16-2021, tome 118, 4, p. 671-696 - Y. TCHEREMISSINOFF, R. DONAT, G. GOUDE, M. REMICOURT, H. VERGELY, avec la collaboration de F. CONVERTINI et J.GRIMAUD — Les sépultures et dépôts humains du site néolithique de la Cavalade à Montpellier (Hérault)

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16-2021, tome 118, 4, p. 671-696 - Y. TCHEREMISSINOFF, R. DONAT, G. GOUDE, M. REMICOURT, H. VERGELY, avec la collaboration de F. CONVERTINI et J.GRIMAUD — Les sépultures et dépôts humains du site néolithique de la Cavalade à Montpellier (Hérault)

Les sépultures et dépôts humains du site néolithique de la Cavalade à Montpellier (Hérault)


Yaramila Tchérémissinoff, Richard Donat,  Gwenaëlle Goude, Maxime Remicourt, Hélène Vergély, avec la collaboration de Fabien Convertini et Julie Grimaud


Résumé : Les sépultures et dépôts humains présentés dans cet article ont été découverts sur le site de la Cavalade au sud de Montpellier (Hérault). Il s'agit d'une vaste occupation domestique essentiellement datée du Néolithique final dont seules les structures excavées les plus profondes étaient conservées. Le site, qui a été fouillé par l'Inrap en 2013 sur une surface de presque 3 ha, a livré dix sépultures ou dépôts recelant dix-huit individus, ainsi qu'une grande sépulture collective (Mas Rouge) qui ne sera pas présentée ici. Les dix sépultures, qui se répartissent dans une échelle temporelle comprise entre 3100 et 2650 cal. BC en deux phases principales, sont donc le plus souvent individuelles mais aussi plurielles dans quatre cas.  L'une d'entre elle a livré six individus inhumés simultanément et recèle des indices qui plaident pour une procédure dite « d'accompagnement ». Par ailleurs, les résultats de violences ont été mis en évidence sur des ossements pour d'autres individus, ajoutant de nouveaux éléments aux débats sur les modalités de certaines prises en charge sépulcrales au regard des statuts individuels des inhumés. Cette réflexion s'enrichit aussi de données anthropobiologiques et isotopiques très informatives ainsi que de données sur des mobiliers intégrés aux dépôts, outils lithiques et parures au statut particulier.


Mots-clés : Sépultures, dépôts humains, violence, anthropobiologie, isotopes, lithique, parure, Néolithique final, Sud de la France.


Abstract: The burials and human deposits presented in this article were discovered at the Cavalade site near Montpellier (Hérault). This is a large domestic occupation, essentially dating to the Final Neolithic, of which only the deepest features were preserved. The site, excavated by Inrap in 2013 over an area of almost 3 ha, yielded ten burials containing eighteen individuals, as well as a large collective burial (Mas Rouge), which will not be presented here. The ten burials date to 3100-2650 cal. BC corresponding to two main burial phases, they are mainly individual burials with four plural burials, one of which one yielded six simultaneously buried individuals that is evocative of a so-called - peripheral accompaniment-  procedure. In addition, bones from other individuals bear traces of interpersonal violence, which renew the debate on the modalities of sepulchral care with regard to the individual status of the buried. This is underlined by precise and informative anthropobiological and isotopic data, as well as results on items integrated into the deposits, lithic tools and ornaments of particular status.

The 18 individuals, adults (men and women), adolescents and children (generally older than 4 years, with 1 exception), are distributed between ten graves. For the phase 2 (3100 - 2900/2880 cal. BC), three individuals were found in 2 pits; for phase 3 (2880 - 2650 cal. BC), fifteen individuals were buried in eight pits. The burials are housed in large pits that were originally small domestic cellars in some cases partially filled in with the bodies being deposited along the walls and under the overhangs. The numerous stones and blocks were used to fill the cavities before burial but also as fill once the burials in place. Most of the burials were protected by perishable casings or stone slabs. These burial modalities reflect the rare examples of ???lesser invested??? burials already known regionally for the period. This new discovery renews the debate on the sociobiological status of the dead concerned. Indeed, some skeletons bear obvious traces of violence, in particular a child between 10 and 14 years who has two depressed skull fractures resulting from blows with a pointed object such as a stone pick or axe heel. Other deceased bear the stigmata of violent blows that they survived and one burial, receiving the simultaneous deposit of six individuals, raises the question of the intentional killing of people to accompany the deceased in the tomb. The deposits, made within a still functional cellar, have a biological symmetry (2 men, 2 women, 2 children of about 6 years old) and show a positional symmetry with the men in the middle, the women near the antechamber and the children placed against the walls. There is no evidence of lethal violence on the skeletons, but two broken flint arrowheads were found, one of which was against the pelvis of one of the men. These observations plead in favour of the deaths being the result of intercommunity and/or interpersonal violence with a probable selection of individuals accompanying the dead.  In this regard, isotopic analyses and anthropobiological studies indicate that the men had a different diet to the other individuals of the tomb.

Finally, the collective burial on the same site, belonging to its phase 2, raises questions about the funerary norm, on the one hand, and the possibly diversified kinship and ancestry among the dead, on the other. This is true both over time in terms of the evolution of the local population and within each of the two phases in terms of the diversity of sepulchral settings and funerary practices.


Keywords: Burials, human deposits, violence, anthropobiology, isotopes, lithics, ornament, Final Neolithic, south of France.