Whether we want it to be true or not, life comes to an end. This is a fact, regardless of time and space. Since time immemorial, people deal with the unfortunate event of death and they commemorate the dead, through burial or cremation. Whether they be parents, grandparents, children or neighbours; soldiers, shepherds, athletes or politicians; rich, poor, native or immigrated, death concerns us all. The act of commemoration, and the grave monuments and grave goods that may accompany and express this commemoration, tell us a lot about both the people who have died and about the people commemorating the deceased. Who wanted they to be after life; and how did the descendants want the deceased person to be remembered? Therefore, the study of the funerary material of a society uncovers people’s social identities as well as the changes and continuities in shaping and expressing these identities. This research project aims to do exactly that.
When and where?
This project turns its scope to the region of Pisidia during the late Hellenistic and Roman period (2nd century BC - 3rd century AD). The territory of this region more or less corresponds to the modern-day Turkish provinces of Isparta and Antalya. Roman tombs, grave stones and the like abound in this area, therefore providing a suitable basis for a study of the grave material dating to this particular period.
The annexation of the region of Pisidia to the Roman empire created a new world order, as the quickly expanding empire entailed an increasingly globalizing world. People travelling throughout the empire, such as traders, migrants, soldiers, governors as well as the Roman emperor himself, helped to spread a variety of cultures to every corner of the empire. The integration of the people of Pisidia into this global culture did, however, not simply mean the ‘globalization’ of their local practices. Local traditions kept their significance to the local communities, and they could survive the test of time. The globalizing world, of which Roman Pisidia became a part, constitutes an interesting context for the study of individual and communal social identities, based on a thorough analysis of the grave material. The subject of developing identities in a globalizing world closely adheres to similar processes in the world today.
The analysis of the grave material starts with the creation of an inventory of the material. This material is primarily collected from various archaeological sites, regional museums and from relevant scholarly publications. The collected tombs, grave stones, funerary altars and sarcophagi are catalogued in a database. This database contains basic information of the grave monuments, such as the find spot, the current location, the date, the images depicted, and the language used for an inscription. Especially the latter two categories reveal important clues about the social identities of the deceased person, or his/her descendants: about ethnicity, social class, status, gender, profession, and family relations for instance. Other categories help to place the grave monuments in the right spatial and historical context.
The research project Funerary Life in Pisidia is an international collaboration between the Archaeology department of the University of Groningen (the Netherlands) and the Archaeology department of the Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi (Isparta, Turkey). It is directed by dr. Lidewijde de Jong (University of Groningen) and dr. Bilge Hürmüzlü (Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi). Under their supervision, Dies van der Linde MA started to catalogue the grave material. The summer of 2014 he spends in Pisidia and the Netherlands Institute in Turkey (Istanbul). A research permit of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, a grant of the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds and a fellowship of the Netherlands Institute in Turkey have contributed to the realization of this research trip.