Proposition 9

that age and sex may not have determined disposal process significantly through prehistory.

The evidential base for the testing of any such hypothesis is narrow because identification of sex and age from remains is often absent, resulting in a meagre record (Tables 202 and 203 on sex, and Tables 265 and 266 on age). There is the further caveat that to test the hypothesis properly, then the individual burial requires analysing in a very detailed and characteristic-sensitive fashion for particular patterns of combination. The research data coding has not been structured to achieve the latter for every site type, since its purpose is to detect if possible very broad trends in disposal processes and attitudes to disposal. However, the special studies in Section 6 did involve the analysis of disposal characteristics, including grave goods associations with individually sexed disposals and other related features of disposal, and provide some data for limited tests on sex differentiation. This work has been drawn upon in the appraisals below.

Tests for significant associations with sex

The single disposals offer most opportunity for indicators of significance since they contain the unambiguous one-to-one or one-to-many disposal-to-characteristic relationship that is needed. They are taken period by period. In 3500-2500bc the grave goods when set down with such disposals were mostly simple tools and utensils, and animal bone or domestic refuse. There seems to have been no particular bias in setting down goods (or not) in respect of the sex of the individual buried, but the goods appear to be most often set down with adults. This may, however, be more apparent than real since there must be many accidents of non-survival of grave goods, and it is also more difficult to determine sex from bones of the younger person. There seems also to have been no particular bias in the type of goods associated with age or sex, males and females being as likely to be accompanied by tools and utensils as by domestic refuse or animal bone. Often the goods were token items such as a single flint flake, or a sherd, but sometimes there were small collections of simple goods, both males and females being just as likely to be so accompanied.

The pattern of non-discrimination between sexes in respect of depositing grave goods or not continues in 2500-14/1300bc, and similarly the (possibly false) impression appears to be for the goods to accompany adults. Again, in many respects males and females have common types of accompanying goods, varying from the simple (sometimes token) item to a collection of items. The quality of goods similarly may pass through the whole spectrum from token item to collections of high excellence, for both males and females. A difference appears to occur between the sexes in that the male's accompanying goods more frequently appear to include the more aggressive, and possibly symbolically significant, dagger and axe, and the female's goods include more frequently items of personal decor (again possibly with their own symbolic intent). This pattern has its exceptions, however, which may relate to the process of lineage succession in elite groups or have other symbolic import. In particular respect of burials with Beaker accompaniments, more males seem to have had such a vessel set down than females, which is suggestive both in itself and in its exceptions. (The general pattern of Beaker grave distribution could in itself be significant, occurring widely but also in a few distinct concentrations in the south and south east areas, but being more scattered across the northern half of the south west area, and with no obvious foci.)

The main differences between the three areas in this period are these: in the south east area the male burials appear to be more generously furnished relative to the females; in the south area the burials contain the most excellent goods; and the south west area has probably the least rich grave goods. However, in these last two areas, the males and females appear to have been similarly treated.

In 14/1300-8/700bc the evidence shrinks considerably, since a high proportion of single disposals were unaccompanied, and the numbers where sex was discerned are also reduced. The sexes appear to be receiving equal treatment insofar as they can be identified. From a small numerical base, it would seem that the deposition pattern returns to one similar to that of 3500-2500bc, with no marked discrimination between the sexes on goods set down, the goods being simple and few. In 8/700-100bc, the treatment pattern appears to continue for the sexes in single disposals as in the last period, with even treatment and, where they are laid down, simple goods for the most part with some small collections. In 100bc-AD43, the incidence of deposition of grave goods with single disposals rises again (males and females without goods being in apparent continuing balance as they have been in all periods), but the rate of identification of sex is low. On very small numbers indeed there appears to be no significant variation in treatment, although the south east area can be identified as having more female than male burials with goods of excellence than the two other areas.

There does not appear to be any particular differentiation taking place in other disposal characteristics between male and female disposals in the single disposal group. Special studies suggest that neither monument type nor burial container is a discriminator, nor are disposal method, ritual activity, tokenism, or phasing of rite. Males and females, and those of all ages, appear to have been equally treated. This may prove to be an important cohesive element of process in support of later hypotheses.

Given the low numerical bases from which the review has operated, particularly in the last three periods, the results must be treated cautiously. They appear to indicate that both males and females in single disposals were generally treated similarly in the disposal process. Grave goods have a symbolism in disposal processes that has yet to be discussed in detail, and the goods attaching to the elite class and to the other classes that appear to have existed in part reflect social status (in 2500-14/1300bc possibly reflecting other social elements) but in part have a probable generic intent, independent of sex or age.

The multiple disposal sites represent the majority of sites in every period except 2500-14/1300bc and therefore need some form of examination which the detailed studies in Section 6 make possible, recording as they do the associations of grave goods by sex where noted. In 3500-2500bc multiple similar disposal sites have some sexed disposals recorded with clear associated grave goods which closely resemble the associations on single disposal sites in the same period. On the multiple varied sites the pattern is the same (that is, resembling patterns of single disposals) where there are clearly identified associations of goods with individually sexed burials. Animal bone from domestic and wild stock and domestic refuse appear to be more prominent in the associations. There is no particular difference observable in terms of treatment of the sexes between the multiple varied and multiple similar disposal sites.

In 2500-3500bc where associated goods can be directly related to sex of a disposal on these sites, the patterns again resemble those of contemporary single disposal sites, both in general and area terms. The multiple varied sites in the south area, however, display a particularly extensive range and variety of combinations of grave goods associated with the identified male burials, including settings of goods of possibly high symbolic content in a few cases. In the same area, the identified female burials with associations of goods display a higher than usual frequency of items of personal decor and excellence. These together far outstrip the multiple similar disposal site burial associations for both sexes in the same area.

In 14/1300-8/700bc, the pattern of the contemporary single disposal sites described above is repeated for both male and female sexes in multiple disposals. In 8/700-100bc the picture similarly parallels that for contemporary single disposals, but there is more domestic refuse incidence in both male and female associations in the south and south east areas. However, there is one notable male burial in the south area with armour and horse trappings, another male in the south east area with associated very rich armorial items, and a probable but not identified pair of males with similar rich armour in the south west area. There are greater (but still small) numbers of disposals of both sexes accompanied by domesticated working animals such as dogs and horses, in whole or part. In 100bc-AD43, where sex has been identified for accompanied multiple disposals, the goods range from domestic refuse and simple utilitarian goods to the extremely rich, again just as with the contemporary single disposals. There are notably rich female burial goods associations in the south west and south areas, but in the south area the identified males had more excellent goods associations as a rule, something of a shift from previous patterns in the area where there had been little distinction made between the sexes.

Summary of conclusions on treatment of sex

The general conclusion is that through prehistory there is generally similar treatment of the two sexes in the disposal process, there being little distinction among the process and locational characteristics. For the most part grave goods are few and simple, and males and females are similarly equipped with craft tools, personal decor items and personal utensils. Children are far less frequently accompanied by grave goods (subject to accidents of survival, since their goods might be perishable - wooden toys, for example), and there appears to be no differential treatment where the sex of the child was determinable.

There are a few variations from this norm which appear to be that:

Tests for significant associations related to age

On variation in treatment which might relate to the particular age of the dead person, only the single disposals may be given more detailed analysis directly related to sex. Those single burials identified by sex which have also been identified by age are as follows (plain numbers):

 0-12-17 18-24 25-3536+Age NK 0-12-17 18-24 25-35 36+ Age NK
8000123230221 14
1000202350321 05
Table 9.5-11: Comparison of incidence of age at death of males and females in single disposals

It might appear from these results that it is the older males and females (aged 25+) who tend to occupy such sites, but this could merely be a function of the ability to sex burials more certainly at those ages (but in fact there are fewer younger people recorded in single burials [Table 9.5-12). Since there are unsexed burials of individuals in all age groups known to have been set down on single disposal sites, the table has another deficiency of omission. However, the unavailability of complete evidence is a permanent hazard of this research, which must work with what is known and pay due respect to the unknown by repeating the underlying assumption that any results that emerge from study of the known represent probabilities at best.

Each period is now reviewed in more detail for each age group (leaving sex differentiation aside, perhaps a major assumption), to see if differences may be traced in treatment between age groups themselves or between the periods. The review is based on a scan of all sites in the Gazetteer with an age group represented, acknowledging that the information is again incomplete since many disposals simply referred to as 'adult' and 'mature adult' have to be excluded because they cannot be assigned with confidence to one of the three older groups. The evidence is tested for communal treatment (burial with others, one or more, in the same location) or features and contexts suggesting differential or distinctive treatment, with especial reference to isolated single burial or to liminal placing in, on or about the monument site.

The figures in the following tables are counts of individuals and not percentages, and only include unambiguously identified individuals or small groups which have been aged within narrow ranges, and can therefore be attributed with confidence. To help with inter-period and inter-age group comparisons, however, the total individuals in single burials [B] and the total individuals in distinctive features [C] are indexed against the total number of individuals in communal settings [A], the index being the bold figure alongside the count, for example 0.46). Also, to provide another measure of difference, the total individuals in distinctive features [C] are indexed against the number of sites in the group in [D] in the table.

[A] Individuals in communal setting [B] Individuals in single burials indexed to [A] [C] Individuals in distinctive contexts indexed to [A] [D] Total sites with 0-1 aged burials, [C] indexed to [D]
350015100.0070.46 200.35
250068130.04160.24 570.28
140011130.2740.36 120.33
800117-121110.01160.14 200.80
100104110.0127-300.28 241.12
Table 9.5-12: Age group 0-1 and including foetal remains

In 3500-2500bc the burials of the very young appear largely in communal disposals, and it is an interesting feature that all six foetal burials are so located, in several instances associated with a female presumed to be the mother. Otherwise these burials occur in what might be termed distinctive liminal places: three single burials are in ditches of monuments, and the four others are placed in forecourt blocking, beneath a portal stone (with other children), crammed into a ditch crevice and set above a monument terminal slab. These alternative placings may be suggestive of attitudes to the status of the very young or unborn in this period.

In 2500-14/1300bc, those aged 0-1 continue to be deposited on communal burial sites in the majority of cases, and it is there exclusively that the five foetal burials are found, again in some cases being in close association with the remains of a female. There are three examples of disarticulated infant remains on these sites. A possibly new feature emerging is the occasional grouping of infant burials: among the 68 infants on communal sites, there are groups of 7, 5 and 3, suggesting an element of age grouping.

The three single infant burials are in isolated pits, but two (very unusually for children of this age) are accompanied by grave goods, one with a Beaker, another with a collared urn. The majority of the other 16 more distinctive infant disposals appear in liminal places such as under an annular bank, in outer ditches, and at an internal barrow perimeter. Among sites in this period there are two with unusual animal associations: at 572 Amesbury 22 accompanying a male* aged 20, two infants were set down at the east side of the mound, one oriented east, one west, each placed on the head of a young cow; at 1588 Down Farm Pond Barrow there were five infants on a communal site, with two sheep and two oxen set on the barrow periphery at the four outer points of an X arrangement. (*It is an interesting parallel that at 466 West Overton 6b infants also accompanied a male aged 19, the three infants being set on a ledge, a liminal place, in the grave.) The unusual disposal at 620 Bulford 27, where a well-developed male is accompanied by three similar males with their forearms, wrists and hands removed, has an infant and six other children's remains distributed in the barrow mound.

In 14/1300-8/700bc infants continue more usually to be set down on communal burial sites (11), and there were three isolated infant disposals, one in a barrow retaining wall (a liminal place), one in an isolated urn, and one in a settlement. The four distinctive deposits were in the ditch of a ring ditch (two, one accompanied by two miniature bucket urns), one in an enclosure ditch, and one in an enclosure pond. All of these might be seen as in liminal places.

The sites in 8/700-100bc with recorded infant disposals are almost all settlement sites of the open or hill-fort type. Even the sole single burial of a disarticulated infant in an isolated pit may belong to a settlement. The great bulk of infant burials were in common burial locations shared by all ages. The communal setting is most often the settlement site itself which sometimes held hundreds of disposals placed in purpose-dug graves, but more usually in reused storage or domestic refuse pits. The disposals may vary considerably in the numbers of individuals enclosed, and thus the infant may be deposited as a single burial or is set with others of the same or different ages. There is frequently evidence for secondary disposal practice on these sites (Table 9.4-8).

A proportion of the infant disposals in communal contexts were disarticulated or partial (c. 44/121 were such), and there appear to be fewer foetal deposits (2) given the relatively high numbers of infant burials recorded. In four cases there are small collections of infants in the deposit: groups of 2-6, 3, 3 and 5 are recorded. At 1198 Danebury, careful examination of the precise positioning of whole infant burials in pits showed that they usually occurred in the middle and upper layers of the pit deposits, and only once at the base. Given the large numbers for communal locations, the total of infants set down in particularly distinctive contexts is not large. Most are in liminal places such as ditches (12), a post-hole (1) and in or between rampart terminals (2). At 1198 Danebury one neonate was buried with a neonatal calf, an echo of the rare similar instances of such whole animal associations in previous periods.

In 100bc-AD43 the sites continue to be mostly settlements using pits for the deposition, but there are also three settlement cemeteries. Approximately 104 infants are in such communal locations, and at least 27 are disarticulated deposits. At 1173 Gussage All Saints the quality of observation was such as to suggest that the position of the infant in the pit took place at all levels and was without the mid-upper bias at 1198 Danebury in the last period. Two deposits on one site were associated with a complete dog. There appears to have been only one isolated infant disposal in the period. Elsewhere, infants were deposited at two other types of location. Ditches continued to be used as liminal places: 23 infants were in ditches, some disarticulated, and one ditch containing nine burials. A new location is the shrine: at 1229 Frilford there was one infant deposit, at 1332 Uley there was one with a Dobunnic jar, and two others in post-holes, and at 1333 Maiden Castle Shrine there were several infant burials. A shrine is another liminal place, the threshold for communication with another world.

Summary for the 0-1 age group

Within the 0-1 age group itself, the general pattern in prehistory seems to be of communal burial for most, but with some selection for placement at liminal or other special locations. The rate of this selection was fairly high throughout except in 8/700-100bc (see Column C in Table 9.5-12), site incidence of liminal placing rising considerably over 8/700-AD43 (Column D). Isolated single burial of 0-1 year olds was rare, 14/1300-8/700bc providing the exception on a low base.

[A] Individuals in communal setting [B] Individuals in single burials indexed to [A] [C] Individuals in distinctive contexts indexed to [A] [D] Total sites with 2-17 aged burials, [C] indexed to [D]
25002391 410.17 330.14 1880.16
800751 30.04 120.16 380.32
100471 50.11 150.32 390.38
Table 9.5-13: Age group 2-17

Individuals are assigned to this group using the criteria of precise age or range given in a report that falls within the range 2-17 years, and the descriptive terms 'child', 'immature individual', 'subadult' (where clearly not a person of 0-1) and 'juvenile'. In 3500-2500bc, the majority of the 2-17 age group is in communal burials, two are single disposals (one in a henge ditch) and the 27 others being mostly in ditches (16, one accompanied by a young pig and a young goat), with four buried under a portal, four in forecourt blocking, one just outside a monument boundary wall, one in a post-hole and one at the inner edge of a henge, all liminal places. The rate of deposition of this age group in liminal places is less than that of contemporary 0-1 year olds, about half the rate, but such depositions appear on a higher proportion of sites (twice as high).

In 2500-14/1300bc the majority of individuals aged 2-17 are in communal burials (as will be the case throughout prehistory for this age group). Some of these are in settlements, and many are in cemetery groups. The proportion in single burials rises (as does that for all age groups in this period, see Tables 9.5-14/15/16). These are in barrows (23), with another 18 distributed among pits, ring ditches, flat graves, cists, a ditch terminal and a cave. Liminal and other distinctive placing falls in frequency from the last period, but keeps the same proportional relationship to the contemporary 0-1 age group. Relative to site numbers this fall is very steep from the position in 3500-2500bc. Twelve of these liminal placings are in ditches, but there is otherwise a great variety in the other 21 placings which are on berms, at ditch edges, in post-holes, field edges, outside enclosures, within annular banks and so forth.

In 14/1300-8/700bc the numbers of recorded individuals within ages 2-17 fall, individuals continuing mostly in communal burials (barrows and cremation cemeteries), with single burials dropping to half the proportion of the last period. Liminal placing also falls (against the contemporary 0-1 age group rise), the locations being a repeat of the previous range but including one burial under the floor of Hut C at 1088 Itford Hill Settlement, where a chalk phallus was also buried by the door post, its tip level with the floor surface. 8/700-100bc seems to follow a similar pattern to the last period for 2-17 year olds, on similar numbers. Single burial is infrequent, and liminal and other distinctive placing has a slightly higher incidence, ditches being the majority location. However, there is added to these a rampart burial and a placing in a possible shrine (with some adults). In 100bc-AD43 numbers recorded fall again, the age group sharing a rise in liminal placings with the 0-1 group, the placing rate doubling for both. The locations include by now common places (ditches, terminals, ditch edges) but also a rampart, a shrine, and a natural fissure (the three children there being with four adults). The average placing of such individuals per site has also risen over 8/700bc-AD43.

Summary for the 2-17 age group

The general view is that this age group has a higher proportion of single disposals than the 0-1 group, but far lower liminal and other distinctive location placing over 3500-8/700bc (rising thereafter). The age group seems to broadly match the 0-1 age group in such placings over the last two periods, and the proportion of such disposals rises considerably at the end. However, when site numbers are taken into account, except for 3500-2500bc, the 0-1 age group are far more frequently encountered in such locations on sites than are the 2-17 year olds.

[A] Individuals in communal setting [B] Individuals in single burials indexed to [A] [C] Individuals in distinctive contexts indexed to [A] [D] Total sites with 18-24 aged burials, [C] indexed to [D]
140033120.0610.03 170.06
80031110.03 40.13200.20
10018100.0030.17 120.25
Table 9.5-14: Age group 18-24

The numbers identified as 18-24 year olds (either by precise age or age range, or use of the term 'young adult' in reports) in the period 3500-2500bc are low. The majority were deposited in communal burial locations, only one was in a single grave, and those set in distinctive contexts are mostly in ditches (nine, including one killed), with one under a portal. The proportion in such liminal locations is higher than for the first two age groups for this period, and it is notable that the occurrence of such placings per site is also extremely high (and about the same as that for the 2-17 year group in the same period).

In 2500-14/1300bc communal burial for this age group is the norm, and the single burials rise higher in proportion to those of the younger age groups, and very steeply as well. Barrows (10) balance a variety of other single burial sites (flat graves, ring ditches, cists, a pit and a ditch terminal). Liminal placing drops to a level comparable with that of the 2-17 group, and a smaller proportion of sites have examples than was the case in 3500-2500bc. The locations were again ditches, ditch berms, and other outer placings (outside ring ditches and kerbs): among these placings was one burial with a trephined skull. Whether this placing was related to the pathology is debatable, since there are other certain instances where those who had severe medical conditions (treated or not) were buried in communal burial sites.

In 14/1300-8/700bc the numbers of individuals identified by age fall again, and the picture for the 18-24 group in this period is very muted. The great majority are in communal burials. There are two single burials (a barrow and a pit), and only one in a ditch. The single burial in Hut 2222 at 1196 Trethellan Farm was in a pit under a hearth, another form of liminal place encountered before. There appears to be a general steep drop in liminality (both horizontally as age groups in this period ascend, and vertically as periods move forward for the 18-24 age group). Single burials are also at their nadir in this period.

In 8/700-100bc the pattern broadly follows that of the last period, with high numbers of communal burials of 18-24 year olds, low numbers of single burials, but more frequent liminal placing (on a very small base, however). These liminal placings were in a ditch, under a rampart, in a ring ditch, and in a post-hole (a deliberate skull deposit). The rate of occurrence on sites of such placings was much higher than in the last period, but is still well below the rates for the two younger age groups in the same period. In the final period 100bc-AD43, the numerical base falls again but the pattern remains very like that of 8/700-100bc in every respect, most burials for the age group being on communal sites, with no single burials, and three liminal place burials: under a rampart, in a ditch terminal and at an enclosure edge.

Summary for the 18-24 age group

The 18-24 age group, as with others so far, is usually buried in common disposal sites. It sees very low proportions of single burials except in 2500-14/1300bc, when there is a rise, greater than that for the preceding younger age groups. In 3500-2500bc, the age group starts with very high proportions of disposals in distinctive (liminal) contexts, indeed the highest of all ages and periods, but the levels then drop sharply to ones usually somewhat below those of the 2-17 and 0-1 years age groups.

[A] Individuals in communal setting [B] Individuals in single burials indexed to [A][C] Individuals in distinctive contexts indexed to [A][D] Total sites with 25-35 aged burials, [C] indexed to [D]
10080140.0550.06 210.24
Table 9.5-15: Age group 25-35

As with all other groups, in 3500-2500bc those identified as being in the 25-35 year age group are usually buried in communal locations, the two single graves being in a barrow and at the centre of a ring ditch. Two of the five distinctive disposals are in ditches, one is between ditches, and a fourth at the inner edge of a henge, all four being liminal positions. The fifth member of the distinctive group comes from 60 Maiden Castle Causewayed Enclosure long mound, a male who had head and limbs hacked off. While the proportions of such deposits have fallen steeply from the last period, the proportion per site doubles.

In 2500-14/1300bc most receive communal burial, but about one in three of the individuals identified in the age range are given individual burials. This is the highest proportion yet in a steady rise through the age groups for single burial treatment in this particular period. Fewer than half of these individual burials are in barrows (11), with flat graves (6), pits (4), cists and ring ditches providing the other single burial sites. Among the five distinctive disposals are two burials within the ditch of a ring ditch, two just outside monument boundaries (one believed to be a foundation burial), and one in a shaft. These represent a fall in the proportion of liminal placings for the age group compared with the last period, and this drop is paralleled by a sharp fall in the proportion per site.

In 14/1300-8/700bc there are only 12 sites with 25-35 year olds recorded, and 13 aged disposals, most in communal burials. Liminal placings are not recorded in the group, and there are three individual burials (two in barrows and one in a pit). The single burials represent the highest proportion for this period of all age groups, but are a drop from the high of 2500-14/1300bc for the 25-35 age group. In 8/700-100bc most are again buried on communal sites, and one single burial is recorded for a 25-35 year old in the centre of a ring ditch, a drop to low levels that corresponds with all ages for the period. Two liminal burials are made, one in a rampart quarry hollow, one in a possible well, both representing a continuing low proportion for the age group. There is also a low incidence of such burials on sites, continuing a slow downward trend in the period in liminal placing as the burial ages rise.

In 100bc-AD43 the numbers of 25-35 year olds are swollen by the 50 males of that age found massacred in the inner entrance of one hillfort site. Just four single burials were attributed to the age group, two in barrows, one in a pit and one in a flat grave. These continue the low level of the last period. The five liminal place burials are in ditches (3), at a ditch edge and under the floor of a round house. While the proportion of such placings holds to the low level of the last period, their frequency per site rises, but on a low numerical base.

Summary for the 25-35 age group

In summary, the 25-35 year age group appears to follow the general pattern in the high proportion of communal burials, but the period 2500-8/700bc sees a much higher proportion of single burials being given to people of this age than to those in the three younger age groups. The 25-35 age group is also less subject to liminal placing in or by monuments, and appears to fit with a possible continuum of decline in such treatment as the individual gets older. The same trend is visible in the proportions of sites with such burials.

[A] Individuals in communal setting [B] Individuals in single burials indexed to [A] [C] Individuals in distinctive contexts indexed to [A] [D] Total sites with 36+ aged burials, [C] indexed to [D]
3500331 60.18 30.09 300.10
2500 621 300.48 6 0.10 760.08
1400 91 20.22 00.00 110.00
800 301 10.03 60.20 190.31
100 191 20.11 80.42 180.44
Table 9.5-16: Age group 36+

Finally, the 36+ age group includes those aged precisely, those denoted in reports as 'old', 'aged', or even 'middle-aged' (using modern connotations, since relative middle age for the prehistoric southern Briton appears to have been c. 30), but excludes individuals described as 'mature', since that could certainly include those in their 20s and early 30s in prehistoric times. For 3500-2500bc the picture shows that the majority of 36+ year olds are buried in communal locations. There is a higher proportion of single graves compared with the other age groups in the same period, however, and in some variety, in pits or graves (4), a barrow and a cave. The liminal placing of people of this age group is the lowest of all in the period. The two locations are in or between ditches, and the one other distinctive disposal is accompanied by a dog.

In 2500-14/1300bc, the 36+ age group exhibits almost identical characteristics to those of the 25-35 year group in the same period. About one in three of individuals so identified are buried in single disposals, the remainder mostly in communal burials which include several flat grave cemeteries. The single disposals are largely in barrows (18) with pits (7) and flat graves (4) next most common. The number of liminal or otherwise distinctive burials of 36+ year olds is at the same low proportion as for the 25-35 year olds, three individuals being placed in ditches or on ditch berms, and three together in a shaft. In 14/1300-8/700bc the group again broadly follows the pattern of the 25-35 year group for the same period, with most persons laid in communal burials, but with a rather more steep drop in single burials, all on a similarly small numerical base. There are no liminal placings.

In 8/700-100bc single burials for 36+ year olds fall to the same very low levels as all age groups in the period, and most are in communal disposal sites (commonly collections of pits on settlement sites). In this period as in the next (as will be seen), there is a rise in the placing of individuals 36+ in liminal places that is higher than those in the 2-35 year range groups, who are experiencing a similar rise in this period. Ditches are most often used, as well as a rampart edge, and a ditch terminal. A higher proportion of sites have such examples.

In 100bc-AD43, on small numbers, most in the age group are buried communally but the individuals of 36+ in single burials is still low, nonetheless being the highest proportion among all age groups for the period. The rise in distinctive context burials appears to be sharp, and is also the highest level of all in a period when nearly every age group appears to be experiencing a similar proportionate rise in the practice (the 25-35 year group staying at the previous low level of 8/700-100bc). The locations used are ditches, under a rampart, outside an enclosure and in a natural fissure (four adults with the three children previously noted).

Summary for the 36+ age group

The 36+ group and the 25-35 year group run in the closest parallel of all groups throughout prehistory in terms of their disposal treatment. Through time the 36+ age group appears most frequently to receive single burial, and certainly for the period 3500-8/700bc it was the group with the least likelihood of representation in a liminal context. This latter position interestingly seems to have reversed in the period 8/700bc-AD43 for individual placings, if not for the proportion of sites holding them.

General summary on the influence of age on determination of disposal practice

The evidence suggests strongly that age did determine practice in some respects. The key points emerging from this review appear to be that:

Assessment of Proposition 9

This has been a more extensive review of the hypothesis than expected, based on the examination of the special studies for grave goods, and all Gazetteer sites with aged burials recorded, including a manual count of individuals. It has found that some significant variations do occur where sex and age can be determined, and therefore Proposition 9 that age and sex may not have determined disposal process significantly through prehistory does not fully hold. There may be less difference in prehistory in treatment of the male and female disposals, the most apparent being in the differences in the nature of grave goods of excellence assigned to males and females in certain periods. There appears within that group to be a difference between males and females so accompanied on the multiple disposal sites and those males and females on the single disposal sites, the former being more richly and elaborately furnished in their group burials. In other respects, grave goods (whether present or not, and their nature), the disposal location, placing, containers, disposal mode and disposal process do not appear to be significant discriminators in this high level review. It may be that there are subtleties that deeper and more detailed examination would reveal.

In respect of treatment of age, however, there are many indicators that in particular the very young and the older persons were the subject of more particular treatment which appears, in the context of the other age groups, to be significantly different from the generality who were buried in common settings. Liminality of placing for the young, and individual burial for the older age groups are the most notable features of difference. Generally the older the person, the more likelihood of burial in a single grave, and the less likely to be placed in a liminal setting, and the converse is true for the younger person. Even within this, there are changes in patterns between age groups and between periods that appear significant enough to denote positive intents to discriminate at certain times for reasons to be explored. Besides liminal placing, the younger children in communal burials appear in groups of their age often enough to suggest a practice of deliberate grouping, besides in apparent family groups.

There are also particular instances where it would appear that the disposal may have been deliberately using members of an age group for an express purpose, symbolic or otherwise. There are placings of the very young in designed settings that suggest this, and there are some combinations of infants and young children in settings with young adult males in numbers that appear to go beyond the coincidence of contemporaneous death. These may have a symbolism to be explained.


© Internet Archaeology/Author(s)
University of York legal statements | Terms and Conditions | File last updated: Wed Nov 7 2001