Atlantic to Altai Burial Mounds: Inequality Proxy

Research project T1_2

In the search for early manifestations of inequality in the history of humankind, the subcluster ROOTS of Inequality aims to create a temporally and geographically extensive data set of barrows. This will serve as a basis for a comparative study about how inequality within and between societies of the same and different time periods is represented in the specific monumental grave form of the barrows. Contrary to the usual approach of using the grave goods as a proxy for wealth or power, here the grave monument as such is seen as an expression of the economic potential of a group or the sociopolitical significance of the buried individual. The initial study will be limited to burial mounds created for individual burials, where the erection of the monument can be attributed to the death of the buried individual. A translation of a barrow’s recorded attributes and metric values into economic inequality measures (e.g. Gini coefficient) may thus reveal profound structural developments in the prehistory of inequality.
In terms of time, we will concentrate on barrows from the 5th to the 2nd millennia BC, whereas in terms of space we want to consider – at least in part – the geographical area from the Atlantic coast to Central Asia. This will cover both agrarian and pastoral groups.

Burial Mound in Schmalensee
Burial mound, Schmalensee (Schleswig-Holstein) (photo: Stefanie Schaefer-Di Maida).

Project by Johannes Müller
Henny Piezonka
Julian Laabs
Andrea Ricci



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