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Funerary practices at the northern fringe of the Atlantic area
Guy De Mulder  1@  
1 : Department of Archaeology, Ghent University

The western part of Belgium, northern France and southeastern England are belonging to the so-called Channel-North Sea cultural area, which integrates into the larger Atlantic cultural complex as defined by different researchers. During the Middle Bronze Age, a characteristic funerary landscape developed which funerary monuments, which are clearly visible in the landscape. These barrows structures the landscape and are grouped together in small clusters or in extended in lines along the horizon. This tradition starts already in the final Neolithic period as ascertained by finds of beaker burials in the Kent region and radiocarbon dates in Flanders. Between 1700 - 1500/1400 BC a peak in the construction of this specific funerary monument is clearly visible in the archaeological record. After this period, there are less indications of the construction of barrows but they are still used secondary burial places.

From 1500 BC, the first so-called flat graves are appearing in the Channel-North Sea region as has been proved by radiocarbon dates on cremated bones. They appear as isolated graves or in small groups in existing cemeteries. This ascertainment contradicts former hypotheses, which associated the appearance of flat graves with the spread of the so-called Urnfield culture.

In the older barrows of the final Neolithic and Early Bronze Age, inhumation was still present, but cremation is much earlier introduced than expected as a new funerary ritual. Around 1500 BC. Cremation is the dominant way to dispose the dead in the Channel-North Sea Area. Within this ritual, we can ascertain different practices within the same cemetery in the way the cremated bones are collected and deposited in their final burial place. Typical for the Atlantic region is the deposition of a small symbolic package of cremated bones in the burial pit. In contrast with the urnfield cemeteries the bones are deposited in an organic container or mixed up with the pyre remains. 


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