Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Michele George


Tracy Prowse



Committee Member

Spencer Pope


Located in southeast Italy, the site of Vagnari has been explored archaeologically as a Roman vicus that once formed part of an imperial estate. After the discovery of a cemetery on the property in 2002, exploration has yielded important results for understanding the lives and deaths of individuals in rural Italy from the first to early fourth centuries AD. Within the sphere of funerary archaeology and commemoration, there has been a shift in recent scholarship away from the monuments and practices of imperial and senatorial families in urban cities towards those who were underrepresented in epigraphic and textual evidence, namely ordinary individuals. Funerary archaeology presents one medium of exploring both funerary and burial practices in previously understudied areas of Roman Italy.

Previous studies of the Vagnari cemetery have been centered around a catalogue of burials, artifacts, and pathology, with more recent work focusing on stable isotopes and ancient DNA. This thesis focuses on the artifacts and patterns of distribution to understand how burial practices may have been shaped by social, economic and legal status. The primary focus is not the artifacts themselves, but the ways in which material culture can be interpreted to address issues of social status and prosperity within the cemetery. Within the wider realm of funerary practices, this study aims to understand funerals in a rural setting based on the burial record by incorporating archaeological, literary and historic evidence, in order to situate the site within our increasing knowledge of death and commemoration in the Roman Empire.

McMaster University Library

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