Bronze Age urned cremation burials of Mainland Scotland : mortuary ritual and cremation technology
Medina-Pettersson, Cecilia Aurora Linnea
Tracing the treatment of the body before, during and after cremation, this thesis aims to reconstruct and theorise the mortuary rituals associated with urned cremation burial in Bronze Age Scotland. It is an attempt to bridge the gap between theoretical perspectives from funerary archaeology and up-to-date methods for understanding heat-related changes to bone from osteoarchaeology and forensic anthropology. As with other types of mortuary treatment, the physical aspects of cremation detected by osteological analysis are interconnected with the meaning and symbolism of the ritual. The research involved the osteological analysis of a sample of urned cremation burials from the collections of The National Museums of Scotland. The analysis aimed to estimate not only the age at death and sex of the remains, but also to investigate factors such as the number of individuals in an urn, the effectiveness of the cremation process, whether the bodies had been cremated as fresh corpses or dry bones, the position of the body on the pyre, the range of pyre goods and the selection of remains included in the urns. In total, 75 urned cremation burials from 50 sites were analysed, a significant addition to the corpus of osteologically analysed Bronze Age urned burials from the Scottish Mainland. The results suggested a significant discrepancy between how fleshed bodies and bodies which had been through the pyre were perceived. Whereas fresh corpses were not modified, the burnt remains could be extensively manipulated until their final deposition within the urn.