Secondary burial cemeteries, visibility and land tenure: A view from the southern Levant Chalcolithic period Academic Article uri icon


  • Off-site secondary burial cemeteries in the southern Levant are an innovation of the Chalcolithic period. Ethnographic studies suggest that location of burial places was one of the means used to establish and socially mediate ownership over the landscape. The current research examines whether the spatial pattern of burial sites during the Chalcolithic period in the southern Levant represents a land tenure system. Spatial analyses of burial and habitation sites located mainly along the central Israeli coastal area indicate that Ghassulian communities avoided locating their burial sites near habitation sites concentrations. Viewshed analysis indicates that the areas observed from burial sites are significantly larger than those observed from habitation sites, and that their location scattered across an area which increases rather than overlaps the size of area visible from the habitation sites. Furthermore, our results show that communities which wanted to claim land tenure over a larger territory use burial sites locations in order to maximize the observed area within habitation sites surroundings.

publication date

  • January 1, 2012