Research on the emergence of institutionalized inequality has traditionally maintained an analytical
divide between lived institutions that affect daily life and performed institutions materialized in mortuary
contexts. Here, we argue that convergence or divergence between lived and performed contexts reveals key
aspects of past social organization. When combined, mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology provide a
methodological framework well suited to evaluate the coherence or dissonance of such institutions. Three case
studies from prehistoric Europe highlight how new insights gained by studying tension between institutions,
identities and experiences across social dimensions can transform our understanding of the development of
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