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Holding on to the past: Southern British evidence for mummification and retention of the dead in the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age

Smith, MJ; Allen, MJ; Delbarre, G; Booth, T; Cheetham, P; Bailey, L; O'Malley, F; ... Green, M; + view all (2016) Holding on to the past: Southern British evidence for mummification and retention of the dead in the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports , 10 pp. 744-756. 10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.05.034. Green open access

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Abstract

Recent treatments of burial practices in prehistoric Europe have tended to emphasise the variety of practices that are apparent in any given period; contra previous views which tended to emphasise homogeneity over time. In the spirit of more recent considerations that emphasise a more holistic approach, the current article presents investigations of human remains interred within and around a single monument at Cranborne Chase, Dorset, UK. By taking a synthetic approach giving equal weight to taphonomy, archaeothanatology, histological analysis, scanning electron microscopy, micro-CT scanning, experimentation and contextual dating, a more nuanced picture has been revealed, where the dead were dealt with in ways that were both more complex and considerably more protracted than might otherwise be assumed. In particular, several lines of evidence point to practices aimed at the protracted curation of the dead as articulated bodies with at least some soft tissue persisting. This observation is of particular importance in light of previously published claims for ‘mummification’ in Bronze Age Britain. It suggests that such practices may have been both widespread and persistent over time.

Type: Article
Title: Holding on to the past: Southern British evidence for mummification and retention of the dead in the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.05.034
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.05.034
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: Mummification, Curation, Bronze Age, Chalcolithic, Micro-CTSEM, Experimentation
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10064047
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