4.7 Disposal Method - Area patterns

The south west area

Table 167 shows the south west area to have a distinct switch in disposal rite from inhumation only incidence at 70% in 3500-2500bc to cremation only incidence over the two periods covering 2500- 8/700bc (75% and 74% respectively), and then back again to inhumation only over 8/700-AD43 (80% and 89%). Sites with mixed mode disposals are relatively high in 3500-2500bc at 23%, but are not well represented in the succeeding periods (7-9-0-5%). The pattern represents an exaggeration of the overall average (Table 176).

The percentages above and those for part and whole body disposal are based on small numbers (Table 166) except for 2500-14/1300bc. The most obvious pattern which appears for incidence of whole and part body disposal is that 3500-2500bc and 8/700bc-AD43 have proportionately far more incidences than the intervening period 2500-8/700bc, with 14/1300-8/700bc being the least strongly represented. Whole body disposal by itself is most steadily represented over the whole timescale, completing a rise from 11-45% incidence over 14/1300bc-AD43. The other remarkable point is the incidence of sites with evidence for both part and whole body disposal being at very low levels in the two periods covering 2500-8/700bc, at 6% and nil.

Excarnation appears on 9% of sites in 3500-2500bc but is low thereafter at 0-3%. Table 168 indicates that unambiguous excarnation incidences are largely confined to the period 3500-14/1300bc (83%), but the numbers are very small overall at 11 recorded site occurrences (Table 166).

Considering the proportionate appearance of a characteristic through the five periods in the south west (Table 168), cremation only is disproportionately present in 2500-14/1300bc (86% against 67% of sites) with inhumation by itself lower at 35%. Inhumation only is disproportionately higher over 8/700bc-AD43 at 17% and 24 % compared with site proportions (7% and 9%). The remainder of the evidence in the table for whole and part body disposal reflects that reported on above.

The south area

The south area also follows the broad cremation/inhumation pattern through the periods but Table 170 shows lower incidence of cremation only disposal sites in 2500-14/1300bc at 46% of the average for the whole, but a higher incidence of sites with both cremation and inhumation on them in that period. In 100bc-AD43 inhumation only sites appear to be more in evidence than the average at 83% (Table 176, 64%), just as in the south west. Excarnation occurs on 29% of sites in 3500-2500bc in the south area, but then is rare as an unambiguous event, ranging from 1-4% incidence over the four periods spanning 2500bc-AD43.

Whole body, part body and combined incidences of whole and part disposals seem also in the south area to offer uncertain indicators. The period 14/1300-8/700bc, when cremation is the most popular disposal method, has very little evidence. Part body incidence by itself is least in evidence through the five periods, and notably lower in 2500-14/1300bc and 100bc-AD43. Whole body disposal, when it revives from 8/700bc, is of relatively high incidence at 39%, rising to 57% site incidence in 100bc- AD43, both percentages comfortably above the corresponding ones for the earliest two periods covering 3500-14/1300bc. Sites with mixed mode disposals start at 38% in 3500-2500bc, declining steeply to 22% in 2500-14/1300bc and to 4% in 14/1300-8/700bc, and rise again in the next two periods. For the south area they are very close to the average figures referred to in commentary on Table 176 covering all areas.

As in the south west area, unambiguous evidence for excarnation in the south occurs primarily in the periods covered by 3500-14/1300bc.

The south east area

This area follows the broad pattern of the others until 100bc-AD43, when it reverses that of the south west and south areas by favouring cremation only (62% compared with their 7% and 16%, Table 173), but with fewer inhumation only (29% incidence compared with 89% and 83%). An earlier slight variation has occurred in 14/1300-8/700bc when the south east adopted cremation only to a lesser degree than the other areas (65% against the south west at 74% and the south at 86%). Indeed through the whole timescale, the south east area appears to swing less sharply between the cremation only/inhumation only poles than do the other areas. The numerical base may be misleadingly small.

As a result of the more consistent incidence of inhumation evidence through the five periods in the south east, that for part/whole body disposal is more discernible. Notably the period 14/1300-8/700bc is comparatively well represented. The evidence for sole whole body and mixed whole and part body incidence broadly mirrors the incidence of inhumation through the periods. Part body sole incidence also follows the pattern except in 2500-14/1300bc where it is low at 9%.

Excarnation is most traceable in the period 3500-2500bc at 10% incidence, and then drops to 1-4% incidence in the remainder of the timespan. Numbers of occurrences are low at 14 of 447 sites over 3500bc-AD43 (Table 172).

Table 174, which looks at each characteristic through time, indicates a more even pattern of part body sole depositions compared with the distribution of sites between periods. Otherwise the occurrences reflect the evidence just described for Table 173.


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