(Department of Archaeology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Keywords: Burial archaeology, multiple burials, taphonomy, physical anthropology

Research question
Multiple burials are defined as inhumations of more than one individual in a single burial context. These burials have often attracted interest from the public and regularly are featured in the media. However, to archaeologists they remained rather enigmatic and therefore received only rarely systematic attention. Changes in the perception of multiple burials and advances in archaeological methods and analytical techniques have led to the publication of a number of interesting case studies. This paper investigates whether the study of multiple burials within a confined space and time frame provides clues to a better understanding of this phenomenon.
This paper will provide an overview of the number, location and content of multiple burials in Merovingian Maastricht. Data will consist of excavation data, analysis of post-depositional processes, anthropological examination and aDNA analysis.
Multiple burials have been excavated at three sites: the Servatius church site, the Boschstraat site and the Borgharen site. The majority of multiple burials consist of an adult individual and one or more children. Detailed excavation methods applied at the Borgharen site provide a more detailed view of the timing of the chain of events leading to the creation of a multiple burial. Analysis of aDNA has shown that the individuals in one of the multiple burials from the Borgharen site were most likely members of a single family. The implications of these results for the interpretation of other multiple graves in Maastricht will be discussed.
The innovative aspect of this approach lies in the fact that the prevalence of multiple burials is studied in one area and with a focus on a specific time interval. Also the integrated use of data from various analyses is still not the standard.