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4.5 Human Remains by Corinne Duhig

Cite this as: Duhig, C. 2015, Human Remains, in M. Atkinson and S.J. Preston Heybridge: A Late Iron Age and Roman Settlement, Excavations at Elms Farm 1993-5, Internet Archaeology 40. http://dx.doi.org/10.11141/ia.40.1.duhig

A total of seventy-nine groups of human bone from contexts of Late Iron Age or Roman date were examined. A further four were subsequently identified, but inadvertently omitted from the study. An inventory, by context, was compiled at the assessment stage and is held in the archive. Following assessment, forty-five samples received detailed analysis; all but twelve comprise bone which has been cremated. Material from a further seven contexts, derived from Bronze Age funerary features in Area W, is published elsewhere (Duhig 2001). Methods used are those of Cho et al. (1996) and Ubelaker (1989) for general bone analysis and of McKinley (1989) and Mays (1998, chapter 11) for cremation deposits. Tables 166 and 167 summarise the findings for all the historic-period material that received detailed analysis; McKinley's 'ideal' cremated bone percentages are appended at the foot of Table 166 for easy comparison.

Table 166: Cremated and other burnt human bone
(*) weight at assessment stage was c. 1299g; part of the group was not subjected to subsequent full analysis
Feature Context Sample no. Period Weight Burning % sk % ax % li Condition Sex/age
43 41 278 3 330 Excellent 18.0 19.1 62.9   adult ??F
510 501   2B 1 Good N/A N/A N/A  N/D
510 502 38 2B 158 Excellent 9.9 2.2 87.9 sk and ax low adult ?F
510 509   2B 1 Good N/A N/A N/A   N/D
554 555   3 22 Excellent N/A N/A N/A   N/D
554 565 73 3 480 Excellent 27.7 4.6 67.7 ax low adult M
557 556 72 3 150 Excellent 14.3 1.8 83.9 ax low adolescent/adult
557 580   3 4 Excellent N/A N/A N/A   N/D
559 528 54 3 125 Good 7.7 6.2 86.1 sk and ax low ?adult
2195 2193   2B 80 Good 10.7 0.0 89.3 ax absent ?adult
2195 2229 106 2B 250 Excellent 57.4 7.9 34.7 ax low, sk high N/D
2201 2199 123 2B 605 Good 14.3 10.9 74.8 ax low, sk high ?adult
2201 2200   2B 6 Good N/A N/A N/A   N/D
2379 2417   2B 44 Good N/A N/A N/A abraded, contra. 2483 adult ??M
2379 2483 287 2B 402 Excellent 4.0 25.0 71.0 sk low adult ?M ?older
2455 2454 153 2B 424 Good 6.5 1.6 91.9 abraded; sk and ax low adolescent/ adult F
2490 2487 155 2B 160 Excellent 11.7 3.6 84.7 ax low adolescent/adult
2490 2488 156 2B 272 Excellent 7.1 4.8 88.1 sk and ax low adolescent
81778169 1825 2A 1135 Excellent 17.7 19.5 62.8 very large frags adult ?M
9665 9669 362 3 810 (*) Good 21.7 24.7 53.6 lge frags, concreted lumps ?imm
9927 9229 362 3 1085 Good 15.8 15.4 68.8 lge frags, concreted lumps adult ?older
9928 9216 360 3 740 Good 21.3 18.2 60.5 med frags, no lumps adult
12003 12002 2400 3 1880 Fair 17.3 24.4 58.3 very large frags MNI 2: A) imm; B) adult
12006 12005 2402 3 1125 Excellent 13.8 35.7 50.7   adult ?younger
12203 12197 2418 3 268 Good 28.6 15.4 56.0   imm >6y
12219 12214 2424 3 1155 good 29.4 15.6 55.0 very large frags adult ?F
15017 15015 439 3 750 poor 11.7 11.3 77.0   adult
15040 15014 440 3 600 fair 25.5 12.9 61.6   MNI 2: A) <16y; B) ?adult
 
  18.2 23.1 58.7 McKinley's 'normal' cremation proportions

Cremated bone

Cremated bone contexts were sieved, the larger fraction (>4mm) being fully sorted into bone elements for the different areas of the body; skull, axial skeleton, limbs/extremities. Each area was weighed and identifiable fragments sorted further, for example into skull areas or particular long bones, and recorded. The smaller fraction (2-4mm) was weighed and scanned for any diagnostic fragments. Representation of body areas was calculated both as percentages of the total weight of bone and of weight of identifiable bone. It is the latter which is presented as percentages in Table 166 because, in most cases, the unidentifiable bone did not represent a large proportion of the sample and because, given an equal amount of damage to all parts of the sample, all skeletal areas are equally likely to be identified rather than being lost in 'unidentifiable' (the exceptions are discussed in detail below).

The largest fragments were measured, to contribute, with the proportions of larger to smaller fractions, to an estimate of fragment size. The note 'very large fragments' indicates a sample containing at least three fragments of maximum dimension of 80mm or greater; the note 'large fragments' is only used in the Area D cremation burial group (i.e. 9229, 9216, 9669) to distinguish two of these samples, which were also unusually concreted, from the remaining sample of contrasting character.

Note was made of the colour of the fragments and whether differences in colour were concentrated on particular bones or skeletal areas, as this is informative as to pyre technology: temperature attained and/or duration of burning and differential burning of body areas. Following Mays (1998, 216-20, table 11.1 and references), a range of colours is taken as indicative of degree of removal of organic matter, and hence efficiency of burning; red/orange for the least well burned, ranging through brown, black, grey (this is usually blue-grey, as observed, for example, by Shipman et al. 1984, and sometimes a startling bright blue) and white. No cremated material was red/orange, which would be categorised as 'very poor' burning; 'poor' indicates brown fragments present, 'fair' indicates black, 'good' indicates blue-grey present and 'excellent' indicates only white fragments, although sometimes a brownish colour has been produced on white fragments by soil staining. Both Mays and Shipman et al. (in Mays 1998, table 11.1) have found that the minimum temperature required to produce white colouration is 645°C, although higher temperatures can be obtained easily in experimental wood fires. It is essential, however, that a pyre temperature of over 900°C is reached to start the body fats burning and the pyre is maintained for long enough to achieve complete combustion. In samples where there were two or more colours on bones, the colour indicating poorer burning was within the shafts of the more substantial long bones, around the pelvis (where thick muscle tissue would have protected the bone) and on parts of the skull vault and some of the bones of the extremities (which, being areas of little fat, would have not participated in the fierce burning that body fat produces when ignited). A number of samples were examined for bone refits, especially where a feature produced more than one sample. Even where refits could be made within samples, none could be made between samples. This does not mean that these samples are unrelated, of course, as small sample size, natural fragmentation, disturbance/truncation and erosion all detract from the potential for refitting.

Sexing and ageing was attempted, but few individuals could be sexed with confidence; no adults aged more precisely than 'younger' or 'older' adult and even the estimates of the ages of immatures are very tentative. There were no unequivocal pathological changes except osteophytic lipping of vertebrae, and those specimens with such lipping are suggested as being over 35 years of age, that is, 'older' adult in this report.

Pyre sites and related features

In total, forty-five samples were examined, all but one from Late Iron Age pyre sites and pyre-related features, all in Area W. The majority contained cremated bone samples of very low weight for which only limited study was possible. Seven were of large enough quantity and fragment size to be selected for further detailed analysis. These derived from three pyre sites (2201, 2455, 2490) and two pyre-related features (510, 2195) and are further discussed below.

As stated above, no between-sample refits have been identified in the assemblage, so no connections can be made even between cremated bone samples collected from multiple deposits within the same under-pyre flue features. However, the seven selected samples can be shown to represent at least two individuals; one adult and one adolescent.

The axial skeleton is absent or at a particularly low percentage in six of the selected samples, two of which also have low percentage of skull bone. From pyre-related feature 2195, cremated bone 2193 has no axial fragments, but as the unidentified and small fractions total 59% of the whole, perhaps the axial material is mainly here present. The same suggestion applies to its associated sample, 2229, which has 58% unidentified/small fraction. Cremation deposits 2199, 2454, 2488 and 2487, all with low axial skeleton, have 70%, 56%, 53% and 39% unidentified/small fraction respectively; the last is, however, an unconvincing figure to explain the sample's disproportion because it approaches that of 'normal' cremation deposits from this and other sites. In all these cases, damage is only one possible suggestion, and deliberate selection of certain bones at the deposition stage is equally likely, with the 'skull and crossbones' being favoured to stand for the whole skeleton.

The morphological similarities of these features to those from the Westhampnett cemetery (Fitzpatrick 1997a) are striking and their identification as the remains of pyre sites is plausible. It might be expected that cremated bone groups collected from such sites would be dominated by axial skeleton and low on skull and long bones. This does not necessarily appear to be the case with this assemblage, however, with not only pyre sites with large bone groups, such as 2201, 2490 and 2934, containing fragments representative of all major skeletal areas, but also a number of the smaller ones (e.g. 2332 and 2672) - suggesting that this was the norm.

Pyre-related feature 510, Area W, Period 2B (160g)

501 Creamy-white, well burnt. Small fragments, probably human. Weight 1g

502 Creamy-white, very well burnt. Human: skull and long bones. Adult ?female. Weight 158g

509 Creamy-white, well burnt. Extremely small fragments, probably human. Weight 1g

Pyre-related feature 537, Area W, Period 2B (12g)

536 Creamy-white. Small fragments, human: skull and long bones. Weight 16g

Pyre-related feature 561, Area W, Period 2B (4g)

560 No specialist ID/analysis. Burnt bone, possibly human. Weight 4g

Pyre-related feature/deposit 581, Area W, Period 2B (8g)

583 Creamy-white. Small fragments, human: long bones. Weight 8g
Associated with/same as 516 in ditch 605.

Ditch 605, Area W, Period 2B

516 Creamy-white. Extremely small fragments, probably human. Weight 2g

Probably derived from pyre-related feature/deposit 581.

Pyre-related feature 2129, Area W, Period 2B (10g)

2127 No specialist ID/analysis. Burnt bone, possibly human. Weight 10g

Pyre-related feature 2135, Area W, Period 2B (46g)

2133 No specialist ID/analysis. Burnt bone, possibly human. Weight 30g

2134 No specialist ID/analysis. Burnt bone, possibly human. Weight 16g

Pyre site 2189, Area W, Period 2B (19g)

2187 No specialist ID analysis. Burnt bone, possibly human. Weight 1g

2188 No specialist ID/analysis. Burnt bone, probably human. Weight 18g

Pyre-related feature 2195, Area W, Period 2B (330g)

2193 Samples 113 and 290. White, creamy-white, and a few blue-grey, well burnt. Most probably human: skull, long bones and extremities. ?Adult. Some possibly animal: skull. Weight 80g

2229 Creamy-white, white and few blue-grey area (joint surfaces), very well burnt. Human: skull, vertebrae, long bones with distinctive areas present (e.g., mandibular condyles, humeral heads). ?Animal: skull. Weight 250g

Pyre site 2196, Area W, Period 2B (<1g)

2198 Brownish-white. Extremely small fragment (unburnt). Possibly human. Blue-grey minute fragment. Human or animal. Weight <1g

Pyre site 2201, Area W, Period 2B (611g)

2199 Creamy-white, white, a few blue-grey, well burnt, and a few brown (unburnt). Human: skull, vertebrae, ribs, long bones and extremities with distinctive areas present (e.g., odontoid facet of atlas, humeral trochlea, whole phalanges) and animal: mandible and other skull areas. ?Adult. Weight 605g

2200 Creamy-white, well burnt. Small fragments. Probably human: skull, and ?rib or long bone. Weight 6g

Pyre-related feature 2212, Area W, Period 2B (1g)

2211 Creamy-white. Extremely small fragments, human or animal. Weight 1g

Pyre site 2254, Area W, Period 2B (88g)

2253 White with small areas of blue-grey. Possibly human: long bones. Weight 88g

Pyre site 2332, Area W, Period 2B (101g)

2333 Brownish-white (soil) and creamy white. Human: skull and long bones. Weight 100g

2395 Creamy-white. Minute fragments. Possibly human. Weight <1g

2396 Creamy-white. Minute fragments. Possibly human. Weight 1g

Pyre site 2422/2465, Area W, Period 2B (3g)

2386 Samples 147 and 152. White and blue-grey. Minute eroded fragments. Human or animal. Weight 2g

2421 White. Minute eroded fragments. Human or animal. Weight 1g

Pyre site 2443, Area W, Period 2B (83g)

2442 White, blue-grey and brown-black (not soil, probably charring). Extremely small fragments, probably human. Weight 1g

2547 Creamy-white and greyish-white with some blue-grey within long bones. Small fragments. Probably human. Weight 26g

2548 White and brownish-white (soil). Small fragments. Probably human: long bone. Weight 36g

2552 Brownish-white (soil). Small fragments. Probably human. Weight 16g

2568 Greyish-white with some blue-grey within long bones. Extremely small fragments. Possibly human: long bones. Weight 4g

Pyre site 2455, Area W, Period 2B (424g)

2454 Creamy-white with a few blue-grey areas, well burnt. Human: skull, vertebrae, ribs, long bones, extremities; one long-bone refit of three fragments. Adolescent/adult female. Weight 424g

Pyre site 2490, Area W, Period 2B (432g)

2487 Creamy-white, very well burnt. Human: skull, long bones, extremities, with distinctive areas present (e.g., distal ulna). Adolescent/adult. Weight 160g

2488 Creamy-white, very well burnt. Human: skull, vertebrae, pelvis, long bones with distinctive areas present (e.g., mandibular condyle); animal: at least four fragments (eroded) including proximal tibial epiphysis. Adolescent. Weight 272g

Pyre-related feature 2606, Area W, Period 2B (2g)

2602 Creamy-white. Small fragments. Probably human. Weight 1g

2603 Creamy-white. Extremely small fragments. Human or animal. Weight 1g

Pyre site 2609, Area W, Period 2B (103g)

2608 Creamy-white. One small fragment. Human or animal. Weight 1g

2638 Creamy-white with some blue-grey areas within long bones. Human: skull, long bone. Weight 102g

Pyre site 2672, Area W, Period 2B (38g)

2669 Brownish-white (soil) with some blue-grey fragments (long bone). Small fragments. Human: skull, long bone. Weight 24g

2670 Creamy-white. Small eroded fragments. Possibly human. Weight 14g

Pyre site 2673, Area W, Period 2B (112g)

2614 White (larger fragments), creamy-white (smaller fragments) with some blue-grey patches. Human: skull, long bone. Weight 106g

2615 Creamy-white and blue-grey. Extremely small fragments. Human or animal. Weight 6g

Pyre site 2705, Area W, Period 2B (26g)

2702 Creamy-white. Small eroded fragments. Possibly human. Weight 2g

2703 Creamy-white. Small eroded fragments. Possibly human. Weight 24g

Pyre site 2908, Area W, Period 2B (2g)

2239 Dark grey (soil). Minute fragments. Human or animal. Weight 2g

Pyre site 2934, Area W, Period 2B (262g)

2378 Creamy-white and blue-grey. Human: skull, ribs, scapula, pelvis, long bones, and extremities with distinctive areas present (e.g., humeral trochlea/capitulum, phalanges) and one long-bone refit. Weight 254g

2461 Brownish-white and creamy-white. Human: long bone. Weight 8g

Pyre-related feature 3585, Area W, Period 2B (2g)

3584 Creamy-white and brownish-white (soil). Two extremely small eroded fragments. Human or animal. Weight 1g

3587 White. Two eroded fragments. Human or animal. Weight 1g

Cremation burials

Twenty-two burnt bone contexts were examined that were judged to derive from a total of seventeen cremation burials. These graves generally occurred in small groups or clusters, widely separated across the excavated site, in Areas D, E, M, R and W. The details of each are presented below, ordered by period. It is notable that the two Late Iron Age examples are generally more effectively cremated than those of Early Roman date, perhaps indicating more efficient pyre technology or else greater care in ensuring full combustion of the corpse itself, although these two factors are to some extent inter-dependent.

Of interest in some of the Early Roman cremation burials (e.g. 559) is the disproportion of fragment weights from the different areas of the skeleton; the skull and axial skeleton form much lower percentages of the total than in an 'ideal' cremation deposit. Several explanations can be offered; that the skull and axial skeleton have been differentially removed by selection at the deposition stage (including the possibility that it has been 'over-collection' of the limbs that has pushed down the percentages of the other areas, these substantial bones tending to survive cremation well and producing large, highly-visible fragments); that a deposit which had been layered with skull and axial bones at the top has been truncated; that the sample has been so damaged that certain areas appear in the 'unidentifiable' or 'small fraction' categories. The latter can, to some extent, be quantified by considering the percentages of these two categories, and neither make up a large proportion of the whole, suggesting that little has been lost through damage. Further, although much of the axial skeleton is fragile (e.g. sternum, ribs, parts of sacrum) or hard to identify (e.g. cancellous bone in innominates and vertebrae), the skull vault preserves well and is identifiable even when minutely fragmented. The question of selection at the deposition stage cannot be approached through the material, but truncation has been noted for this feature and does not seem an unreasonable explanation for the disproportion.

Cremation burial 2379

The cremated bone of 2417 is abraded, unlike that of 2483 from the same feature. The latter was urned while the former was recovered from outside the vessels and has presumably suffered from its exposure to the soil. Despite there being no refits, there are no duplications between these two samples and it is not impossible that they represent the same individual, an adult male. On the other hand, the abrasion might indicate that 2417 had been deposited elsewhere before it was added to the pit belonging to 2483 - perhaps a portion of an ancestor or family member?

There are some, largely inexplicable, disproportions of body parts in this group, for which no cause in plough-damage or truncation can be identified. The low percentage of skull in 2483, which is unlikely to be due to damage or deliberate selection, might be compensated for by the skull fragments that largely compose 2417, if these two samples indeed represent one individual.

Cremation burial 2379, Area W, Period 2B (446g)

2417 Creamy-white with a few blue-grey areas. Human: skull, pelvis, long bones, and extremities with distinctive areas present (e.g. trigon, scaphoid tubercle). Weight 44g

2483 Creamy-white with a few blue-grey areas (within cancellous bone of long bones), very well burnt. Human: from all parts of the skeleton; several long bone refits; largest fragment 82x22mm. ?Older adult ?male. Weight 402g

Cremation burial 8177

Cremation deposit 8169, in Late Iron Age burial 8177, is exceptional in being both excellently burnt (completely white, even within the long bones) and having very large fragments. Fragmentation of bone can be produced; during burning if the pyre is well tended, as periodic turning over and stirring of the pyre and its contents helps to expose all areas of the body to fire and oxygen, promoting complete combustion; at the collection stage if the bone is collected before it is cool, because hot bone is dry and brittle; at deposition stage if deliberate breakage is practised; at any stage after deposition due to taphonomic factors, although these would need to be severe, as cremated bone tends to be robust. In this case, the degree of burning suggests very good pyre technology but probably without 'stirring', which would have increased breakage.

Cremation burial 8177, Area E, Period 2A (1135g)

8169 Creamy-white, brownish-white (soil) with some blue-grey patches; adherent soil. Very large fragments Human: one adult ?male with remains from all areas of the skeleton and many distinctive areas present. Very well burnt. Weight 1135g

Cremation burials 9665, 9927 and 9928

Two of the cremation deposits, 9229 (in burial 9927) and 9669 (in burial 9665), resemble each other in condition, having large fragments and being concreted together with soil, small stones and, apparently, some flecks of charcoal. The fragments are commingled from all areas of the skeleton, showing that the contents of these urns were not arranged by body part (as is sometimes found). The remaining cremation, 9216 in burial 9928, consists of medium-sized fragments and is not concreted. As all three were urned and 9229 and 9216 were from cuts in the top of the same large infilled pit, 9391, their contrasting condition is surprising, but might be the result of 9229 and 9669 having been very wet when collected.

Cremation burial 9927, Area D, Period 3B (1085g)

9229 Sample 362. White, brownish-white (soil), and blue-grey (skull and pelvis). Considerable size range in fragments, from 55x10mm to minute. Human: with remains from all areas of the skeleton and many distinctive areas present. ?Older adult. Well burnt. Weight 1085g. One unburnt eroded lump of bone - intrusive?

Cremation burial 9928, Area D, Period 3B (740g)

9216 White, brownish-white (soil), blue-grey and grey (lumbar vertebra). Considerable size range in fragments, from 40x20mm to minute. Human: with remains from all areas of the skeleton and many distinctive areas present. Adult. Well burnt. ?Animal present. Weight 740g. One unburnt ungulate tooth.

Cremation burial 9665, Area D, Period 3B (810g, an additional 440g not analysed)

9669 White with some blue-grey patches; concreted fragments with much adherent soil. Considerable size range in fragments, from 50x20mm to extremely small. Human: with remains from all areas of the skeleton with some distinctive areas present. ?Immature. Two burnt small mammal/bird bones present. Well burnt. Weight 810g

Cremation burials 15017 and 15040

These two Early Roman cremation burials are of interest because of the inadequacy of their burning; one, 15014, including dark grey areas and the other, 15015, including black and brown areas and therefore being the only reasonably sized sample to be 'poor' in terms of burning. Cremation deposit 15014 has an MNI of two individuals, based on the presence of three petrous bones, although there are no other duplications and the remains of the additional individual might have been picked up from a reused pyre site; that being said, petrous bones are highly distinctive and are less likely to have been left behind on the pyre site than other fragments.

Cremation burial 15017, Area M, Period 3 (750g)

15015 Brownish-white (soil), creamy-white, blue-grey and grey, poorly burnt. Human: skull, vertebrae, pelvis, long bones; ?pathological tooth formation. Adult. ?Some animal. Weight 750g

Cremation burial 15040, Area M, Period 3 (600g)

15014 Brownish-white (soil), and one fragment with glossy brown surface, fairly well burnt. Human: skull, vertebrae and long bones with some distinctive areas present. Two individuals: ?adult and juvenile. Weight 600g

Cremation burials 43, 554, 557, 559, 564, 572

The group includes three cremation deposits of reasonable size, 41 (in burial 43), 565 (in burial 554) and 556 (in burial 557). All show good pyre technology in their white colour, but they are not consistent in their proportions, 565 and 556 being low on material from the axial skeleton. The former was plough damaged and the loss of the more fragile axial skeleton could be accounted for in this way. The very high percentage of unidentified and small-fraction bone (over 60%) in the latter shows that severe crushing has taken place at some time, and as it is not thought to have been plough damaged we can suggest that the crushing took place during pyre-tending or at deposition.

Cremation burial 43, Area W, Period 3 (330g)

41 White, very well burnt. Human: all skeletal areas. Adult ?female. Weight 330g

Cremation burial 554, Area W, Period 3 (502g)

555 Creamy-white, very well burnt. Human: skull and long bones. Weight 22g

565 Creamy-white with few blue-grey patches, very well burnt. Human: skull, vertebrae and long bones with distinctive areas present (e.g., petrous, nuchal, joint surfaces). Adult male. Weight 480g

Cremation burial 557, Area W, Period 3 (154g)

556 Creamy-white, very well burnt. Human: skull, vertebrae, long bones and extremities. Adolescent/adult. Weight 150g

580 Creamy-white, very well burnt. Small fragments, human: skull, long bones and ?rib. Weight 4g

Cremation burial 559, Area W, Period 3 (125g)

528 Creamy-white, well burnt. Human: long bones. ?Adult. Weight 125g

Cremation burial 564, Area W, Period 3 (19g)

616 White. Extremely small fragments, possibly human. Weight 1g

618 White. Human: skull and long bone. Weight 18g

Cremation burial 572, Area W, Period 3 (2g)

571 Creamy-white and one red-brown (?Fe stain). Extremely small fragments, possibly human. Weight 1g

573 Creamy-white. Extremely small fragments, possibly human. Weight 1g

Cremation burials 12003, 12006, 12203 and 12219

This group comprises four cremation deposits of inconsistent degree of burning and fragment size. Each has good quantities of bone, 12197 being a child and therefore to be expected to be proportionately lighter in weight than the adults. Cremation deposit 12002 (in burial 12003) has the highest weight, equivalent to a complete female using Trotter and Hixon's calculation (Mays 1998, table 11.2), but has an MNI of two, as indicated by the duplication of two bones, the presence of thick and thin vault fragments and of larger- and smaller-sized bones. The largest and most poorly burnt fragments at the site are also in cremation deposit 12002, perhaps suggesting that less effort or expertise was applied to this pyre then the others.

Cremation burial 12003, Area R, Period 3 (1880g)

12002 Grey-blue, creamy-white and grey; areas of orange-yellow colouring, fairly well burnt. Mostly very large fragments, maximum 70x55mm; much bone dust. Human: with remains from all areas of the skeleton and many distinctive areas present. Two individuals: adult and immature. Weight 1880g

Cremation burial 12006, Area R, Period 3 (1125g)

12005 Greyish-white (bone dust), creamy-white with a few blue-grey fragments. Very well burnt. Much bone dust. Human: with remains from all areas of the skeleton and many distinctive areas present. ?Younger adult. Weight 1125g

Cremation burial 12203, Area R, Period 3 (268g)

12197 Creamy-white and greyish-white (bone dust), well burnt. Human: with remains from all areas of the skeleton and many distinctive areas present; immature, c. 6 years (size, unfused proximal femoral epiphyses and 4/5 with complete crown and no root). Weight 268g

Cremation burial 12219, Area R, Period 3 (1155g)

12214 Creamy-white and blue-grey, well burnt, large fragments. Human: with remains from all areas of the skeleton and some distinctive areas present. ?Female adult. ?Some animal. Weight 1155g

Unburnt bone

Of the twelve unburnt human-bone contexts, five are collections of adult bones in Area E pits 8142 and 8155 and grave 10776. The semi-articulated bones 8162 from pit 8155, are almost certainly portions of one individual, a middle-aged or older adult male. They could well belong with skull 8141 from pit 8142, of similar sex and age. The bone from backfill fill 8153, however, comprises worn animal and human fragments with no refitting, certainly a rubbish deposit. Skeleton 10758, lying face-down in shallow mid-Roman grave 10776, is a young female adult. Her prone position appears to suggest careless or disrespectful deposition, as has been observed in numerous other Roman (and Anglo-Saxon) burials, mostly of women (discussed in Taylor 2001). The contracted forearms could have been produced by shrouding alone, however, or deposition or shrouding while the arms were fixed in contraction by rigor mortis, and shrouding can also produce inadvertent turning of the body to prone position.

Table 167: Unburnt human bone
Feature Context Sample no. Period Condition Sex/age
4943 4925   4 one bone neonate-6 m
- 4993   3 several bones if one indiv., late foetal-neonate
8142 8141 1818 5 skull, thorax and arm bones M 31-71 y
8155 8153 76 5 several bones, mixed with animal adult
8155 8162   5 arm, pelvis and leg bones ?M ?>35 y
10776 10683 10758 1549 1550 1551 4 skeleton F 17-25
13167 13171   2B skull, upper limb, pelvis and femur neonate
- 13568 1053 3 one bone neonate
15271 15272   4 one bone neonate
15271 15280   4 one bone >neonate
17038 17037   4 two bones infant

The remaining seven samples contain one or more bones of foetuses/neonates, aged by the methods of Stewart (1979) and Ubelaker (1989, table 14). They are all close in age, one late foetal to neonate, three clearly neonate, two in the range from neonate to 6 months of age, and one unmeasurable but probably of similar age range to the previous two. Following Mays, we can suggest that these deaths might be due to stillbirth, live births dying around the first week post-partum or victims of infanticide, as is found not uncommonly in Romano-British contexts (Mays 1993). We do not have sufficient numbers to discern the pattern of these burials - if individual burials they be - to distinguish between the potential causes. However, while stillbirth is the more likely, either of the other explanations would account for the presence of babies of this age range.


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