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The LKB enclosure and associated structures at Menneville Derrière le Village (Aisne, France): from diversity in mortuary behaviour to a coherent system

Corinne Thevenet
Traduction de Louise Byrne
p. 29-31
Cet article est une traduction de :
L’enceinte rubanée de Menneville Derrière le Village et les structures associées (Aisne, France) : de la diversité du traitement des défunts à la cohérence d’un système

Résumés

L’enceinte de Menneville est constituée de segments de fossé sur une longueur de près de 1000 m et encercle un vaste habitat rubané témoignant d’au moins deux phases d’occupation (étapes moyenne et récente du RRBP). Les fossés de l’enceinte rubanée ont livré de nombreux restes humains, ainsi que de nombreux vestiges de faune domestique et de plus rares artefacts céramiques et lithiques. Les restes humains témoignent de traitements variés des défunts : corps entiers, os isolés, manipulations post-mortem, dépôts soignés ou non. En dépit de cette diversité, une structuration similaire se dégage de l’organisation des dépôts à l’intérieur des segments et permet de reconnaître un système d’une grande cohérence. Quatre types d’associations de dépôts sont possibles, du plus simple au plus complexe, certains mettant en jeu une asymétrie de traitement des individus. Ils permettent de proposer un schéma de fonctionnement de l’enceinte et de discuter de l’identité de ses utilisateurs. L’ensemble de ces résultats oriente l’interprétation vers des événements d’ordre cérémoniel qui auraient été reproduits périodiquement. Ils amènent également à s’interroger sur la nature positive ou négative des différents traitements réservés aux défunts.

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Notes de la rédaction

Received September 22, 2012 - Accepted after revision on November 12, 2013

Texte intégral

1The site of Menneville was discovered in 1976 by aerial photography and even today it remains a unique site within the LBK of the Paris Basin. It is located on the right bank of the Aisne, some 20 km north of Reims. The site consists of segments of ditches of different sizes, stretching over a distance of nearly 1000 m and enclosing an area of 6 ha. These ditches enclose a vast settlement area with at least two phases of occupation dated to the middle and late stages of the later LBK of the Paris Basin, or RRBP (Rubané récent du Bassin parisien). The site has been excavated over three seasons (1976, 1989 and 1990) by the UMR Trajectoires (CNRS, University of Paris 1; Farruggia et al., 1996). Around one third of the site has been investigated, and the excavations have yielded the greatest assemblage of burials ever recovered within an LBK site in the Paris Basin.

2Most of the excavated enclosure ditches have produced human remains in the shape of primary deposits (articulated bodies) and/or secondary deposits (isolated human bones) as well as quantities of animal bones belonging to domestic species and a few lithic artefacts and a little pottery. The human remains show that the deceased were treated in a variety of ways: the evidence ranges from whole articulated bodies to isolated single bones, and mortuary behaviour includes post-mortem manipulation, careful burial as well as casual deposition. The sequence of events revealed in the ditches allows us to better understand how the bodies of the deceased were treated within the same structure. It further enables us to formulate hypotheses about the way the ditches worked and how the enclosure itself functioned.

3Within the ditch segments, and depending on their position in the stratigraphic sequence, the deposits were evidently arranged in a similar way, indicating that they formed part of a highly coherent system. It has been possible to identify four types of deposit, ranging from the simplest to the most complex, with some involving the asymmetrical treatment of bodies. The simplest deposits consist of domestic animal bones only (category 1, recovered in three ditch segments) or of animal bones with isolated human bones (category 2, recovered in four stretches of ditch). The more complex deposits (categories 3 and 4) involve the asymmetric treatment of the bodies of the deceased and are associated with certain kinds of human remains and animal species whose treatment varies. Not all combinations are possible; on the contrary, the deposits very much follow a code. The ditch segments of category 3 (five ditches) contain in their lower fill the primary deposits of an individual accompanied by the remains of goat and cattle; the middle and upper fill of these ditches contain isolated human bones (skulls and sometimes the long bones of the lower limbs) associated with cattle bones. The lower fills of ditches of category 4 have several primary human deposits accompanied by the same domestic animal species. But the corpses were treated differently: some were buried conventionally but the bodies were manipulated before being placed in the ditch, while others were not manipulated but thrown into the ditch. Such combinations of manipulated and inhumed bodies or thrown bodies have been recovered in three ditches. The middle fills of these features contain secondary deposits of human mandibulae or humeri associated with long bones of the lower limbs as well as cattle bones.

4The treatment of the animal bones in the enclosure also differs, depending on the species (Hachem in Farruggia et al., 1996). Cattle were present as isolated remains, implying that they were consumed before being discarded; but there were also bucrania. The remains of goat were still anatomically connected, especially whole limbs, which suggests that joints of meat were deposited.

5Finally two features found outside the ditches inside the enclosure refer directly to the events that took place in the ditches. This is the case of a conventional burial (Burial 272), reopened to manipulate the body and remove some anatomical parts. It is also the case of a large pit (Feature 93) which contained several bodies and animal bones in every way identical to the most complex deposits (category 4) found in the ditches of the enclosure.

6This diversity in the treatment of the deceased and their associations – manipulation of bodies, removal of anatomical parts, isolated bones – raise questions as to the nature of their deposition; do they point to negative or positive intentions towards the deceased? While one may suggest that the bodies that were thrown into the ditches reveal negative attitudes, could one, on the other hand, interpret the manipulation of the bodies in a positive light? Furthermore, we cannot overlook the question of human sacrifice at the Menneville enclosure. At least the similar arrangement of the deposits allows us to draw parallels between the treatment of certain human bodies (those thrown into the ditches) and animal remains (goats), which suggests a human/animal substitution of in sacrificial practices. The stratigraphy of the deposits and the likelihood that the ditches were recut imply that the deposits took place over time within each ditch segment, which in turn suggests that these segments worked as independent features. The ditches, and hence the enclosure, were established progressively but they were probably planned from the outset. This is what the recurring arrangement of deposits within the various ditch segments suggests, as does the fact that their depth correlates with the types of deposit (the most complex deposits being located in the deepest segments). It seems clear that the memory of the first deposits at the base of the ditches endured right up to the last depositions in their upper fills. The different categories of deposits and their arrangement within the ditches, especially with respect to their stratigraphy, allow us to suggest how the enclosure functioned and discuss the identity of its users. Together the results point towards a ceremonial use and to rituals that may have taken place periodically, and hence to the progressive growth of the enclosure. These results also lead us to consider questions relating to positive or negative attitudes towards the deceased and towards human remains, especially in connection with the possibility that human sacrifice took place in certain cases.

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Corinne Thevenet, « The LKB enclosure and associated structures at Menneville Derrière le Village (Aisne, France): from diversity in mortuary behaviour to a coherent system », Gallia Préhistoire, 56 | 2016, 29-31.

Référence électronique

Corinne Thevenet, « The LKB enclosure and associated structures at Menneville Derrière le Village (Aisne, France): from diversity in mortuary behaviour to a coherent system », Gallia Préhistoire [En ligne], 56 | 2016, mis en ligne le 30 octobre 2017, consulté le 22 janvier 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/302

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Auteur

Corinne Thevenet

Post-doctorante, UMR 8215 – Trajectoires, Maison Archéologie & Ethnologie, René-Ginouvès, 21 allée de l’Université, 92023 Nanterre CEDEX – corinne.thevenet@mae.u-paris10.fr

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Gallia Préhistoire

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