datent des années 1980. La documentation est inégale, notamment pour ces dernières, dans la mesure où l'opération a eu lieu avant le plein développement d'une réelle archéologie préventive et surtout de l'anthropologie de terrain. Le Clos de Roque a livré deux structures domestiques partiellement comblées avant l'apport de corps complets ou partiels. Deux inhumations superposées dans un creusement dont les limites ne sont pas visibles ont été découvertes sur le site des Fabrys. Sur les cinq inhumations individuelles du site des Martins, deux datent du Néolithique final. L'une d'entre elles était partiellement comblée avant le dépôt de l'individu. Dans la seconde, le sujet repose sur le fond de la fosse. Ces six inhumations présentent entre elles des points communs, notamment le type de structure ainsi que l'absence ou la quasi-absence de mobilier associé mais, aussi, une certaine variabilité : la localisation de l'individu dans la fosse, la position des sujets, la situation de la fosse par rapport à l'habitat auquel elle est ou semble associée, et leur place chronologique dans le Néolithique final. En faisant le point sur les inhumations en contexte domestique dans la région d'étude, nous proposons un lien étroit entre ces configurations, qui ne correspondent pas toutes à des sépultures, et celles observées au Néolithique moyen dans des contextes comparables. D'autres traitements des morts, hors des sépultures collectives, sont également connus au Néolithique final. Nous discutons de l'apport de ces découvertes pour la caractérisation des pratiques mortuaires de cette période, notamment la relation entre les inhumations individuelles, parfois plurielles, et les sépultures collectives, entre alternative et complémentarité.

 

Mots clés : Néolithique final, inhumation individuelle, pratique mortuaire, site domestique, sépulture collective, France méridionale.

 

IIn the Late Neolithic in Southern France, collective burials are very well documented. However, numerous single burials have also been discovered in domestic settlements. One of our purposes is to provide information regarding unpublished or partially unpublished single burials from three sites located in Provence: Le Clos de Roque, Les Fabrys and Les Martins. The second goal is to discuss the meaning of this mortuary practice whereas collective burials are the most frequent funerary treatment documented in this region.

The preventive archaeological excavation in 2011 of the Clos de Roque deposit (Saint-Maximin la Sainte Baume, Var), revealed pre-and protohistoric remains over 11,200 m2. Two silo pits attributable to the Late Neolithic delivered human remains. The feature FS 23 was partially filled before a young woman was placed in it. She was laid prone, without any goods. The pit was filled after the body was deposited. The feature ST 2247 was also partially filled before the human remains were put in it. The bones are disarticulated and the body of a young individual is incomplete. No goods are associated with the human remains.

The Les Fabrys site (Bonnieux, Vaucluse) was excavated in the 1980s, over an area of 1,200 m2. The burial is located at some distance from the domestic settlement. The limits of the pit were not visible in the subsoil. Two individuals are superposed. The first one, an old woman, was laid on her left side, upper and lower limbs flexed. The body decomposed in an empty space. The second body, incomplete, is separated from the first deposit by a layer of sediment. The young woman lies on her back, the left arm flexed, hand on shoulder. The lower limbs are extended but the thigh is flexed. No items were found.

The excavation at the site of Les Martins (Roussillon, Vaucluse) in 1986 revealed Middle and Late Neolithic remains. Five pits contained human remains. Two of them belong to the Late Neolithic. Both pits are circular. The body of an adolescent lay on the bottom of pit S 93. He was covered by a few stones. He lay on his right side, lower limbs flexed, with no goods. Feature S 104 was partially filled before the human remains were deposited. The position of the individual, an adult male, is singular. He was probably not slid into the feature, but deposited, in a seated position, the upper part of his body partially on the lower limbs. Both pits were filled in after the corpses were deposited.

In the South of France, Late Neolithic individual burials have been known since the beginning of the 20th century. They are however more numerous since the development of preventive archaeology. These discoveries shed new light on funerary customs at the end of the Neolithic. Collective burials are very well documented and provide a huge number of deceased compared with the Early and Middle Neolithic. These tombs were usually used over a very long period of time and led to commingled assemblages of bones. As a consequence, it is difficult to identify changes in the treatment of bodies over time and between individuals. Moreover, the relations between collective burials and settlements are not very well known. Recently, it has been argued that collective burial gives only the illusion of equality and that people gathered in death enjoyed different social status. It is also likely that only some of the community members had access to the collective tomb. We may, thus, wonder, where and how the others were treated. We propose that the individual burials associated with domestic contexts could give some clues on this issue. Most of the burials we list are installed in pits or associated with features related to domestic activities. Very few individuals are associated with grave goods and some of the subjects seem to have been slid down into the pit rather than deposited with care. Such configurations are very well known in the Middle Neolithic and considered as a particular form of treatment devoted to only a small part of the community. We propose that this treatment was, in the Late Neolithic, allotted to individuals who were not allowed burial in the collective tomb.

Remains of babies are rather rare in the Middle and Late Neolithic. However, in this period it seems that they were carefully disposed in close relation to residential features, as in Protohistoric periods and Antiquity, whereas, in the previous period, it is likely that their bodies were thrown into domestic pits or wells.

However, in some cases, the grouping of single tombs could have been an alternative to collective graves. Some cultural groups may have had a different ideology and chosen another way of dealing with their dead that probably reflects a different social organization.

Late Neolithic single burials also give new parameters for the discussion of single Bell Beaker graves. This culture has for a long time been associated with the reappearance of the fashion for individual burials. It is more complex than it seems. Firstly, single burials never disappeared in the Late Neolithic. Secondly, they are rather different from single burials containing Bell Beaker items. Grave goods and/or ornaments are very abundant in Late Neolithic collective tombs and absent in single burials, emphasizing the difference between the two customs. Funerary items such as daggers and pottery in Bell Beaker single tombs indicate a very different status of the deceased compared with those of the Late Neolithic. Individuality has neither the same value nor the same signification in the Bell Beaker Culture as in the other Late Neolithic cultures.

Human remains in domestic settlements are known on other areas of France, such as the West and South-West, in enclosure ditches. However, single burials in domestic pits are specific to Southern France and probably correspond to configurations known in the Middle Neolithic, reflecting very similar mortuary meanings.

 

Keywords: Late Neolithic, single burial, mortuary practice, settlement, collective burial, southern France.

 

Aurore Schmitt
UMR 7268 ADES,
Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS,
faculté de médecine nord,
boulevard Pierre-Dramard,
13344 Marseille cedex 15
aurore.schmitt@univ-amu.fr


Maxime Remicourt
UMR 5608 TRACES,
université Jean-Jaurès,
Maison de la recherche,
5 allées Antonio Machado,
31059 Toulouse cedex 9
m.remicourt@laposte.net


André D'Anna
UMR 7269, Laboratoire méditerranéen
de Préhistoire Europe Afrique,
Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS,
ministère de la Culture,
Maison méditerranéenne des sciences
de l'homme, 5 rue du Château-de-l'Horloge,
BP 647, 13094 Aix-en-Provence cedex 2
danna@mmsh.univ-aix.fr