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2006 | 54 | 1 | 143-166

Article title

Damaging of skeletal remains of deceased individuals in the Great-Moravian environment from the territory of Slovakia


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The finds of the damaged skeletal remains of deceased individuals are not unusual at the Great-Moravian archaeological sites. Their bones in such cases are usually broken or moved from their natural anatomical position or some of them are missing in a grave pit. These anomalies can be considered to be the accidental activities caused by building or earthworks, soil cultivation, results of rodents or vegetation, eroded bones, shift of bones in a hollow room of grave construction or in burying of the deceased into an older grave pit. The collection under study is representing a volume of 7.4% from the Great-Moravian finds. The mentioned damaging activity was oriented on the various parts of the dead bodies. The frequency of the interventions grows with increasing age of the individuals and also during the interval of burying. The evaluated features are different at the various sites. It means that every of the contemporary communities had its own priorities in intentional damaging of some parts of human remains according to sex, age and depending on a chronological period, in which some special reasons occurred that determine these activities. The results of the analyses showed that the broken dead bodies were not in a connection with the grave robbing. The information that individuals with broken bodies do not differ in a remarkable way from the others buried according to various aspects of funeral rite, property or social status is also relevant. Their graves are unevenly scattered among other burials at the site. The skeletal material had no anomalies that would make these individuals exceptional. Also this was the reason why they were buried with traditional ceremonies and their graves were equipped with the gifts according to their property status. The closest sources for interpretation of intentional damaging of the dead bodies are the ethnological ones, which describe the interventions made on the individuals - revenants - who after their death could cause harm to the living persons on health, economic success or in other important aspects of their lives. Reasons for such interventions could originate in imperfections in the funeral ceremonies as well as in unfulfilled deceased's promises or in an unusual way of their death. Frequency of the studied cases proves that the interventions were not realized on a mass scale, but only occasionally.








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  • M. Hanuliak, Archeologicky ustav SAV, Akademicka 2, 949 21 Nitra, Slovak Republic


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