Jar burial

Jar burials are human burials where the corpse is placed into a large earthenware and then is interred. Jar-burials are a repeated pattern at a site or within an archaeological culture. When an anomalous burial is found in which a corpse or cremated remains have been interred, it is not considered a "jar burial".

Jar burial can be traced to various regions across the globe. It is noted to have been practiced as early as BCE 900,[1] and as recent as CE 15-17th centuries [2] Particular areas of studies on jar burial excavations include India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Palestine,Taiwan, Japan, Cambodia, Iran, Syria, Sumatra, Egypt, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Vanuatu, and Vietnam. These differing locations call for different methods, accoutrements, and rationales behind the jar burial practices. Cultural practices ranged from primary [3][4] versus secondary burial,[1][2][5] burial offerings (bronze/iron tools, weapons and bronze/silver/gold ornaments, wood, stone, clay, glass, and paste) in/around burials,[2][6] and hierarchical structures represented in the location/method of the placement of jars.[6]

Among many cultures, a period of waiting occurs between the first burial and a second burial that often coincides with the duration of decomposition. The origin of this practice is considered to be the different concept of death held by these cultures. In such societies, death is held to involve a slow change, a passage from the visible society of the living to the invisible one of the dead. During the period of decomposition, the corpse is sometimes treated as if it were alive, provided with food and drink and surrounded by company. Some groups on the island of Borneo, for example, attach mystical importance to the disintegration of the body, sometimes collecting and carefully disposing of the liquids produced by decomposition.


As previously stated, jar burial culture was employed by peoples who chose this practice for primary or secondary burial. Primary burial refers to the acts performed on the body immediately after death. In some cases of Jar Burial, primary burial with this technique was a lot more difficult to carry out. In Cretan societies, the dead body would be bound tightly to fit into the desired jar. This was believed to be originally intended for infants and small children, but it evolved into larger categories of adults.[3] Adults, however required much larger jars, deeper graves, and more man-power to In Egyptian societies, the body also could be sat upright, and then the jar would be forced on top of the body. Egyptians also would place the body into the jar themselves, rather than pushing the jar downwards, but this would create a need for a lid. Lids are not specific pieces of pottery, they have been found to be as simple as a rock or another jar.[5] The preference of how it the body was placed did not have any certain significance.[4]

Secondary burials are different acts performed on body that has already been buried. The allotted time between primary and secondary burials varies between cultures, however an emphasis is placed on waiting until the body has decomposed, and whatever technique is carried out as "secondary", is dealing with only defleshed bones.[2] With jar burials, the defleshed bones were cleaned and subsequently put in a jar.[5]

Jar additions

Types of jars and additional components vary from location to culture. Different shapes of jars can indicate the prestige or societal level of the deceased, or it can be a commonplace jar. Funerary offerings are sometimes placed in or around the jars, thus revealing more information about the value different peoples have for certain items.


Pithoi were typical storage jars, and were commonly used for burials, and they employ vertical round to oval handles (29).[7] Carvings on jars have also been found, sometimes depicting local divine beings of the time. This is thought to assist in the passing of that individual to a realm beyond life. The carvings on jars are not standardized, meaning there is no particular pattern of a certain carving on multiple jars, but most carvings have been observed in Egypt[1]

Some jars are specifically manufactured for jar burials, due to the varying size of bodies and grave sites available to different cultures.[5]


Many jar burial sites have also been accompanied by more than just the skeletons and jars. Beads, swords, mirrors, and other animal bones have been found in and around jars. In the Cardamom Mountains, a large amount of beads have been found in jars.[6] These are most likely offerings to the deceased, in the same way that tombs have gifts in them. However the presence of these beads and other offerings give great insight into the lifestyle of the people. By studying the materials and methods the beads were made of, researchers have been able to link various cultures together based on their likely trade operations—the way they obtained exotically different beads than what was typical to their own culture.[2]


Mindanao burial urn 2 SF Asian Art Museum

Limestone burial urn from Cotabato, Philippines, dated approximately 600 CE

Jar-Burial Culture

Woman in a burial jar from the Jar-Burial Culture of Mingachevir, Azerbaijan

Folk Arts Museum, Courtallam 4

A burial jar from the 1st Century CE in Kalugumalai, Tamil Nadu

Pottery burial jar Sa Huynh Cultue

Burial jar from the Sa Huỳnh culture of Vietnam

Cattien pottery burial jar 2

Burial jar from the Cát Tiên archaeological site of Vietnam

Manunggul Jar

The Manunggul Jar (890–710 BCE) from Tabon Cave, Palawan, Philippines

Burial Jar of Young Child - Ethnographic Museum - Falak-ol-Aflak Castle - Khorramabad - Western Iran (7423663068)

Infant burials in Iran, often placed under houses, like in Palestine region

Burial jar cemetery in Yoshinogari Site

Japanese burial jar cemetery

Geographical locations of jar burials

Location Dates Cultural Specifics
Cambodia AD 1395 - 1650 [8] In the Cardamom Mountains specifically, a mass burial site with over 152 individuals was discovered. Using radiocarbon dating, researchers were able to indicate that this specific site was only an active burial site for about 15 years. In addition to human remains, they were able to genetically identify animal bones also (pigs, dogs,). These findings were deduced to have been placed with the grave as offerings. When analyzing the jars themselves, they were identified as being jars obtained through maritime trading or local ceramic production.[2][9]
Egypt -- In Egypt, prior to utilizing an embalming process, there is evidence that they practiced jar-burial. They used hemispherical and bowl urns, and the shape was not indicative of any external meaning. Some jars found here had inscriptions on the outside resembling common deities worshipped by the Egyptian people.[4]
Indonesia -- Jar burials are known from Java, Sumatra, Bali, Sulawesi, Salayar Island, and Sumba. Most sites are found in eastern Indonesia, with the burials restricted to coastal areas.[10]
Iran -- In Iran, we do not find any items accompanying the burials, and no indication of offerings. However, this area is dictated by tropical conditions, and these conditions resulted in frequent and repeated flooding resulting in sites and artifacts that were not well preserved[11][12]
Japan BC 300 - AD 300 Jar Burial was practiced in Japan for about 600 years. Sites here show the most intricate planning of burial sites, and the planning reflected a social hierarchy within the site. Certain areas of the site had multiple burials clumped together, with the most recent death buried closer to the surface, and the oldest would lie deeper and underneath the recent deaths. These clumps all faced each other, so when the site was opened again to bury someone new, all of the clumps were 'connected' and more inviting to the person about to be buried. Within clumps, most have offerings in or around the graves. Offerings plus the intricate planning of the site indicates that a lot of care was put into the disposal of the dead in this culture.[13][6]
Lebanon -- In the sites discovered, Lebanese jar burials were particularly reserved for infants. It was rare to find an adult who had been buried in a jar.[14]
Malaysia -- Burial jars have been found in the Niah Caves of Sarawak.[10]
Palestine -- Palestinian jar burials were done as "Subfloor burial", in which they were buried under floors in rooms of the house. The areas chosen were mostly high traffic areas where household tasks were performed, thus connecting them with the main parts of everyday life. In these burials there were occasional materials found with the bodies such as shells, but there has been no evidence that these were placed with the bodies as offerings.[1]
Philippines -- The practice of jar burial was widespread in the Late Neolithic period of the Philippines, with archeological examples from northern Luzon, Marinduque, Masbate, Sorsogon, Palawan, and in Sarangani in Mindanao. They were usually placed in caves and are made from clay or carved stone. The oldest example is the Manunggul Jar from the Tabon Cave, dated to 890–710 BCE.[15][16][10]
Sumatra -- Secondary burial was carried out using the jar burial method. The only other additions of note were shards of pottery found in some urns with the bodies.[17]
Syria BC 1800-BC 1750 Syrian jar burial was noted to have been practiced for a short period of time. The vessels used to bury individuals in did not always happen to be jars; they ranged from pots to goblets, and had pins and cylinder seals inside.[18]
Taiwan -- Typical to Austronesian Taiwanese jar burial, glass beads were laid to rest within the jars along with the body. Jar burial was used as a means of secondary burial here.[5]
Thailand -- Upon extensive testing, studies have shown that individuals buried in jars had different diets than other inhabitants of Thailand. This suggests a different social status of those buried in jars, or that those individuals were immigrants and brought that practice with them to Thailand.[19]
Vanuatu -- In Vanuatu, almost all jar burials were found with ceramic fragments in the jars. It is unclear whether those are shards of other broken jars or if they were placed in the jars as offerings.[20]
Vietnam -- Burial jars in Vietnam are mostly from Austronesian sites in southern and central Vietnam. The most notable are burial jars from the Sa Huỳnh culture.[16]

See also


  • Ivashchenko, M. “Kuvshinnye pogrebeniia Azerbaidzhana i Gruzii.” Izvestiia AN Azerbaidzhanskoi SSR, 1947, no. 1.
  • Kaziev, S. M. AVbom kuvshinnykh pogrebenii. Baku, 1960.
  • Golubkina, T. I. “Kul’tura kuvshinnykh pogrebenii v Azerbaidzhane.” In the collection Tr. Muzeia istorii Azerbaidzhana, vol. 4. Baku, 1961.
  • A. Nnoeshvili, Funeral Practice of Transcaucasian Nations (The 8th B.C.-the 8th A.D. Jar Burials), Tbilisi, 1992, ISBN 5-520-01028-5
  1. ^ a b c d Birney, Kathleen; Doak, Brian R. (2011). "Funerary Iconography on an Infant Burial Jar from Ashkelon". Israel Exploration Journal. 61 (1): 32–53. JSTOR 23214220.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Carter, A. K.; Dussubieux, L.; Beavan, N. (2016-06-01). "Glass Beads from 15th-17th CenturyCEJar Burial Sites in Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains". Archaeometry. 58 (3): 401–412. doi:10.1111/arcm.12183. ISSN 1475-4754.
  3. ^ a b Maria., Mina (2016). An Archaeology of Prehistoric Bodies and Embodied Identities in the Eastern Mediterranean. Triantaphyllou, Sevi., Papadatos, Giannēs, 1972-. Havertown: Oxbow Books. ISBN 9781785702914. OCLC 960760548.
  4. ^ a b c Wood, W. H. (1910). "Jar-Burial Customs and the Question of Infant Sacrifice in Palestine". The Biblical World. 36 (3): 166–175. doi:10.1086/474370. JSTOR 3141677.
  5. ^ a b c d e DE BEAUCLAIR, INEZ (1972). "Jar Burial on Botel Tobago Island". Asian Perspectives. 15 (2): 167–176. JSTOR 42927787.
  6. ^ a b c d Mizoguchi, Koji (June 2005). "Genealogy in the ground: observations of jar burials of the Yayoi period, northern Kyushu, Japan". Antiquity. 79 (304): 316–326. doi:10.1017/s0003598x00114115. ISSN 0003-598X.
  7. ^ Mochlos IIC : period IV, the Mycenaean settlement and cemetery : the human remains and other finds. Soles, Jeffrey S., 1942-, Davaras, Kōstēs. Philadelphia, Pa.: INSTAP Academic Press. 2011. ISBN 9781931534604. OCLC 852160173.CS1 maint: others (link)
  8. ^ Beavan, Nancy; Halcrow, Sian; McFadgen, Bruce; Hamilton, Derek; Buckley, Brendan; Sokha, Tep; Shewan, Louise; Sokha, Ouk; Fallon, Stewart (2012/ed). "Radiocarbon Dates from Jar and Coffin Burials of the Cardamom Mountains Reveal a Unique Mortuary Ritual in Cambodia's Late- to Post-Angkor Period (15th–17th Centuries AD)". Radiocarbon. 54 (1): 1–22. doi:10.2458/azu_js_rc.v54i1.15828. ISSN 0033-8222. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. ^ Beavan, Nancy; Hamilton, Derek; Sokha, Tep; Sayle, Kerry (2015/ed). "Radiocarbon Dates from the Highland Jar and Coffin Burial Site of Phnom Khnang Peung, Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia". Radiocarbon. 57 (1): 15–31. doi:10.2458/azu_rc.57.18194. ISSN 0033-8222. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. ^ a b c Lam, Thi My Dzung. "Jar burial tradition in Southeast Asia". Museum Anthropology. Hanoi National University. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  11. ^ FARJAMIRAD, M. (2016). FUNERARY OBJECTS FROM A SASANIAN BURIAL JAR ON THE BUSHEHR PENINSULA. Iranica Antiqua, 51301-311. doi:10.2143/IA.51.0.3117837
  12. ^ Elizabeth), Murray, Sarah (Sarah (2011). Making an exit : from the magnificent to the macabre -- how we dignify the dead (1st ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312533021. OCLC 707969689.
  13. ^ Mizoguchi, Koji (September 2014). "The centre of their life-world: the archaeology of experience at the Middle Yayoi cemetery of Tateiwa-Hotta, Japan". Antiquity. 88 (341): 836–850. doi:10.1017/s0003598x00050729. ISSN 0003-598X.
  14. ^ Alan Ogden & Holger Schutkowski (2013) Human Remains from Middle Bronze Age Burials at Sidon, Lebanon: the 2001 Season, Levant, 36:1, 159-166, DOI: 10.1179/lev.2004.36.1.159
  15. ^ Jacinto, Al. "2,000-year-old artifacts, cave found in Mindanao". GMA News Online. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  16. ^ a b Nguyen, Thi Hau (December 2011). "SEAsia Prehistory told in jar burial". Vietnam Heritage Magazine. 1 (10).
  17. ^ Soeroso (1997). "Recent discoveries of jar burial sites in South Sumatra". Bulletin de l'École Française d'Extrême-Orient. 84: 418–422. doi:10.3406/befeo.1997.3825. JSTOR 43731472.
  18. ^ JAMIESON, Andrew S. (1998). "Ceramic Vessels from the Middle Bronze Age Jar Burial F167 at Tell Ahmar". Ancient Near Eastern Studies. 35: 106–119. doi:10.2143/anes.35.0.525773.
  19. ^ King, Charlotte L.; Bentley, R. Alexander; Tayles, Nancy; Viðarsdóttir, Una Strand; Nowell, Geoff; Macpherson, Colin G. (2013). "Moving peoples, changing diets: isotopic differences highlight migration and subsistence changes in the Upper Mun River Valley, Thailand". Journal of Archaeological Science. 40 (4): 1681–1688. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2012.11.013.
  20. ^ "Description of jar burial practice at the Teouma Lapita cemetery (Efate, Vanuatu) and preliminary comparisons with Southeast Asia jar burial traditions". HOMO - Journal of Comparative Human Biology. 64 (2): 159–160. 2013. doi:10.1016/j.jchb.2013.02.043.
Celt (tool)

In archaeology, a celt is a long, thin, prehistoric, stone or bronze tool similar to an adze, a hoe or axe-like tool.

Cumberland point

A Cumberland point is a lithic projectile point, attached to a spear and used as a hunting tool. These sturdy points were intended for use as thrusting weapons and employed by various mid-Paleo-Indians (c. 11,000 BP) in the Southeastern US in the killing of large game mammals.

Death messenger

Death messengers, in former times, were those who were dispatched to spread the news that an inhabitant of their city or village had died. They were to wear unadorned black and go door to door with the message, "You are asked to attend the funeral of the departed __________ at (time, date, and place)." This was all they were allowed to say, and were to move on to the next house immediately after uttering the announcement. This tradition persisted in some areas to as late as the mid-19th century.

Dignified death

Dignified death is a somewhat elusive concept often related to suicide. One factor that has been cited as a core component of dignified death is maintaining a sense of control. Another view is that a truly dignified death is an extension of a dignified life. There is some concern that assisted suicide does not guarantee a dignified death, since some patients may experience complications such as nausea and vomiting. There is some concern that age discrimination denies the elderly a dignified death.

Grattoir de côté

A Grattoir de côté (translates from French as Side Scraper) is an archaeological term for a ridged variety of steep-scrapers distinguished by a working edge on one side. They were found at various archaeological sites in Lebanon including Ain Cheikh and Jdeideh II and are suggested to date to Upper Paleolithic stages three or four (Antelian).

Grinding slab

In archaeology, a grinding slab is a ground stone artifact generally used to grind plant materials into usable size, though some slabs were used to shape other ground stone artifacts. Some grinding stones are portable; others are not and, in fact, may be part of a stone outcropping.

Grinding slabs used for plant processing typically acted as a coarse surface against which plant materials were ground using a portable hand stone, or mano ("hand" in Spanish). Variant grinding slabs are referred to as metates or querns, and have a ground-out bowl. Like all ground stone artifacts, grinding slabs are made of large-grained materials such as granite, basalt, or similar tool stones.

Khojaly–Gadabay culture

The Khodzhaly-Kedabek culture (also Khojaly-Gadabay and variants (Azerbaijani: Xocalı-Gədəbəy mədəniyyəti, Russian ходжалы-кедабекская культура), also known as the Gandzha-Karabakh culture (ганджа-карабахская культура) is an archaeological culture of the Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age (roughly 13th to 7th centuries BC) in the Karabakh region of Transcaucasia. The eponymous sites are at Khojaly, Gadabay and Ganja in Azerbaijan.

It was excavated by Soviet archaeologists beginning in the 1920s.It was described by Boris Piotrovsky and other archaeologists specializing in the prehistory of Transcaucasia during the 1930s to 1970s.

Findings from Khojaly burial grounds discovered in 1895 by E. Resler. Hermitage Museum

Lamoka projectile point

Lamoka projectile points are stone projectile points manufactured by Native Americans what is now the northeastern United States, generally in the time interval of 3500-2500 B.C. They predate the invention of the bow and arrow, and are therefore not true "arrowheads", but rather atlatl dart points. They derive their name from the specimens found at the Lamoka site in Schuyler County, New York.

Leyla-Tepe culture

The Leyla-Tepe culture of ancient Caucasian Albania belongs to the Chalcolithic era. It got its name from the site in the Agdam district of modern day Azerbaijan. Its settlements were distributed on the southern slopes of Central Caucasus, from 4350 until 4000 B.C.

Monuments of the Leyla-Tepe were first located in the 1980s by I. G. Narimanov, a Soviet archaeologist. Recent attention to the monuments has been inspired by the risk of their damage due to the construction of the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline and the South Caucasus pipeline.

Manunggul Jar

The Manunggul Jar is a secondary burial jar excavated from a Neolithic burial site in the Manunggul cave of the Tabon Caves at Lipuun Point in Palawan. It dates from 890–710 B.C. and the two prominent figures at the top handle of its cover represent the journey of the soul to the afterlife.

The Manunggul Jar is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest Philippine pre-colonial artworks ever produced and is considered a masterpiece of Philippine ceramics. It is listed as a national treasure and designated as item 64-MO-74 by the National Museum of the Philippines. It is now housed at the National Museum of Anthropology and is one of the most popular exhibits there. It is made from clay with some sand soil.


Megadeath (or megacorpse) is one million human deaths, usually caused by a nuclear explosion. The term was used by scientists and thinkers who strategized likely outcomes of all-out nuclear warfare.

Pesse canoe

The Pesse canoe is believed to be the world's oldest known boat, and certainly the oldest known canoe. Carbon dating indicates that the boat was constructed during the early mesolithic period between 8040 BCE and 7510 BCE. It is now in the Drents Museum in Assen, Netherlands.

Plano point

In archeology, Plano point is flaked stone projectile points and tools created by the various Plano cultures of the North American Great Plains between 9000 BC and 6000 BC for hunting, and possibly to kill other humans.

They are bifacially worked and have been divided into numerous sub-groups based on variations in size, shape and function including Alberta points, Cody points, Frederick points, Eden points and Scottsbluff points. Plano points do not include the hollowing or 'fluting' found in Clovis and Folsom points.

Shulaveri-Shomu culture

Shulaveri-Shomu culture (Georgian: შულავერი-შომუთეფეს კულტურა) is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Colchis, Azerbaijan the Armenian Highlands, and including small parts of northern Iran. The culture is dated to mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC and is thought to be one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures and Colchis.


Tapayan or tempayan (also known as balanga, belanga, or banga) are large wide-mouthed earthenware or stoneware jars found in various Austronesian cultures in island Southeast Asia. Their various functions include fermenting rice (tapai), fermenting vinegar or alcoholic beverages, storing food and water, cooking, and burial of the deceased.

The term tapayan also include the imported martaban stoneware (Dutch: martavanen), originally from kilns in Southern China and Indochina. These were used primarily as storage jars for foodstuffs and valuable trade goods during ship voyages, but were highly valued as trade goods themselves. They became heirlooms and symbols of wealth and status among various indigenous cultures in the islands of Southeast Asia.

Tham An Mah

Tham An Mah, (Horse Saddle Cave) is an archaeological site located in the Luang Prabang Province of Laos. The site was initially excavated in 2010 by a joint team of the Middle Mekong Archaeological Project and the Department of Heritage of Laos. Perhaps most important is the site's status as one of the stone jar burial sites from iron age Laos, the most famous of which is the Plain of Jars. Test excavations in 2010 included two trenches. Finds from trench B included a circular stone disk, possibly made of limestone or a similar material. The initial reports listed the possibility that the disk represented a jar covering or grave marker similar to those found on the Plain of Jars. The B trench also included the remains of four pots, one of which was directly under the discovered disk and accompanied by loose remains.The single datable piece of material that has thus far been recorded was from the lowermost portion of the excavation and gave a date of c. 13,000, which could indicate an earlier site not recorded. The site also included a Buddhist painting on the cave walls that villagers believed was from the 1950s.

Tool stone

In archaeology, a tool stone is a type of stone that is used to manufacture stone tools,

or stones used as the raw material for tools.Generally speaking, tools that require a sharp edge are made using cryptocrystalline materials that fracture in an easily controlled conchoidal manner.

Cryptocrystalline tool stones include flint and chert, which are fine-grained sedimentary materials; rhyolite and felsite, which are igneous flowstones; and obsidian, a form of natural glass created by igneous processes. These materials fracture in a predictable fashion, and are easily resharpened. For more information on this subject, see lithic reduction.

Large-grained materials, such as basalt, granite, and sandstone, may also be used as tool stones, but for a very different purpose: they are ideal for ground stone artifacts. Whereas cryptocrystalline materials are most useful for killing and processing animals, large-grained materials are usually used for processing plant matter. Their rough faces often make excellent surfaces for grinding plant seeds. With much effort, some large-grained stones may be ground down into awls, adzes, and axes.


In archeology, a uniface is a specific type of stone tool that has been flaked on one surface only. There are two general classes of uniface tools: modified flakes—and formalized tools, which display deliberate, systematic modification of the marginal edges, evidently formed for a specific purpose.

Yubetsu technique

The Yubetsu technique (湧別技法, Yūbetsu gihō) is a special technique to make microblades, proposed by Japanese scholar Yoshizaki in 1961, based on his finds in some Upper Palaeolithic sites in Hokkaido, Japan, which date from c. 13,000 bp.

The name comes from the Yūbetsu River (湧別川, Yubetsugawa), on the right bank of which the Shirataki (白滝遺跡, Shirataki Iseki) Palaeolithic sites were discovered.

To make microblades by this technique, a large biface is made into a core which looks like a tall carinated scraper. Then one lateral edge of the bifacial core is removed, producing at first a triangular spall. After, more edge removals will produce ski spalls of parallel surfaces.

This technique was also used from Mongolia to Kamchatka Peninsula during the later Pleistocene.

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