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SoA Lecture Series: Jordan Wilson, 2021 Dozier Award Recipient


Dec 9 2021 - 2:00pm

Thursday, December 9, 2021
2:00 p.m.

Via Zoom

Title: Negotiating Infant Personhood in Death: Interpreting atypical burials in the Late Roman Infant and Child Cemetery at Poggio Gramignano (Italy)

Abstract: The Late Antique (ca. 450 CE) infant and child cemetery uncovered at Poggio Gramignano near Lugnano in Teverina (Italy), the largest known Roman infant cemetery, has been interpreted as a catastrophic death assemblage associated with an acute epidemic of Plasmodium falciparum malaria and a resulting episode of increased infant and child mortality. This paper considers eleven newly uncovered burials of infants and children, ranging in age from six gestational months to ten years. Their associated atypical mortuary treatment suggests not only fear of the dead but mourning of very young individuals with ambiguous personhood. Because of the limited social status of infants and, especially, fetuses, the treatment of these individuals in death provides valuable and specific insight into the attitudes of this ancient rural community. This paper makes use of the archaeothanatological method to separate post-depositional taphonomic change from the social and ritual dimensions of intentional funerary behavior, a critical distinction when interpreting atypical (or “deviant”) burials such as those present in the infant cemetery. This analysis provides insight into a rural community’s shared stress surrounding sickness, child loss, and spirituality in a time of significant cultural and social transition.


For more information, contact: Dr. Linda Green (
or Charla Dain (

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