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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Charlotte Roberts

Sparacello, VS, Rossi, S Pettitt, P, Roberts, CA, Salvatore, JR & Formicola, V (2018). New insights on Final Epigravettian funerary behaviour at Arene Candide Cave (Western Liguria, Italy) from osteological and spatial analysis of secondary bone deposits. Journal of Anthropological Sciences 96: 1-24.

Author(s) from Durham


We gained new insights on Epigravettian funerary behavior at the Arene Candide cave through
the osteological and spatial analysis of the burials and human bone accumulations found in the cave during
past excavations. Archaeothanathological information on the human skeletal remains was recovered from
diaries, field pictures and notes, and data from recent excavations was integrated. The secondary deposits
have traditionally been interpreted as older burials that were disturbed to make space for new inhumations.
Our results suggest that those disturbances were not casual: older burials were intentionally displaced to bury
younger inhumations. Subsequently, some skeletal elements, especially crania, were arranged around the new
burial; these were often placed within stone niches. Based on the composition of some clusters, which contain
the bones of two individuals displaced together, it is possible that a double burial composed of two adults was
originally present at the site. This would be a burial type that had not been recognized at Arene Candide until
now. Strikingly, this potential double burial contained an individual showing pathological bowing of the
limbs, a finding which is not infrequent in skeletons from Gravettian and Epigravettian multiple burials. In
addition, the crania and other skeletal elements derived from this burial were intentionally placed around a
new inhumation, whose skeleton possibly shows a milder form of the same disease (possibly hereditary rickets).
This and other observations suggest that the five individuals belonging to the second phase of this “cemetery”
(AMS dates spanning 12,030 – 11,180 cal BP) might have been buried over a relatively brief time span.
Our study demonstrated similar behaviors in the first phase of mortuary use of the cave (12,820 – 12,420 cal
BP), indicating a remarkable persistence in Final Epigravettian funerary models despite their archaeologically
apparent rarity and intermittent nature.