Disturbing the dead. Archaeothanatological analysis of the stone age burials at Zvejnieki, Latvia (excavated 2006–2009)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The Zvejnieki burial ground in northern Latvia is one of the largest concentrations of burials from the Mesolithic and Neolithic in Northern Europe. The 308 burials, dominated by primary inhumation, excavated in the 1960s and 1970s have become important references for understanding the hunter-gatherer mortuary practices in the region. Recent excavations, implementing a taphonomy-focused archaeothanatological protocol revealed 26 additional burials. The analysis confirmed important aspects of the patterns already observed at the site, such as primary inhumation, multiple depositions, and the occasional practice of wrapping the body before disposal. The analysis also revealed previously ignored patterns of systematic disturbance. By focusing on the disarticulated remains and on establishing the sequence of disturbances, the study concluded that the disturbance of older burials must be understood not as accidental but as an integral and meaningful part of the mortuary practices that can be tied to a concern with permanence of places in the landscape at the transition to increasing sedentism among the Neolithic populations in the Eastern Baltic.


External organisations
  • Emory University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Archaeology


  • Archaeothanatology, Body, Burial, Fragmentation, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Ritual
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)715-724
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Dec 1
Publication categoryResearch