Keeping the Family Together: Curation, Imitation and Veneration of the Dead in a British Prehistoric Landscape

This source preferred by Martin Smith and Paul Cheetham

Authors: Smith, M., Allen, M.J., Booth, T., Madgwick, R., Bailey, L., O'Malley, F., Delbarre, G., Cheetham, P. and Green, M.

Start date: 11 September 2014

For long periods in prehistory the burial record of many regions often appears decidedly homogeneous with protracted periods where a particular ‘standard’ mode of burial is followed, only to be replaced with another equally basic and simple means of disposing of the dead. Such a view has previously characterised the situation in Britain where the disarticulated burials of the Earlier Neolithic supposedly gave way to the simple, flexed inhumations of the Later Neolithic and Bronze Age. However, such views may in fact be grossly oversimplified due to a disproportionate focus on grave goods and monuments and an overly reductionist approach to burial interpretation. This paper presents observations of a range of Neolithic to Bronze Age burials from Cranborne Chase, Dorset, UK in which a more holistic approach is followed giving equal weight to taphonomy, microscopic analysis, archaeothanatology and contextual dating to reveal a more nuanced picture where the dead were dealt with in much greater variety and in ways which are both surprising and a good deal more interesting than previously assumed.

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