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Reassessing the Age, Sex and Metric Variation of Commingled Human Remains from a 1911 Excavation of a Neolithic Passage Tomb Complex in North-West Ireland

Geber, J; Hensey, R; Meehan, P; Moore, S; Kador, T; (2017) Reassessing the Age, Sex and Metric Variation of Commingled Human Remains from a 1911 Excavation of a Neolithic Passage Tomb Complex in North-West Ireland. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology , 27 (2) pp. 131-142. 10.1002/oa.2521. Green open access

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Abstract

The Neolithic passage tomb complex at Carrowkeel, County Sligo, Ireland, is one of the best preserved and most significant megalithic funerary and ritual landscapes in Europe. The most substantial archaeological excavations at the complex were undertaken in 1911, from which a relatively large sample of commingled unburnt and cremated human remains from seven chambered passage tombs was recovered. Although the archaeological value of this material is reduced as its spatial and stratigraphic context is uncertain, the skeletal remains have the potential to provide insights into how these monuments were used. This study is a quantitative reassessment of that osteological material from the passage tombs excavated in 1911, with a focus on a contextual analysis of the remains. Overall, the age-at-death and sex ratios do not indicate any demographic differentiation between monuments in selecting locations for the deposition of bodies, and there is no clear evidence to suggest any selectiveness of certain skeletal elements took place. There may however have been a differentiating age and gender aspect in terms of the unburnt versus cremated bone surface depositions within the passage tombs, as a higher proportion of 5+years non-adults and adult females were present in the cremated material. By using the log-ratio metric scaling technique on the cremated adult material, a statistically significant difference in skeletal dimensions is observed between individual passage tombs; however, it is unclear how significant this disparity is from a biocultural point of view. Despite apparent methodological difficulties in assessing an archaeological bone assemblage collected by early 20th-century antiquarians, the material can still yield new knowledge about the rituals conducted at Carrowkeel.

Type: Article
Title: Reassessing the Age, Sex and Metric Variation of Commingled Human Remains from a 1911 Excavation of a Neolithic Passage Tomb Complex in North-West Ireland
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1002/oa.2521
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/oa.2521
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Carrowkeel; cremation; funerary rite; log-ratio technique; megalithic monument; metrical indices; prehistoric; stature
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1492809
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