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Death in the east: The treatment of the dead in the Iron Age of eastern Britain

Legge, Michael 2021. Death in the east: The treatment of the dead in the Iron Age of eastern Britain. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

This thesis concerns the treatment of the non-cremated dead in the Iron Age of eastern Britain, an area encompassing eight modern-day counties. The research presented here seeks to identify regional and chronological patterns in post-mortem treatment, furthering existing debates around excarnation practices, inhumation traditions and the ‘invisible dead’. The material has been divided into three main categories; complete inhumations, partial remains, and disarticulated bones. To successfully approach this varied data, three methodologies were employed: 1. Macroscopic taphonomic analysis of disarticulated material provided data on the processes by which articulated individuals became fragmented. 2. Osteological analysis of inhumations allowed unpublished material to be considered together with more widely available data and inform on population demographics and health. 3. Archaeological analysis of excavated material and theoretical approaches to concepts of belief, death and burial provided the secondary data and the framework for understanding the primary material. The findings here add weight to arguments that excarnation in the Iron Age was not conducted through subaerial exposure, but instead through complex post-mortem processes likely involving primary burial and exhumation, or protected excarnation in covered environments. Inhumation practices are widespread temporally and geographically, though the Late Iron Age material dominates, with clear chronological shifts in practice. Cemetery inhumation emerges in the MIA-LIA, but settlement burials occur throughout the period, more consistent in context, position and alignment than previously thought. Regionality may be evidenced though large numbers of individuals in Cambridgeshire and Kent, though geology and excavation histories are clearly also a factor. There are novel findings within this research, but primarily it serves as significant, regionally specific support for certain existing assumptions, backing up theories with quantitative data and shining a light on an under-researched region.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Acceptance
Status: Unpublished
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Funders: AHRC – SWWDTP
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 15 October 2021
Date of Acceptance: 2021
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2022 01:34
URI: https://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/id/eprint/144867

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