Landing : Athabascau University

Mortuary Practicies in Archeological Sites

By Laurie Milne in the group AU Anthropology Interest Group October 10, 2015 - 1:40pm

Two recent publications  add to our understanding of the  evolution of human mortuary practices.   

In the volume  "Transformation By Fire: The Archaeology of Cremation in Cultural Context" (The University of Arizona Press, 2014)  14 scholars working in both North America and Europe discuss  the physical processes and social meanings inherent in cremation practices across time, space, and culture.  The papers in this volume focus on two aspects of cremation: the distinction between cremation and inhumation and the variety in cremation practicies.  The volume's editors, Ian Kuijt, Colin P. Quinn and Gabriel Cooney acknowledge that while the volume is not comprehensive spatially, temporally or culturally, "... the volume should serve as the spark..." for future research and understanding of the many dimensions of cremation. 

A recent paper in the British journal "Antiquity" reports that Bronze Age Britons and possibly earlier and later groups used mummification to preserve bodies.   Tom Booth and colleagues propose   that  evisceration to remove gut bacteria (which hastens decay), placement in peat bogs and even the smoking of corpses were the methods employed.  They also report that some skeletons were found to be composed of remains from different individuals.  Microscopic examination of bone surfaces shows acidic residues which suggest various post mortem treatments.


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AU Anthropology Interest Group

AU Anthropology Interest Group

A group for those interested in socio-cultural anthropology, archaeology, biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology