TRANSFUN. Funeral transitions in the West from Antiquity to the present day

  • Sections: Antiquity, Middle Ages and Modern and Contemporary periods 
  • Director: Guillaume Cuchet  professor, University of Paris-Est Créteil, Research Center in Comparative European History CRHEC, EA 4392; Nicolas Laubry, Director of Studies, École française de Rome; Michel Lauwers, professor, Université Côte d'Azur, Cultures and environments, Prehistory Antiquity Middle Ages CEPAM, UMR 7264 


Based on the observation of an anthropological transformation in relation to death and the dead within the contemporary world, the programme “Funeral Transitions in the West from Antiquity to the present day” aims to explore the different dimensions of this change and to look at the great transformations that have characterized funeral practices in Europe and in Mediterranean areas since the end of the protohistoric era. After the historiographic craze of the 1970s, a revival of interest in this theme seems to be emerging among historians of the modern and contemporary periods, among sociologists and anthropologists. Concerning earlier periods, Antiquity or the Middle Ages, issues surrounding the dead have always received attention by researchers, but the revival of such questions and current methods of archaeology call for revisions and new syntheses.  

However, it will be less a matter of rewriting a history of death in the West than of understanding the metamorphosis of funeral systems over the centuries. There are many examples and challenges: institutions, social structures, religious beliefs and rituals, material expression and topographic integration, the effect of demographic changes or mass mortality crises are all points to be considered. Multidisciplinary and playing on the comparative interest of the long term view, this programme will make it possible to integrate the considerable mass of archaeological data relating to ancient societies produced during previous decades and to understand funeral rites in the light of analyzes and information from all of the social sciences. In this way, it is also the notions of norms, transformations and social dynamics and, perhaps also, the very notion of historical periodization that will be questioned anew. 

For this programme, the École française de Rome brings together five partner institutions (the universities of Paris-Est Créteil, Côte d'Azur, Aix-Marseille, Padua and Bordeaux) as well as an international network of researchers working in France, Italy, Germany or the United States.

A research notebook on the site is being developed:



Death; funeral practices; historical transitions; standards; religion; rituals; Western Europe; Mediterranean       


Find out more research notebook

Expected results

In addition to setting up a network of researchers from various specialties and backgrounds, the aim of the programme is the publication of a collective summary study on the research theme.


In  2017

A first scientific meeting was held on June 22 and 23, 2017 at UPEC (Créteil): to set historiographic and theoretical milestones, it will explore the relationships between funeral transitions and social transformations, the dynamics of funeral systems and the crises and tensions to which they are subjected.

For more information →

Download the programme (pdf) →

In 2018

En 2019



Page translated from French, 2020/12/2

Laboratoire International Associé (LIA)