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Communication invitée du thème
Pratiques mortuaires et inférences sociales
The work of kinship: opportunities and challenges in inferring kinship from the remains of Neolithic mortuary practices

Questions de parenté : opportunités et défis dans l’inférence de la parenté à partir des vestiges des pratiques mortuaires néolithiques
Chris Fowler

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1New ancient DNA and stable isotope analyses are radically transforming our ability to identify dietary patterns, mobility during life, and close biological relationships within mortuary populations from thousands of years ago. All of this provides new tools for an archaeology of kinship, which – in combination with osteoarchaeology – can potentially reach outside the mortuary context to tell us about the lived experience of those who were chosen for burial. This provides new opportunities but raises new challenges. Kinship is social and practical, and while it involves some appreciation of biological relatedness the role of the latter in reckoning kinship varies significantly. Since kinship is a complex fabric comprising multiple forms of relatedness it can only be partly understood by examining single threads, such as descent or post-marital residential patterns. Furthermore, bioarchaeological studies access the lives and identities of the dead through selectively-deposited remains: the decisions past communities made about who to include and exclude, where to place the dead in relation to one another, and whether and in what form to construct mortuary monuments, can tell us about the role of mortuary practices in the work of kinship, but are only part of a wider story. This presentation will outline key features of kinship identified by differing anthropological approaches, noting the ways in which – and extent to which – it is possible to study these in the archaeology of Early Neolithic Britain (c. 4000-3400 BC). It will then consider what the combination of ancient DNA, isotopic, osteological and contextual archaeological analysis can – and cannot – tell us about kinship practices among the community who built and used a Neolithic chambered tomb at Hazleton North (England). Here it will stress the importance of intersections between kinship, life-stage and gender, and the role of monumental architecture in transforming and projecting forms of kinship. Finally, the presentation will briefly consider the work of kinship carried out in other, more routine, contexts, considering whether there is potential for patterns in domestic architecture and artefact production to shed further light on Neolithic kinship.

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Chris Fowler, « Communication invitée du thème
Pratiques mortuaires et inférences sociales
The work of kinship: opportunities and challenges in inferring kinship from the remains of Neolithic mortuary practices »
Bulletins et mémoires de la Société d’Anthropologie de Paris [En ligne], 36(S) | 2024, mis en ligne le 22 décembre 2023, consulté le 21 février 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Chris Fowler

School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Newcastle University, United Kingdom ; chris.fowler[at]

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Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

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