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Archaeology of the funeral offerings of organic products in the Celtic, Etruscan, Italic and Punic cultures (VIth s-Ier s BC). – MAGI (Manger, boire, offrir pour l’étern

Archaeology of the funeral offerings in preroman Gaul and Italy

Funeral identities and cultural transfers in the Celtic, italic, Etruscan and Phénico-punic worlds: the offerings of organic materials and vases containing organic products in preroman Gaul and Italy

For a knowledge of organic products deposited in the grave

The stakes:<br /> The program MAGI aims at bringing to the archaeologists the scientific data which are usually inaccessible because appearing under a shape too much degraded to be recognizable by the usual means, in the microscopic or molecular scale. <br /> The carpology and the palynology give a direct perspective on certain categories of offerings such fruits or seeds, and can bring indications on organic less visible products as fermented drinks (wine, beer and mead in particular) and the food preparations. Informations who ask to be confirmed by the appeal to other methods. <br /> It is the crossing of various scientific methods (carpology, palynology, organic chemistry and paleogenetic) to identify biological deposited contents in graves and in their immediate environment, that constitutes the key problem of the program Magi, with as main stake the access to new information on characteristics usually underestimated by the funeral rites (the offerings of organic products by definition strongly degradable) and as other stake the knowledge of cultural transfers concerning the funeral custom of organic products on the scale of preroman Italy and Gaul. <br /> The objectives:<br /> 1. The implementation of a multidisciplinary analytical methodology<br /> 2. The identification and the characterization of the funeral offerings of organic matters and organic products within four great historic cultures<br /> 3. The resolution of archaeological problems connected to the function and to the function and the uses of precise categories of ceramic, glass, metal packagings<br /> 4. The knowledge of the exchanges of organic products connected) to the food and to the maintenance of the body and their cultural and economic meanings within four great cultures

The Magi program is based on a approach of several complementary methods :
- A very fine excavation, in laboratory of the inside of every ceramic of the tomb.
- The attentive observation and the study of the possible tracks left inside and outside of the packaging which can give information on the modalities of use
- The analyses of organic chemistry
- The archaeobotanic analyses (palynology and carpology)
- The palaeogenetic analyses in certain cases (for the identification of an preserved but amorphous organic mass ; when a vase is closed by its cork of origin)
The technical approaches:
- Correlation packaging / contents: the very fine excavation of the inside of every packaging of a grave is made by means of surgical instruments, including size grading, sieving, macrophotographies of the possible identified stratigraphical levels. The grading study and macrophotography of every stratigraphical layer allows to understand the processes of sedimentary filling of the vase, to distinguish in certain cases the solid, viscous nature, the liquid of the original contents and the stages of its degradation. The traceological approach allows to obtain further information on the status of the packaging and on its modes of use.
- Takings and analyses: further to the excavation of the inside of the packaging, several targeted takings are made to give rise to analyses of pollen, in carpological studies, in analyses of organic chemistry, and, when necessary, in physico-chemical analyses and in paleaogenetical analyses (according to the nature of the taken residues).
- Experimental archaeology: one of the main difficulties lies in the interpretation of the results of the chemical and paleogenetical analyses. The appeal to the experimental archaeology allows to validate certain hypotheses concerning the explanation of the presence of materials identified as the resin, the pitch, a dairy product, an animal wax.

Results of the missions and the analyses :
We were able to make, during three missions, 25 taking in central Italy (Cerveteri and Rome), 10 for Cumes and 38 in Sardinia (Pani Loriga, Monte Sirai, Orroli, Tharros).
The takings of the first three missions having taken place only recently, it is now impossible to give the results of the analyses which are in progress. Let us note that, in central Italy ( Cerveteri), as in Sardinia (Monte Sirai), we had the happy surprise to be able to search and take a number of vases which were still partially full of their original contents which appear in the form of solid, compact masses.
Results of the basic research:
During the first 4 months, the LNG worked on the development and on the validation of a protocol appropriate to the research)for the markers of the wine by using the GC-MS (already acquired in the LNG) as well as in the development of protocols for the analysis of phenols (polyphenols of fruits and natural colouring agents) by préparative micro-LC and especially by mass spectrometry in mode MALDI TOF-TOF MS to detect tracks of wine, the protocol previously developed and based on the analysis by THM-GC-MS of the native and degraded polyphenols, was improved. The purpose was to extract and to detect aldaric acids, in particular the tartaric acid renowned for its very strong insolubility. Two approaches were developed and compared. The protocol was validated on modern red and white wines then on archaeological reference samples, residues of wine and impregnations of porous supports.
Results of the experimental archaeology:
The reconstruction of oil perfumed according to techniques and methods known in the antiquity (enfleurage under heat, protodistillation) allowed to encircle the role played by certain substances identified by analyses, as resins and wax. A scientific article will be published to present these results.

Missions and strategies of analyses:
A significant number of analyses concerned central Italy and Sardinia. The priority will be given from next september in France and in Italy of the South. Contacts were taken with actors of the preventive archaeology from the east, the west and the south of France to intervene on sites of halstattian and latenian necropolises during the autumn and the winter 2013-2014. Also, a mission was planned in the region of Foggia in the last week of October, in association with the Soprintendenza per i Beni archeologici della Puglia of to analyze vases of a rich italic grave of 5th BC.
Archaeobotanical analyses:
We were able, during the mission in central Italy, to estimate the scientific interest of a type of packaging rich in diversified organic contents : Etruscan braziers. At first we are going to have a practice in the excavation and in the sieving of the contents. The screening will be made dry on sieves with stitch of 2 and 0,5 mm. The furniture will be separated by categories: charcoal, seeds, fragments of bread, animal rests and every type of quantified vestige. We shall proceed then to a carpologic study more thorough. Seeds will be determined under binocular. microscop We shall also possess in the first analyses on the fragments of possible breads to determine their technical qualities (bread with raised dough or pancake) and the composition of their pastas. Fragments, the most reduced possible, shells of egg will be realized to identify the species.
Analyses of organic chemistry:
The basic research which allowed to set up reliable protocols of identification of the chemical markers of the wine will be developed from next year for the products of the hive and the beer, in association with various French and foreign laboratories.

New protocols :
We supplied a particular effort to develop new protocols of extraction / purification / analysis, allowing the identification of a larger range of materials, in particular grape and its by-products. A new protocol, giving access to the insoluble organic fraction, was developed and validated during the 1st half-year. From now it allows the identification of tiny traces of wine from impregnations of ceramic vessels or vats built in mortar, but also from invisible deposits in glass bowls or even in metal. The protocols of chemical analysis developed and tested on various types of objects show that it is now possible to analyze the contents of any mineral container (ceramic, glaze vessel, stone), and in particular to open the studies to the glass and to the metal containers, if they were not restored. These new protocols will be published soon in an international revew.

Two publications directly connected to the program Magi were planned: 
- In the electronic version of the « Cahiers du Centre Jean Bérard « will be published in 2014 a collective work gathering the contributions of various French, Italian, Spanish and Australian associates concerning the archaeology of organic products in the antique Mediterranean Sea.
- In a new collection of the European archaeological Center of Bibracte, will be published, doubtless next year a manual being entitled: « packagings and biological contents in archaeology: instructions for use «.
The web site of the program Magi ( ) will present, from october, the video and audio recordings of the doctoral Workshop of Rome / Cerveteri and the Thematic School of Bibracte

The Celtic, Etruscan, Italic and Phénico-punic cultures did not leave us literary sources concerning the funeral rites. Their knowledge is allowed thanks to various iconographic, epigraphic and especially archaeological approaches which were gradually organized with the contribution of the new developments of the archaeology funeral. The archebotanic and the archeozoology supply fundamental data on essential constituents of the rite: the bloody and non-bloody sacrifice (the biological offerings in graves and their immediate environment). Due to their nature, more visible than seeds and fruits, the animal bones were very early studied in funeral context. On the other hand, the presence of rests of plant food, carpet of flowers, coniferous substances or incenses, determined thanks to micro and macro rests is more delicate to bring to light. It's the same for residues preserved in recipients. Besides, hardly few studies were realized on the non-bloody offerings in the frame chronological geography chosen. A large-scale analysis on the nature and the reasons of the deposit of biological offerings been lacking totally. Harmful situation, at first by the wealth of information that this type of studies brought for Roman period to the knowledge of the rites for simply a decade and then because the methods of investigation are reliable and easy to implement. On the other hand, an important category of funeral offerings remains mostly invisible for the archaeologists; the amorphous organic materials, produced solid or fluids contained in recipients which, by anthropological action and natural phenomenon(fall of the vase in the grave, intervention of sediments, chemical change in time) seems to have totally disappeared. chemical and genetic technics allow to identify the original materials from their chemical markers or from fragments of sequences DNA, partially preserved. The appeal to these technologies is still relatively rare. Indeed, the obtaining of positive and exploitable results depends on numerous parameters that the archaeologists cannot always master; only an interdisciplinary work can guarantee the relevance of the studies. The objective of the program MAGI is to set up an interdisciplinary approach combining various methods of excavations, takings and analyses of the visible and invisible rests of organic products preserved in the grave. At first, a stratigraphic excavation of the whole grave but also inside of the recipients combining size grading, sieving and macrophotocrafic shots will on one hand allow to encircle the nature of the various coats observed and on the other hand to select the takings for identifications of the botanical and ichthyologic rests. Secondly, will be selected, if necessary, materials and recipients (by the invisible impregnations of their walls) for physico-chemical and genetic analyses allowing the precise identification of the residues and contained. This combined, crossed and treated on a hierarchical basis approach of the various methods and the techniques will be possible thanks to the collaboration of eight teams of research and a wide panel of complementary disciplines. It will allow to exploit at best the archaeological, biological and mineralogical data of the contents of the archaeological recipients, in a frame of collaboration pluri-and interdisciplinary. Three seminaries will be organized as well as a colloquium of the end of program presenting all the results. The MAGI program will give rise to three publications (the acts of the colloquium, a catalog of exhibition and an on-line database), to a workshop of doctoral formation in Rome (French School of Rome: it will concern the potentialities and the limits offered by the botanical, zoological, chemical and genetic analyses of the organic products), two workshops of specialist training (the one in France in Mont-Beuvray, the other one in Italy in Naples) addressing the professionals of the archaeology, and the exhibition in the museum of Lattes.

Project coordination

FRERE Dominique (Archéologies d'ORient et d'OCcident) –

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


ASM Archéologie des sociétés méditerranéennes - UMR 5140-
CJB Centre Jean Bérard, USR3133 CNRS - EFR
LNG Laboratoire Nicolas Garnier
AOROC Archéologies d'ORient et d'OCcident

Help of the ANR 279,995 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2013 - 36 Months

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