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Thrown Away Like Rubbish - Disposal of the Dead in Ancient Greece

Author:

Astrid Lindenlauf

GB
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Abstract

In this article, the literary and archaeological evidence for burial practices that can be associated with the English expression ‘to be disposed of like rubbish’ are discussed. These disposal methods (átaphon rhíptesthai) include the exposure of corpses to carrion animals, to the elements, as well as the disposal of corpses into the sea, pits or natural fissures without burial rites. They also include cases in which graves were dug up in order to throw their contents out. Here, the Greek expressions for the English phrase ‘to be thrown away like rubbish’ are explored, as well as its relation to Morris’ (1987) influential concept of the ‘non-formal burial’. The analysis of the symbolism of various disposal methods has been based on both literary and archaeological sources. Also addressed are issues such as the intersection of the exclusion from full and proper burial procedures with social status and social groups. Lastly, the dangers for the living and the dead associated with casually disposed of human remains are briefly tackled, including the transformation of the souls of the deceased into spirits and their loss of human-ness.

Keywords: Burial 
How to Cite: Lindenlauf, A., (2001). Thrown Away Like Rubbish - Disposal of the Dead in Ancient Greece. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology. 12, pp.86–99. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/pia.161
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Published on 15 Nov 2001.
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