The adoption of a new funerary ritual with all its social and cognitive meanings is of great importance to understanding social transformations of past societies. The first known occurrence of cremation in the territory corresponding to modern Belgium dates back to the Mesolithic period. From the end of the Neolithic onward, the practice of cremation was characterized by periods in which this rite was predominant and periods of contractions, defined by a decrease in the use of this funerary ritual. This paper aims to quantify such phenomenon for the first time by modeling discontinuities in burial practices through kernel density analysis of 1428 radiocarbon (14C) dates from 311 archaeological sites located in Belgium from the Mesolithic to the Middle Ages. Despite possible taphonomic and sampling biases, the results highlight the existence of periods with a large uptake of cremation rite followed by periods of contractions; such discontinuities took place in correlation with changes in the socio-economical structure of local communities, as, for example, during the later Middle Bronze Age and at the end of the Roman Period.
- Cremated bone
- Radiocarbon dating