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The social construction of disability in prehistoric societies – what funerary archaeology can and cannot say

Domenii publicaţii > Stiinte umaniste + Tipuri publicaţii > Articol în volumul unei conferinţe

Autori: Catalin Pavel

Editorial: N. Mueller-Scheessel (ed.) , R. Habelt, Bonn (Kolloquien zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte), "Irreguläre" Bestattungen in der Urgeschichte: Norm, Ritual, Strafe. Internationale Tagung, Frankfurt a. Main, 3.-5. Februar 2012, p.39-48, 2013.


This article attempts to create a methodological framework for the investigation of a large sample of prehistoric cemeteries in order to evaluate a possible correlation between atypical burials and skeleton palaeopathology and the reconstruction of social attitudes towards individuals with impairments in prehistoric societies. Various statistics suggest that impairments affect 10-12% of the world population today, and this percentage must also have been significant in past societies. Since no written sources, and very few relevant artistic representations or artefacts associated with impairment, are available, the study of burials appears to be the only source on which we might base our assessment of the connections between social deviancy and impairment in past societies. It is argued that, in trying to recover the implications of disability in prehistoric societies, the best chances are offered by a large scale analysis of prehistoric cemeteries, where evidence of socio-cultural behaviour is encountered in conjunction with personal osteological signatures.