The Age and Sex Structure of Burial Sites in Continental Southeast Asia: A Funerary Perspective

Baptiste Pradier1, Frédérique Valentin2, T. O. Pryce3, Daw Kay Thwe Oo4, U Saw Naing Oo4, Daw Tin Tin Win5

1Université Paris Nanterre, France

2UMR 8068 TEMPS, CNRS, France

3UMR 7065 IRAMAT, CNRS, France

4Department of Archaeology and National Museum, Myanmar

5Mandalay Department of Archaeology, Myanmar

The analysis of the age and sex structure of an archaeological population is a prerequisite for any anthropological study. It can be used, as is often the case in continental South-East Asia, in studies with a demographic focus or to define the health status of populations. However, all these studies are based on cemeteries, the excavation of which is generally non-exhaustive. These studies nevertheless consider that the site studied is a more or less faithful reflection of the structural reality of the living population. Yet, a cemetery is never a faithful reflection of the population. It is an archaeological feature in its own right, subject to fluctuating cultural rules directed by funerary practices. A funerary ensemble is therefore the result of a specific “recruitment” whose characteristics need to be detected. These cultural filters determine the different degrees of access of individuals to the funeral space and their analysis allows us to approach another dimension of funeral practices. In this talk we will present a study of the mortality profile by age and sex of the necropolises of protohistory in continental Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, and comparisons with Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Chronological and spatial variations will be analysed. The whole population seems to have been buried within the cemetery in the Neolithic period. This was not the case in the Bronze Age, when the youngest individuals were excluded from this communal space. These youngest individuals appear to have been subsequently reintroduced to the cemetery during the Iron Age. This presentation will illustrate the contribution of a study of age and sex structure to the detection of significant differences related to changes in funerary practices.