University of Manitoba
Abstract: Cultural funerary practices typically entail a set of common rituals, ceremonies, and treatments that are common to the cultural group. These practices are adhered to unless there is a significant culture change or the community experiences a catastrophe such as war, natural disaster, or epidemic. When such periods of disaster spread over a large territory and are experienced for a long period of time, such as during the epidemic of Black Death in Europe during the Middle Ages, it could be argued that the mass burials become a funerary practice in itself. There is value in identifying these catastrophic samples. By identifying the pattern of these mass burials researchers can identify such catastrophic examples with greater ease and place this distinct funerary situation within the larger context of funerary practices. The goal of this research is to distinguish the burial practices employed in Europe during the epidemic of Black Death from standard funerary practices at that time period and define the shift in burial practice as a funerary practice in itself. The pattern of mass burial observed during the Black Death epidemic will then be compared to other instances of mass burial to determine whether different causes for mass death and burial can be distinguished in the funerary practice.