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An osteological analysis and social investigation of the cremation rite at the cemeteries of Elsham and Cleatham, North Lincolnshire

SQUIRES, Kirsty (2011) An osteological analysis and social investigation of the cremation rite at the cemeteries of Elsham and Cleatham, North Lincolnshire. Doctoral thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract or description

This thesis provides a detailed osteological and social analysis of the cremated human remains from the early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries (5th-6th centuries AD) of Elsham and Cleatham, both located in North Lincolnshire. Primarily, the results of this assessment address demography, identity and pyre technology. The cremated remains of 566 burials from Elsham and 979 from Cleatham were subjected to osteological analyses. These results were then statistically interrogated in order to observe patterns between the demographic profile of the burial population, their differential grave assemblages, and their spatial distribution within each cemetery. This comprehensive contextual assessment highlights the fact that the Anglo-Saxon cremation rite was deeply symbolic, multi-layered, and communicated a multitude of messages concerning the deceased’s identity. A number of significant correlations were found between grave provisions and the demographic profile of the deceased and these are suggested to have related to the construction of various identities through the mortuary ritual. Similarly, social significance was also observed in the cremation process itself. An analysis of pyre technology, which assessed the effects of burning on bone (using histomorphometry and FTIR analysis alongside an examination of the macroscopic appearance of cremated skeletal remains), examined the duration, temperature and oxidising conditions to which the body was exposed, and found duration to be an especially variable factor, and one that may have had social significance. These new results from Elsham and Cleatham significantly increases the number of Anglo-Saxon cremation cemeteries from which osteological data is currently available. Therefore this study makes an important contribution to our sum of knowledge as well as offering some original social interpretation and analysis.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty: School of Law, Policing and Forensics > Criminal Justice and Forensic Science
Depositing User: Kirsty SQUIRES
Date Deposited: 24 May 2017 08:28
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:46

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