In a very distinct sector of the investigation area along the Snam pipeline, a burial has been identified that presupposes unusual aspects with respect to the burial procedures of the remaining Proto-Romanic community of Masseria Festa (Figures 1-2). We speak of a deceased person of a presumable age between 35-45 years old buried in a shallow grave, in a strip of land not in direct connection with the cemetery development of the main nucleus, with evident physical exclusion and declared marginality of the burial. This first data calls for a careful analysis of the context that reveals further points of interest.

The deceased is an adult warrior, as explicit elements of the usual equipment in defining the status of male individuals within the community: a spear cusp, then a long weapon, the big knife and the metal razor (fig 3) ). Metal objects orientate towards a dating of the fifth century BC, in an area of ​​the population of great importance for the history of the settlement. The burial is atypical in the manner of lying of the deceased: the body with ventral decubitus, then in a prone position, placed in the ground and with preservation of the anatomical connections, has the skull bent sideways and resting on the right arm, the left arm bent height of the elbow, with the hand carried towards the neck, the lower limbs slightly bent (Fig. 4).

The deceased does not have traumas or injuries that can indicate the cause of death. The position of the lance, the knife and the razor define as intentional the lying position for the physical correlation between the objects and the deceased. There are no accidental facts, such as the rapidity and the rush of deposition, which have conditioned the body's laying. The funeral tradition of the necropolis defines as a rule the position in dorsal decubitus of the deceased, with few variables referable to the position of the limbs. We are faced with an atypical burial, also called "unusual", "deviant", therefore exceptional compared to the funeral practice, which in anthropological and archeological studies is reported to a limited series of burials documented from the Paleolithic up to modern times.

The dark side of the past, the phobia of the revenants, the so-called undead, seems to distinguish the anomalous burials: people who died in special events, or bearers of particular pathologies, or still considered dangerous for the community of belonging, evoke the fear of death and the need to confine them, limit them, so that they can not damage or constitute a danger of contamination.


The prone warrior of tomb 8

The treatment reserved for the burial of tomb 8 does not provide the position of the skull with the face down towards the earth. This modality would not seem extremely negative and could pose the question of whether we are facing the type of deviant burials. The deceased does not look towards the earth, he is not put in a position to not act and therefore does not seem to re-enter the dimension of the undead.

It is also necessary to evaluate the presence of the metallic set of weapons and tools, in the revival of usual objects in the material culture of the community, such as to suggest the belonging of the warrior to one of the family branches buried in the main nucleus. The isolation of inhumation in a liminal space may not be related to a figure on the margins of society. So, how to explain the recourse to an anomalous burial?


Hypothesis 1

Particular circumstances in the life of the deceased or events related to death may have led to the choice of a funeral ritual different from the norm. Assuming an unusual life, with violation of the rules of behavior of the community, the acts that have solicited the practice could be either voluntary - a crime for example - or involuntary - a particular disease. Even an unusual death, a sacrificial victim, for example, may have influenced the choice of burial.


Hypothesis 2

The funeral practices found, the shallow ditch, the absence of ceramic equipment could indicate the presence of an individual who for various factors - murder, illness, suicide or drowning - has received simple funerary attestations of lower quality, with energy expenditure in the funeral ritual proportioned to the social quality of the individual. Less work to preserve and preserve burial requires a particular social interaction on the part of the clan members of the village.


Hypothesis 3

The deceased may have been a person with a military and prestige role not within the community. The weapons would seem to substantiate the hypothesis. A figure alien to the community, with origins in a different social group, even if homogeneous by culture, to which non-usual ritual practices are recognized.

His presence may have created an imbalance within the community, may have challenged the order of the whole system: hence the cultural variable, the urgency to distinguish.

Marisa Corrente