Rock-cut chamber tombs and the reproduction of locality in later Sicilian prehistory

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This article explores the archaeology of place and memory from the standpoint of research on large cemeteries of chamber tombs cut out of the rock in southern Sicily. Burials of this kind were integral to the configuration of major settlements dating from the Early Bronze Age to the Iron Age (c. 2200–600 bc) and are a distinctive feature of Sicilian cultural landscapes. Rock-cut tombs at the four key sites of Castelluccio, Thapsos, Pantalica and Cassibile, representing successive phases of the Bronze and Iron Ages, are discussed in relation to terrain and layout. One aim is to identify recurrent principles of spatial organization, while drawing attention to settlements as structured environments with complex ritual geographies. Changes in tomb form are discussed with reference to variations in funerary practices over time. I conclude that cultural traditions in this region were sustained in part by the prominence of funerary architecture and by re-engagement with older sites in later periods through acts of re-use and remembrance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-311
Number of pages17
JournalCambridge Archaeological Journal
Issue number2
Early online date9 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


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