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The term ‘deviant’ is used to describe burials that deviate from the normative burial rites of a given society, at a given point in time. The problem with applying such a term to the archaeological record rests predominantly in the fact that the term ‘deviant’ has a negative connotation. This negative connotation insinuates that the individual in the burial context may have been viewed by their society in a negative light, however, through analysis of case studies it is shown that many ‘deviant’ burials are not in fact burials of people viewed as deviant, but ‘different’ burials given to people based on their circumstances of death. Thus one can observe that their position or reputation in life has not lead to the differential burial, and we cannot assume that they were viewed as deviant in any way. Another problem with the label of ‘deviant’ is its application to people in a society. Deviancy, if interpreted as deviation from a norm, is completely dependent upon a society’s social norms. Therefore deviancy can be a somewhat arbitrary label, as its definition is dependent on a very specific time and place. Behaviours that may be considered deviant in a modern, western setting may not be considered deviant elsewhere, and vice versa.


This paper was submitted for Anthropology 4431, 'The Body as Material Culture', 2013