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Mortuary practices in the Iron Age of Southwest Britain

Bricking, Adelle 2022. Mortuary practices in the Iron Age of Southwest Britain. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis presents a holistic investigation into enigmatic Iron Age mortuary practices in Southwest Britain, a region with interesting variations in the burial record but has been largely discounted in previous scholarship. This is due in part to the poor geological conditions for bone preservation that cover much of the region, however ‘invisible’ funerary rites have been suggested to explain the paucity of human remains in Britain. Excarnation has been the dominant theory to explain the often disarticulated and scattered nature of Iron Age mortuary evidence, the possibilities are manifold. Thus, this research aims to identify mortuary practices afforded to the Iron Age dead by employing a multi-scalar methodology of microscopic and macroscopic analyses. Three main methods are used to shed light on various post-mortem stages: 1. Histological light microscopy of bone diagenesis of human bone samples representing various types of deposition (articulated, partially articulated and disarticulated), recovered from various site types and features, to determine early post-mortem treatments including excarnation or immediate burial; 2. Macroscopic taphonomic analysis of sampled elements to inform on secondary processes such as manipulation, curation and exposure; 3. Large-scale analysis of burial data collected from site reports (both published and unpublished) and HER records to determine regional patterns in burials or ‘final deposition’ characteristics. The combined results of these methods suggest that mortuary practices in the Iron Age of southwest Britain were protracted, involving series of multifaceted processes and various treatments leading up to the final deposition. Most importantly, this research suggests that exhumation, rather than excarnation, was largely responsible for skeletal disarticulation. Variations in post-mortem treatments may represent different stages of a widespread practice, or less common mortuary practices that were performed concurrently within Iron Age communities. The research presented here provides new insights into complex mortuary practices in a fascinating and under-studied region.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 24 January 2023
Date of Acceptance: 20 January 2023
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2023 10:21

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