Human Bone
Human Bone

The human bone recovered from the excavation (the contents of a cremation urn in Trench 2, context 208) was submitted for analysis to Dr J A Pearson and Laura O’Gorman at the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, University of Liverpool. 

      
Summary

Total bone weight analysed: 468g
Estimated number of individuals: 1
Age: adult
Sex: indeterminate
Presence of animal bone: one long bone shaft of microfauna
Cremation temperature: exceeded 650°C
Completeness of skeleton: all areas represented (but no teeth)

Cremation in Urn
Cremation urn during excavation, Trench 2

Detailed description of fragments

All fragments were examined and separated into the following fragment types:
1) Non-diagnostic/unidentifiable
2) Diagnostic
3) Identifiable

Non-diagnostic fragments

The non-diagnostic fragments were separated in small, medium and large fragments and weight of these recorded as the following:
 Smaller fragments (<4mm) : 68 g
 Larger fragments (>4mm) :  125 g

For comparative purposes, Mays (1998) reports that a complete adult skeleton weighs approximately 2kg.

Diagnostic fragments

The diagnostic fragments were examined for positively identifiable fragments (cranial and post cranial) and the remainder next separated into long bone diaphyses and articulations. The majority of the long bone diaphyses could not be identified to element, but there are fragments from bones with larger circumferences (suggestive of the presence of humerus/femur/tibia) and those with smaller circumferences (suggestive of radius/fibula/ulna/clavicle).

Identifiable fragments

Cranial
A large number of fragments (~60) were identified as belonging to the cranium including the petrous part of the temporal. Four additional fragments were also identified to the eye/cheek region, three to the maxilla and one to the mandibular condyle

Axial
Approximately 12 fragments of vertebrae were identified, two possible portions of the sacrum and 4 fragments of ribs.

Appendicular
In addition to evidence above for long bones, several fragments could be positively assigned to particular elements: a portion of the tibia displaying the nutrient foramen, two curved articulations belonging to the proximal/distal femur, proximal humerus or perhaps the proximal talus. One fragment of fibula ~3cm long, three fragments of metacarpals or metatarsals and one distal fragment of a finger or toe phalanx.

Notably absent fragments
Mays (1998) reports that a number of fragments are commonplace in cremation burials, and a few of these are absent here. The odontoid process of the axis vertebra, one of the mandibular condyles and one side of the petrous portion of the temporal. Also, there were no dental remains of any kind.

Numbers of individuals

There is no duplication of any identifiable bones and thus would conclude that this cremation represents the remains of a single individual.

Age and Sex

No dental remains were recovered, despite the presence of fragments of the maxilla and mandible and so the individual has been identified as an adult due to present and complex cranial sutures and thickness of the cranial vault bone and muscularity of the fibula. No diagnostic features of the skeleton relating to sex were present, thus sex could not be identified.

Other materials present

A few small stones and a single long bone shaft of microfauna were picked out.

Estimated temperature of cremation

Most of the cremated bone was whitish in colour. But the outer surfaces of the denser bones occasionally displayed a white exterior and black/blue/grey interior. Therefore, the cremation probably exceeded 650 degrees Celsius (Mays 1998), to calcine most bones but that this temperature was not maintained long enough to penetrate the denser long bones.

References

Mays, S  (1998) Archaeology of Human Bones. Routledge

 

Last Updated on Monday, 24 August 2009 14:41
 


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