The definition and interpretation of late Roman burial rites in the Western Empire
This thesis defines late Roman burial practice through the rigorous analysis of burial rites from selected cemeteries throughout Western Europe within a chronological framework. Every aspect of the individual graves from these cemeteries is recorded in detail and analysed within the context of the wider whole. This enables the reconstruction of both predominant and minority burial rites within a chronological framework. The chronology uses a combination of dateable grave goods and horizontal and vertical stratigraphy to date graves to thirty year periods, starting in AD 240 and concluding in the early fifth century. Every cemetery covered is subject to this analysis, and subsequent study examines burial patterns within the wider context of the Western Empire. Major cemeteries are examined along with smaller sites in order to enable comparison of rites both locally and within the area of study (with sites ranging geographically from Britain to Hungary). The comparisons of burial practice between the sites enables an examination of regionality on these sites, with a number of different rites showing relatively strong regional traits. This comparison also identifies a number of cases where minority individual rites occur away from their normal centre of distribution. The discussion focuses on a number of aspects of late Roman burial rites. The coherence and importance of regionality in these rites is studied, along with the role played by religion, the identification of late Roman 'military' burials, ethnicity and potentially intrusive burials and the evidence for the role played by status and wealth in the overall pattern of burial. The final sections examines the current state of Late Roman cemetery studies and suggests areas for further study and development.