About archaeological analysis of cremated human remains
Wardell armstrong archaeology
In Britain, cremation was the main burial practice from the prehistoric periods (Bronze Age or earlier, 2,100 BC) through to the Anglo-Saxon period (410 to 1150 AD). As a result, cremated human remains are frequently discovered on archaeological sites. *
Valuable information can be retrieved through the careful recovery and analysis of cremated human bone which enhances our geographic and temporal understanding of the cremation burial rite. Our understanding of the social and individual variations of the cremation burial rite is also enhanced.
A large amount of information can be gathered from a cremation burial. An urned cremation burial comprises the interment of the individual(s) in a vessel (usually ceramic) which is then interred in the ground. An un-urned cremation burial comprises the interment of the individual in a pit or circular feature without the ceramic vessel.
Analyses of cremated human remains focus on:
The type of deposit
Degree of fragmentation and total weight of bone
The efficiency of the cremation – temperature of the pyre
The number and type of skeletal elements preserved
Pathology & trauma
Pyre goods (artefacts, animal bone [pig/sheep/cow/horse/chicken] and staining on bone)
Pyre debris – fuel ash, charcoal, stones
MNI – minimum number of individuals
Age-at-death, sex determination, ancestry.
Specialist archaeological skills
Wardell Armstrong Archaeology currently employs an in-house osteoarchaeologist who conducts all analyses and report-writing on both non-cremated and cremated human remains.
This is a big advantage for clients – including developers – as work is conducted in-house which avoids unnecessary outsourcing, therefore cutting time and resulting costs.
Human remains discovery can halt a development
Although the discovery of human remains on an archaeological site can halt development, their treatment must become a priority for the archaeologists and therefore the developers.