The Materiality of Mourning.

Summary of the book

Recent advancements in scholarly approaches to the topic of death in the Ancient Near East have been particularly remarkable. If much effort has been put into the reconstruction of the ritual activities behind the formation of burial remains, nonetheless many aspects of the full ritual cycle centered around death are still to be investigated. Mourning practices remain on the whole a very underrated topic in comparison with other areas, and the heuristic potential intrinsic to burials and graves in connection to them is totally unexplored.
The Florence workshop provided the opportunity to discuss these issues in the face of new data, and of new interpretations of old data, aiming to give a contribution towards a deeper understanding of Syrian funerary practices.

First paragraph from the article

Determining the processes and practices of mourning would seem to be an insurmountable challenge for the archaeologist. Mourning is often conflated with grief, for both may be experienced as an emotional state and both have been viewed as behavior. But they are not the same. Grief is a feeling experienced by the individual for the individual, and is a product of innumerable, and perhaps immeasurable, factors specific to those individuals. These factors might include personality, personal histories and experiences, nature of the relationship and so on. Grief is personal. For although society can tell us what we should feel, it cannot control what we do feel. Feelings deemed inappropriate, such as hatred of the dead, can be hidden in order to avoid social opprobrium. Society can, however, establish norms constraining how we express grief, and how we should behave upon a death, because what we do or do not do is visible. This is mourning. To have meaning, it must be recognizable to others whether it conforms to those norms or deviates from them. Mourning, in contrast to grief, is socialized and public. 



  • C. Felli

Publication Type

Book Name

How to Cope with Death: Mourning and Funerary Practices in the Ancient Near East. Proceedings of the International Workshop held at the University of Firenze, December 5-6, 2013