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The Powerful Dead: Archaeological Relationships between the Living and the Dead

  • Mike Parker Pearson (a1)
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The dead, collectively or individually, are sometimes powerful forces in human society. At other times they fade into relative insignificance. How archaeologists recover such ideological changes has repercussions for their interpretation of social organization and social change. Interpretations of status, gender, and ranking from funerary deposits are to a large extent dependent on archaeologists' abilities to interpret initially the relationship that the living construct with the dead. This contextual analysis of the Danish Iron Age uses studies of landscape and topography, and contrasts in material culture to situate the changing placement of the dead in society. Their increasing incorporation into the world of the living in the pre-Roman Iron Age indicates a growing concern with lineage and individual status. Later on, within the hierarchical ordering of Roman Iron Age society, the dead retained their significance for the living but in certain regions this was expressed in terms of their communality rather than status differences.

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