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Dr Tom Booth
Natural History Museum & University of Bristol
Just Remember that Death is Not The End: Curation and Excarnation of human remains in Bronze Age Britain

Potentially curated disarticulated human skeletal elements and multiple/token cremations are recovered from variable contexts throughout the Bronze Age in Britain (c.2500-700 BC). Determining the duration over which these human remains were curated and their precise post mortem treatment is vital to understanding the meaning of these practices. We attempted to address these questions through a programme of radiocarbon dating and micro-CT analysis of cremated and unburnt human bones from variable Bronze Age contexts. We found that radiocarbon dates from curated human remains were consistently offset from and sometimes statistically significantly older than dates from their depositional context, suggesting that they had been curated over relatively short timescales, decades rather than centuries. This duration of curation was longer for remains from Beaker and Early Bronze Age contexts. Micro-CT analysis of taphonomic changes in a smaller sample of bones suggested that excarnation was practiced throughout the Bronze Age.

Dr. Tom Booth is a post-doctoral bioarchaeologist interested in biomolecular and taphonomic analysis of ancient human remains. He is working at the Natural History Museum and the University of Bristol on projects related to ancient human DNA from prehistoric Britain and curation of ancestral relics in the British Bronze age.


University of Bradford

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