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Integrating histology in the analysis of multispecies cremations: a case study from early medieval England

French, Katherine McCullough, Crowder, Christian and Crabtree, Pam Jean 2022. Integrating histology in the analysis of multispecies cremations: a case study from early medieval England. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 32 (6) , pp. 1253-1263. 10.1002/oa.3160

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Methodological options for differentiating commingled human from nonhuman calcined remains are limited. A zooarchaeological analysis of human cremations from three early medieval sites in the Avon Valley (Warwickshire, England) identified commingled animal remains in burials from the site of Bidford‐on‐Avon, but not at the contemporary sites of Wasperton and Alveston Manor. A histological study was conducted to further investigate whether additional fragments of nonhuman bone could be identified and to quantify potential differences in preservation or cremation intensity between the sites. Bone fragments (n = 92) were selected from 44 cremation burials across the three sites for thin section preparation. Histological cross sections were observed to record the presence of fibrolamellar plexiform bone and secondary osteon banding, as well as to categorize the histological preservation and cremation intensity. The analysis did not identify any nonhuman remains from Wasperton or Alveston Manor, but nonhuman bone fragments were identified in the Bidford‐on‐Avon histology sample. These data supplement and support the findings of the macroscopic analysis that multispecies commingled cremations were only prevalent at Bidford‐on‐Avon. No statistically significant differences were identified in histological preservation or cremation intensity between the cemeteries. Variability in animal use in funerary rites between cemetery sites, rather than preservation bias, is therefore the likely explanation for the differential recovery of commingled nonhuman bone from excavated cremation burials. These results confirm that histomorphology is a useful tool to incorporate in the analysis of multispecies commingled cremations.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Additional Information: License information from Publisher: LICENSE 1: URL:
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 1047-482X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 26 September 2022
Date of Acceptance: 8 September 2022
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2024 03:12

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