The Death of the Individual:

Wholeness and Fragmentation in Ancient Greek Burials

Cicek Tascioglu Beeby

ISAW Visiting Research Scholar

Ancient Greek beliefs about death and afterlife held firm on the notion that the deceased must receive burial in order to be accepted into the underworld. The manner of burial or the type of grave that received the deceased, however, appear to have been immaterial with regards to religious belief. Greek burial customs showed great variation regionally, temporally, or sometimes even within a single cemetery at any given time. Was the preservation of the mortal remains of the dead completely inconsequential in Greek religion? What level of care was shown to retain a degree of the bodily cohesion, individuality, and personhood of the deceased? This paper uses two case studies—the commingled inhumations in the crowded graves of Argos and the carefully sealed monolithic sarcophagi of Corinth—to explore the attitudes towards the human body after death in Greek thought and mortuary behavior.

Cicek Tascioglu Beeby is a Visiting Research Scholar at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU. She received her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019, following an MA in Classics at the Florida State University and a BA in Archaeology and Art History at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. She has participated in archaeological projects in Greece, Turkey, and the United States. 

Her research explores the art, archaeology, and social history of Greece in the Early Iron Age and the Archaic period, with particular focus on funerary practices, bioarchaeology, urbanization, state-formation, and spatial analysis. Her dissertation, titled Spatial Narratives of Mortuary Landscapes in Early Iron Age Greece, examines the space and place of burial during the rise of the Greek city-states in the 8th-7th centuries BC. Combining sociological theories on the ontology of space with mortuary analysis, her current research offers new definitions and readings of mortuary space in the ancient Greek world. Her work has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, Social Science Research Council, and the Archaeological Institute of America.

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