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Prospects and limitations of the analysis of incineration in the Greek world


Extreme variability both in space and in time is the only constant feature of the burial customs in Ancient Greece. Any attempt to explain the use of cremation in general terms, on a purely social, or cultural, or religious ground, cannot but fail. Well documented and carefully contextualized precise cases can however shed some light on the meanings and symbolic values of funerary rituals. They show that cremation is obviously only one component of the ritual “assemblages”, which, like the other components, is given a meaning only when related to the whole. The core of the question is therefore not cremation in itself, but its relation with the other aspects of ritual, including the technical considerations on which there is still much to learn.

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