Cover image ÂŠ York Osteoarchaeology Ltd.
MAGAZINE STAFF Lindsay Armstrong Lindsay is a forth year Anthropology major. His field of study comprises osteology, taphonamy, and archaeology.
Jess Barton Jess is a third year Anthropology major from the hometown of Maple Ridge, B.C.
MAtthew Branagh Matt is a second year student at the University of Victoria majoring in Anthropology. His interests are religious and mythological archaeology.
Hannah Johnson Hannah is a third year International Student from Portland, OR in the USA,. She is pursuing a Medieval Studies major with a Psychology minor.
Branwen Martindale Branwen Martindale is a 4th year undergraduate student at the University of Victoria majoring in Anthropology.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Kinds of Burial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
by Jess Barton
Grave Goods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
by Hannah Johnson
Cemeteries and Mass Graves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
by Branwen Martindale
Who Is In The Burial? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
by Lindsay Armstrong
A Viking funeral . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . .
by Matthew Branagh
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
KINDS OF BURIAL
Fig. 1 - Hung from hooks by their necks and feet, the bodies of the Capuchin Catacombs appear to be lunging towards any viewers (Cohen, 2012).
BY JESS BARTON not always the case in other places. It is not always
An inhumation is simply a burial, the
clear if it was done purposefully or not, but there is a lot of incidences where there have been two or more people found in a single grave, in a combination of different sexes and age groups. Not
terms are synonymous. An inhumation is defined
so common in the current times, but extremely
by the Oxford English Dictionary as the â€œaction or
popular in the medieval times, was the trend to
practice of burying the dead; the fact of being
include inanimate objects in the burial with the
buriedâ€? (2012). The common North American
individuals or what anthropologists like to call, grave
practice of burial is where a six foot deep hole is
goods. It is extremely difficult to define what a true burial
dug, usually in a cemetery, and then the deceased
is, as every culture has their own interpretation and
is placed within a casket, and the casket is lowered
variations of the inhumation process and what it entails.
into the hole in the ground then covered in soil. Although it is typical in North American burials for there to only be one person in the grave, that is
accompany the process of cremation, and it is still prevalent and used to this day. And example of the use of cremation is practiced in the Hindu religion in India. The people will take the dead to the city of Varanisi and cremate them on the terraces of houses that line the Ganges river, so that their ashes can then be scattered in the sacred river (Parker Pearson 1999, p. 50). This is just one way that cremations can take place, other societies have been known to burn the deceased on a pyre while in modern day first world countries, people will take the deceased to a funeral Fig. 2 - The lowering of a casket into the ground before it is buried
parlor to be cremated.
in modern times (Memorial Ecosystems, 2012).
To cremate is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as the “dispos[al] of (a dead person’s body) by burning it to ashes, typically after a funeral ceremony” (2012). After the deceased individual has been cremated, there are several different ways in which people deal with the ashes. Some like to place the ashes in a vase or bottle which can put in display within peoples homes. Others tend to spread the deceased’s ashes throughout the land, for example spread half of the remains in the ocean and the other half over a bridge, for various symbolic reasons. Cremations are one of the most popular methods of disposing of the body. In fact, in modern day Britain, cremation is considered the “dominant rite” (Parker Pearson, 1999, p. 5). Civilizations have been using cremations dates back hundreds of centuries. Each society seems to have their own perspective and funerary customs that
Fig. 3 - This diagram illustrates what happens with a cremation pyre, how long it takes and what it leaves behind. This experiment was conducted with a pig, not a human (Parker Pearson, 1999).
that predominantly practiced this form of burial, they were not the only ones. There is also a natural form of mummification. A great example of this is with what are known as bog bodies, more specifically the Grauballe Man. This corpse was found “lay[ing] naked on his back, with his body twisted, legs flexed and head to the north” (Parker Pearson 1999, p. 67). This method of mummification works so well that, as
Fig. 4 - An individual from Grauballe bog, a young man, whose neck was split from ear to ear (Parker Pearson, 1999).
evident in pictures, you could still see the hair on his head and stubble on his chin.
T he Oxford English Dictionary defines to mummify as the act of “preserv[ing] (a body) by embalming and wrapping it in cloth” (2012). Whenever people refer to mummification, the most common thought is to connect this burial process to the ancient Egyptians. One of these great examples is the body of Tutankhamen, who’s process of mummification was extremely elaborate. Tutankhamen’s body was wrapped in “fine linen bandages” that contained “items of glass, cornelian, lapis lazuli, felspar, iron and especially gold” (Parker Pearson 1999, p. 59). Once the body was wrapped and preserved, Tutankhamen was placed in a “sarcophagus [that] lay within four nested golden shrines and enclosed three mummiform coffins. The innermost of these was of solid gold while the outer two were of gilded wood” (Parker Pearson
Fig. 5 - The corpse of Tutankhamen unwrapped after the bandages
1999, p. 59). While they were one society
were removed (Parker Pearson, 1999).
on a search for an appropriate place that would act as their burial chamber. After finding their chamber, they would bury themselves alive in this chamber. “Bamboo breathing tubes were in place to provide oxygen, and they sat in meditative posture, in complete darkness, chanting sūtra and ringing a bell until their deaths. Once the bell stopped ringing, the tombs were sealed” (Jeremiah 2012, p. 2). The whole process of selfmummification is one of exceptional pain and extensive planning, but it still viewed and practiced
Fig. 6 - A self-mummified Buddhist monk found at Dainichibō Temple, Japan (Jeremiah, 2012).
S elf Mummification requires the
as a religious process with Buddhists of Japan to this day.
same processes as mummification, as indicated with the title, it is self inflicted. This method of preserving a body after
TYPES OF BURIAL Cairns
death has not been too common throughout history. Although, certain groups of buddhists in Japan have used this technique for quite some time. Buddhists who are preparing themselves for self-mummification use a diet called “mokujikigy ō ” (Jeremiah 2012, p. 1). This meticulous diet where the practitioners do not eat any kind of cereal but rather “they ate nuts, berries, tree bark, pine needles,
Fig. 7 - The Grey Cairns of Camster, in Scotland (Electric Scotland, 2012).
A cairn is defined by the Oxford
an unusual substances for years, gradually
English Dictionary as a “mound of rough
reducing the amount as time progressed”
stones built as a memorial or landmark,
(Jeremiah 2012, p. 1). If the diet had
typically on a hilltop or skyline” (2012).
progressed correctly, as planned, the
Burial cairns have been found to be used
individual would “starve to death within
in previous times in the southeastern part
ten years” (Jeremiah 2012, p. 1). Once the
of Iraq. This particular example from Iraq is a site
monk had started their diet, they would go
that was excavated near Sar-i-Asiab, which is just
north of Kerman in southeastern Iran. At the site, there was
branch out from the original corpus beneath the Church”
“more than 170 cairns [that] are distributed over a bare,
(Carotenuto, G. et al. 2008, p. 156). Catacombs are a very
stony plain which slopes gently down from rocky hills to
unique method of storing the dead within societies. It is a
the east” (Lamberg-Karlovsky & Humphries 1968, p. 269).
way of preserving history of the area over a long time
In terms of appearance, the cairns are “as simple piles of
period with a practical means of storage that both, holds
stones, varying form circular to subrectangular in plan”
large numbers of people, and doesn’t take up any valuable
while the “dimensions of cairns range from those of a
surface land realty. This is just one case of a catacomb,
mere half dozen stones to larger ones of 1 m. in height and
although there are many extravagant example that can be
5 m. in diameter” (Lamberg-Karlovsky & Humphries 1968,
viewed throughout Europe.
p. 269). In terms of internal structure within these cairns, there is “a series of tunnel-like chambers run horizontally into the interior of these cairns” and then within these chambers is where the burial remains are found (LambergKarlovsky & Humphries 1968, p. 271). Cairns, like this example, can vary in terms of size, location and the materials they are composed of.
A catacomb is defined by the Oxford English
Fig. 8 - Within the Paris catacombs, skulls, tibias, and femurs have been stacked to form spectacular structures (National Geographic, 2012).
Dictionary as an “underground cemetery consisting of a subterranean gallery with recesses for tombs” (2012). A notable example of a catacomb is present at the Catacombs of the Capuchin Covent of Palermo in Sicily, Italy. The people of the area used these catacombs as a burial place for the privileged and clergy, as well as nobles and townspeople of high status (Carotenuto, G. et al. 2008). All of the bodies in the catacomb have been mummified, by either natural or artificial means, there are even rooms in this catacomb that were designated for the draining of a corpses fluids before it was wrapped in bandages and put in either a coffin or wall slot (Carotenuto, G. et al. 2008). As for the layout of the catacomb, is has an entire “underground system” that has several “large rooms and high-vaulted corridors [that]
A ship burial is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a “burial in a wooden ship under a mound” (2012). One of the most famous illustrations of a ship burial is from the Viking Age in Norway, and is called the Oseberg ship burial. The actual ship in the burial was “21.44 metres long and 5.1 metres wide” (Walaker Nordeide 2011, p. 7). Due to the great size of the ship, the “diameter of the Oseberg mound was around 40.5 metres, and it was probably around 6.4 metres high” (Walaker Nordeide 2011, p. 7). The burial contained “two female bodies, one which was more than eighty years old at the time of her death, the other who was in her early fifties” (Walaker Nordeide 2011, p. 7). Accompanying the bodies in this grave, there
was an abundance of other artifacts. Besides traces of
small mound in a cemetery (Ellis Davidson,
food, personal belongings, precious metals, paintings, and
1950). Therefore, when it came to a burial
other inanimate objects, the grave also contained animals.
mound for someone of great importance,
The excavators found “a couple of oxen, four dogs and
there was a large mound raised for them (Ellis
thirteen horses” to be exact (Walaker Nordeide 2011, p. 7).
Davidson, 1950). One elaborate example of
Although this is a case of an elaborate ship burial, there are
one of the Anglo Saxon’s burial mounds is the
many different examples that vary in size, contents, and use
Taplow Barrow mound in Buckinghamshire.
throughout the globe.
This mound is “80 ft. in diameter and still 15 ft high in 1883, stood in the churchyard, towering over the later graves” (Ellis Davidson 1950, p. 170). The Taplow Barrow mound was quite ornate burial as it consisted of a “rectangular grave chamber lined with stout planks, who was richly dressed, with a cloak decorated with gold braid caught by a clasp at
Fig. 9 - Image of the excavation of the Oseberg ship burial in 1904
his shoulder” (Ellis Davidson 1950, p. 170).
The term burial mound is as self explanatory as it sounds. It is simply a burial underneath a mound, which is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a “rounded mass projecting about a surface” (2012). The use of burial mounds is a burial ritual that varies greatly across time and regions. Burial
Fig. 10 - Taplow is a Saxon burial mound of the 7th century in Berkshire, England (The Megalithic Portal, 2012).
mounds can contain one individual or large quantities of people. Thus, the overall size of
In terms of what was included in the grave, the
the mound is usually correlated with the
man was accompanied by “a sword and knife, a
number of individuals inside. With the Anglo
long spear placed above the chamber, two shields
Saxons, they used burial mounds as the
and possible other weapons, while in the centre
common practice for independent people, as
was a large bronze pan holding two glass beakers,
North Americans today use inhumations in a
two wooden cups and two drinking horns” (Ellis
cemetery, where each person had their own
Davidson 1950, p. 170).
Fig. 11 - Closeup on am Anglo-Saxon female wearing gold medallion and beads, found in Buckland cemetery. Dover, UK. (Canterbury Archaeological Trust).
BY HANNAH JOHNSON
What are grave goods, why are they given, and why are they useful?
Goods deposited in the graves of the
including as supplies for a journey into the afterlife (Crawford, 2004, pg. 89), as a sort of dowry for the gods (Oliver, 2000, cited in Crawford, 2004), gifts from neighbouring groups or families to show goodwill and secure political alliances (King, 2004), or a display of wealth by the family of the
departed are a fascinating and invaluable resource
deceased . To exemplify these differences, it must
to the field of archaeology, helping us to learn more
be noted that some objects belong to a category of
about the lives, deaths and burial rituals, practices,
grave offerings, while others are clearly integral to
and religious or cosmological ideologies of the
the burial costume (Lucy, 2000, pg. 63) which
people they were buried with, as well as of those
indicates a ceremonial aspect to the occasion,
left behind to mourn them. Several theories as to
particularly when an object too delicate to have
why grave goods were given have been proposed,
been worn in life seems to have been made
specifically to sew into the clothes of the deceased
with age, with personal items predominantly found
(Effros, 2002, pg. 48). Though each theory has
with remains estimated to be aged fifteen years or
supporting arguments like these, no single purpose
older, and the rarer and more valuable items
to grave goods has been conceded, and it is
belonging almost exclusively to Adult and Mature
entirely probable that the ideas behind grave goods
age groups (Stoodley, 2000, pg. 457). Common
have adapted and fluctuated over time within
items found include weapons such as spears,
cultures. To modern scholars, they help to match
shields, and swords; personal items such as
written mentions of items to a physical example; to
weaving tools, toiletries, and occasionally
assign an approximate date to the burial (Lucy,
instruments; grave furnishing such as pots, coins,
2000, pg. 63); to discover the level and technique
and vessels made of glass or bronze; as well as
of a culture's craftsmanship; to identify trade
personal adornments like brooches, belt buckles
between peoples; or even to identify religious
and fittings, as other beads and jewelry (Stoodley,
symbolism and conversion.
2000, pg. 460). Observing the similarities in style, aesthetic, and function across cultures, such as with these photographs of Anglo-Saxon (fig. 12) and
What are common goods, what materials are they made out of, and are they
Merovingian (fig. 13) brooches and other jewelry, helps us to make inferences about ways of dress and what impressed and was found to be beautiful by the people in this time period.
practical or symbolic?
Fig. 12 - (Canterbury Archaeological Trust)
Studies done on the artifacts recovered in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries show that both the quantity and value of mortuary deposits increases
Fig. 13 - (British Museum)
Stoodley's study of these cemeteries also showed that goods made from semi-precious and
precious metals and stones are found primarily
cemeteries are found without items, which in some
among older adults (2000, pg. 460). This suggests
cases could be the result of looting but in many
that more valuable materials were saved for those
cases seems to just be the grave of a socially lower
in the community with more life experience and
ranking individual who received a simplier burial.
most likely therefore more funds available to be
Graves without grave goods also do show
expended upon their death, while pottery, wood,
any indication of being those of criminals or
and less precious metals were more widely
outsiders, which points toward a definite social
available within a culture and not as highly valued.
stratification among the culture. Interestingly,
These same types and divisions of goods
however, this fact also seems to indicate that there
are found in inhumations as well as in cremations,
might not have been any ideological conflict or
meaning pyre funerals do not appear to have been
injustice presumed when some people were given
reserved specifically for those of any one social
grave gifts and others were not, which perhaps calls
status, high or low. Cremation grave goods appear
into question if these items were seen as necessary
to have been given one of two ways â€“ those placed
to gain entry into the afterlife or to be looked
on the funerary pyre with the body, resulting in the
fondly on by the god or gods they worshipped. All
melting and warping of glass beads and vessels,
in all, these variations in if, how many, and what
and those added unburnt to the urn or the
kinds of grave goods were included show that
surrounding area after the fact (Lucy, 2000, pg.
medieval barbarian cultures did not follow a strict
108). Whether cremations or inhumations, the
set of rules for what must be included in a a proper
items found with the dead can range from having
burial, which makes the items they chose to bury
very practical function and purpose within that
along with the departed seem like a deliberate and
person's lifetime, to being purely symbolic or made
thoughtful selection by the family and the
especially to be included in the burial ritual, as with
community at large (Lucy, 2000, pg. 103).
items such as deliberately broken weapons representing the â€œdeathâ€? of the item within the community (Crawford, 2004, pg. 91) as well as with items made in miniature or without functioning features (2004, pg. 108).
Fig. 14 - (British Museum)
Just as important as the presence of grave goods, their absence can also tell us something. Many graves in various medieval barbarian
Fig. 15 - (University of Minnesota)
What are some LIMITATIONS, and what is important for future excavations?
specific owner to an object is a compulsion we fight to reign in. Perhaps less presumptuous but just as liable to produce inaccuracies is that assumptions about gender, not just identity, are made based on what is found in a grave. This is particularly a problem when looking at findings on graves that were excavated before DNA testing on the skeletal remains became possible, and this overconfident sexing technique is only recently being combined with scientific testing in
Fig. 16 - (Ministry of Defence)
One of the most crippling shortcomings of using grave goods as evidence in interpretation is that these analyses are by nature interdisciplinary (Effros, 2003, pg 119). Specialists of many fields must team together to evaluate all of the available data one item can offer, otherwise it is easy for historians as well as archaeologists to not fully respect the limitations the items have in painting a
order to get a more accurate idea of the sex and gender role of the individual. Thanks to modern biases, graves with weapons are automatically assumed to be male, and those with jewelry or traditionally feminine items like weaving tools to be female. Using grave goods alone may cause us to miss evidence about alternative gender binaries and occupations unless they are backed up and paired with biological evidence. A final thing both archaeological experts and
full picture by themselves, to make assertions in
the layman are guilty of when it comes to grave goods
areas in which they have no expertise, or to
is failing to pay the same attention to graves that are
attribute items to known historical figures without
found without them. Graves with grave goods,
proof that that is in fact accurate. In that vein, there
particularly those with very fine, valuable, or odd ones,
has been a longstanding tendency to assume rich
naturally capture our interest more, but focusing
graves must belong to rich people (King, 2004, pg.
entirely on those kinds of finds may skew our
216). This is particularly presumptuous when it
perspective of the division of wealth, power, and the
comes to deeming a grave to be royal, such as with
overall cultural practices and population demographics
the grave of a woman found beneath the cathedral
present in these societies. We wouldn't know half as
of Cologne which was assumed to be Wisigarde,
much as we do now about medieval society without
one of the wives of Merovingian king Theudebert.
the discovery and interpretation of grave goods, and
There is no textual or archaeological evidence to
with new technology and understanding they could
attribute Wisigarde's identity to this body (Effros,
shed light on many new aspects of the history of
2003, pg. 124), but the obsession with attaching a
human life and death. e
Cemeteries and Mass Graves
Fig. 17 - Aerial view of Sutton Hoo (Atlantis Online, 2008)
BY BRANWEN MARTINDALE England (Carver, 1999) through to 128 at Lechlade
There are over 1200 Anglo-Saxon cemeteries that are known today in the continent of Europe. These cemeteries are comprised of both inhumation and cremation graves (Bond, 1996); the ratio varies, dependent on the characteristics of the cemetery, such as time period of use, location of cemetery and the funerary practices of the graves creators. Some burials were made with extreme care and were lavished with grave goods and animal offerings, while others were very simple and only contained a body with no artifacts. The number of graves in a cemetery can range greatly from as few as twenty at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk,
in the Upper Thames Valley, England (Sayer & Wienhold, 2012), to as many as over 2000 burials at Spong Hill, Norfolk, England (Bond, 1996). The cemeteries may be used for centuries and used by many people while others such as Sutton Hoo have been used a relatively short time period. Cemeteries contain both male and female occupants and they can represent a great range of ages and classes of wealth and status (Carver, 1999). Some graves will contain an excess of grave goods and animal remains while others contain very little to nothing at all (Bond, 1996). Some cemeteries are well marked, such as the use of grave mounds, and have been susceptible to robbery, either soon after the burial took place, or
more recently by people looking for wealthy
East Yorkshire, England three people were found in
objects to sell.
a grave but the radiocarbon dates indicated it was reopened at least once and a new body put onto an existing grave (Buckberry & Hadley, 2007). There may have even been some cases where the first burial was deep enough that the makers of the newer grave were unaware they were creating a burial over top of another. Some cemeteries will be near to a settlement, some may be next to their settlement while others are a distance away and sometimes, small hamlets would even share one communal
Fig. 18 - Sutton Hoo cemetery site plan. A plan of the royal
cemetery. The cemetery of Petersdal, Denmark was
cemetery site and the 18 burial mounds of Sutton Hoo (Woodbridge,
two kilometers away from the coastal settlement in
Suffolk) (Sheshen-eceni graphics).
Some cemeteries’ graves are very orderly
the Dragor area, but the incentive to reuse the graves of this site made the distance worthwhile
and in alignment with each other while others are
(Kastholm, 2012). The relation of graves to each
in disarray. A grave from earlier times that is
other is an indicator that can tell us of the past. If
unmarked might not even be known and be
the graves are orderly it could mean that the
intercut by newer graves. As disturbing as this can
creators were aware of a previous graves’ presence,
be to archaeologists because the older burials can
which may indicate that there was a marker of some
be disturbed or damaged, it can also be crucial to
kind, while graves that are randomly placed and
telling us about the chronology of the graves when
intercut others suggest they didn’t know where
means of dating the remains are unavailable
previous graves were or if they knew, they contained
(Sheehan, 2009). But when we do have the
no grave markers (Humphreys et al., 1924). Orderly
methods available, radiocarbon dating can be very
graves can also be evidence of them being buried in
important to telling us what time period the people
relation to an object, such as at Caherlehillan, Ireland
and grave goods come from, when the burials
where graves are buried along the long axis of the
were made and provides us with chronology of
church present there, while three are not; it is
graves in a cemetery. There is strong evidence of
suggested that these where aligned with a new
cemeteries and burials being reused where there
church or the shrine built at a later date, which may
are multiple use periods over time at a cemetery,
indicate these were later burials, something that
and at gravesites there is sometimes evidence of a
bone analysis couldn’t tell us (Sheehan, 2009).
grave being reopened and someone being buried on top of the previous grave. At Walkington Wold,
Fig. 19 - Example of graves that are not in alignment with each other or a particular direction. (Archaeology South-East, 2012)
Graves in cemeteries can either have some sort of orientation with a cardinal direction, to an object or site as mentioned earlier, or it can be completely random, as at Walkington Wold (Buckberry & Hadley, 2007). The difference in orientation can also divide groups within the cemetery; at Berinsfield, South Oxfordshire, England two groups were distinguished, those who with east-west orientation buried in the southern half and those with south-north orientation buried in the northern half. This could possibly be
Fig. 21 - Grave with two bodies (Sutton Hoo). (Macbeth, 2012).
Mass gravesites are graves that contain
separating the different periods of burial or different
two or more people within them. Usually the grave
statuses of people within them (Sayer & Wienhold,
that contains two or three will be people who have
2012). At Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, England only
a connection with each other. They may have
a small portion have any distinguishable orientation
familial relations such as sibling or parent and
with 18 of them being carefully buried in a row with
child, or relations of love such as a spouse or lover,
their feet placed to the east or north-east and of all
which may be evident of graves where one is
the burials the southern direction seems to be heavily
buried on top of the other, or a hierarchy relation
avoided (Humphreys et al., 1924).
such as a person of status and their slave. They can be in the grave together because they died at the same time or one can be buried at a later date or the other person is a sacrifice at the time of the burial, voluntarily or not. The grave can also be filled with many people, which may indicate multiple deaths at one time such as a disease, famine, or most likely from war or execution. A
Fig. 20 - Some of the many Anglo-Saxon graves excavated at Burgh Castle. Example of graves in alignment with each other. (Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, 2012).
man who died at war may be a possible cause as to why there are mass graves at one site and a
lavish grave full of grave goods and food offering with no evidence of a body at another. Most evident are mass graves of execution victims. We find evidence of beheading from bone analysis and find blow or cut marks to the back of the head or neck as well as evidence of broken necks from hanging. We
Fig. 23 - The remains of an ancient Anglo-Saxon warrior and his horse were unearthed at RAF Lakenheath in 1997. The base must work with British archaeology officials for every base construction because of the areaâ€™s dense concentration of buried artifacts. (Suffolk County Council Archeological Service, 2008)
Some single and multiple person graves contain evidence of wild and domestic animals within them such Fig. 22 -: These men, barely into their twenties, were ambushed by the local
as horses, dogs, cattle, sheep, pigs, deer, bear and hare.
Anglo-Saxon villagers. Their remains were discovered in 2009. Example of a
Their presence can tell us about their relationship with
mass grave of execution victims with their heads buried separate from their
the animal, their wealth and status, what kind of goods
bodies (Daily Mail)
find an execution burial at Sutton Hoo where 16 individuals have been hanged or beheaded with their head placed on their chest or at their knees; some were buried kneeling while others lay face down with their hands hands tied behind them (Carver, 1999). All of these attributes were found at
they used and traded for, and their ritual practices. Evidence of a whole animal such as a horse or dog is often thought to signify its importance for the afterlife, while parts of an animal such as a joint could signify a ritual, sacrifice or feasting. Evidence of cut mark can indicate if the animal was cut up to be eaten or if it was cut into parts for easier transport to the grave and so that it would be easier to cremate (Bond, 1996).
Walkington Wold with a few individuals out of the 11 found as well, but there was also evidence of the heads being removed and put on stakes as a warning to other criminals, evident by the weathering on the skull; these were buried later (Buckberry & Hadley, 2007).
Fig. 24 - Woman and Cow. Archaeologists described the find as "unique in Europe". (BBC, 2012)
Who is in the burial?
Fig. 25 - Depiction of Anglo-Saxon prepared for cremation (Williams, 2012).
BY LINDSAY ARMSTRONG
A quick summation of what has been written
archaeologists look at the physical burial themselves and the inferences that can be made from comparative
so far will help to lead into the remains left in the burials
research of previous identifiable burials. This area of
and how archaeologist may try and determine some
deduction could lead to assumptions of early social
inferences as to who this person may have been. The
complexities and communal burial rites and practices
burial itself in conjunction with the surrounding
(Williams, 2007) or biostratinomy. Burials of this time
stratigraphic indicators as well as artifact association
period include large mound/barrow/cairn burials
within a burial may very well determine the inferences
(Williams, 2007) in which some include the burial of a
made as to who is in the burial. Associated symbolic
full size ship, as seen in Sutton Hoo (Kendrick et al,
markers would include such artifacts as carved stone
1939) as well as cremation burials in which a person
markers which are large stone monoliths that have been
was placed in a cremation burial urn (Williams, 2004).
interpreted as showing kinship ties as well as family
Cremation burials where of the pagan tradition and not
legends and myths (Williams, 2007). To start,
done by the people of Christian faith of this time so
burials of this nature show a close relationship to the pagan faith of those cremated (Williams, 2004).
THANATIC factor determination
In the context of the thanatic factor determination, or how living entities where removed from the living assemblage and entered the death assemblage, is of suitable significance and something that may be of interest to archaeologists as inferences to the potential sex of the individual, status , occupation and age at death. Archaeologists look to cemeteries for clues as to the thanatic variables and cause of death. This would entail looking at attritional or catastrophic mortality of the deceased population. Attritional mortality could be indicated by large mound type burials with evidence of expendable energy and man power to inter a single person whereas catastrophic burials may infer a massacre or battle/raid and be evident in mass burials or so called â€?deviant gravesâ€?. If there was no cremation preformed the next area of examination would entail a stratigraphic view of the grave in situ of the body itself.
Fig. 27 - Labelled human skeleton. (Wikipedia, 2007)
Body position is a possible determiner of who may be buried within the site but archaeologist must have comparative sites in association to represent the positions as meaning more than just incidental burial positioning. This brings the focus to the remains in the grave and the osteological Fig. 26 - Anglo-Saxon cemetery. (Midgley Web Pages, 1999).
determination of the skeletal remains. There are set variables and measurements that can
be used to determine a few possible
their life such as a warrior or farmer or a
determinates as to who the deceased person
person who lead a sedentary existence with
may have been in life. These are referred to as
no such damage seen. There are also set
osteological markers and entails an in-depth
measurement parameters that archaeologists
look at the morphology of the bones for
would take to help determine the height of
indications of occupational markers such as
the individual as they were in their living
tiny bone spurs on the heal bone that would
state. These measurements are taken from the
indicate a possible occupation that involved
long bones of the individualâ€™s leg (the femur
squatting for long periods of time (White &
and tibia) (White & Folkens, 2005).
Folkens, 2005) or larger amounts of bone density on the long bone of just one arm as indicators of possible long term weaving, the use of a grinding stone or an archer. These occupational markers look for the possible social status of the individual and infer the social complexities of the population form which the individual originated. Ante and post mortem bone damage is another very important area to look at for this can tell a lot of what happened to the individual prior to death or shortly after. There are tell tale signs that archaeologists look for that can tell them if a personâ€™s bones where broken before they died and healed or if the break occurred just before or soon after death (White & Folkens, 2005). There are indicators for different types of fractures and breaks to human bones and definitive markers to tell archaeologists what
Fig. 28 - The Human femur can be used to determine the height of an individual as well as possible age using bone ossification centres indicated in blue. (Wikipedia, 2004).
happened to a personâ€™s bone to cause the damage that they observe (White & Folkens, 2005). This information could indicate the life lead by the individual who was possibly in physically demanding situations for part of
Using the skull and pelvis, if they are undamaged, archaeologists can again use a set standard of measurements to make an inference as to the sex of the individual. The
skull can also be used to make an inference
bone and teeth that all human development
as to the ethnic background of the individual
follows. This growth pattern starts in the
although this is very difficult to do (White &
womb as a fetus develops and ceases at
about the age of 25. One last osteological marker to mention that archaeologists look for from the bone material recovered would be the indication of any pathological diseases such as arthritis and some forms of cancer (White & Folkens, 2005) to help formulate a picture of the heath of the individual throughout their life time. A little side note, DNA- analysis has become cheaper and readily available to archaeologists and is used frequently to substantiate and collaborate many of these findings as well as to
Fig. 29 - Comparative Male (above) and Female Pelvis. (below) (Wikipedia, 2005).
distinguish individuals in mass burials. Having gathered all the skeletal information coupled with the topics mentioned in the rest of the magazine archaeologists can begin to piece together a picture of the people who lived and died at various times in history.
There is one more set of parameters that archaeologists would be very interested in looking at that could determine the age of the individual at the time of their death. These parameters follow a set growth pattern of
A VIKING FUNERAL
Fig. 30 - Popular belief of the Viking Funeral (Dicksee, 1893).
BY MATT BRANAGH
M any funeral acts are based on
mainstream society and while others have turned into urban legends. I decided to
religious ideologies and beliefs and are
explore one of these urban legends, the
performed as a ritualistic act of â€œletting
Viking burial. I picked this because it
goâ€? of our dead. Every society and culture
seems everybody has an assumption of
throughout history has or have had their
what the Viking lifestyle and burial rites
own beliefs and practices of how this
were like or at least claim they know a
should be performed. Some of these
Viking and will simply ask that person
traditions are a little more common in our
what they do with their dead.
I interviewed a group of ten random
the North were pagans ( Andres, 2005).” Viking burial practices are believed, like
people, asking them, what their thoughts
most cultures, to have been dictated by
were of a pre-Christian Viking funeral. From
religious dogma. In this case these dogmas
these answers the most common belief was
were created by the Viking’s all father Odin
summarized that the funeral was a
and referred to as Odin’s laws.
celebration honouring a fallen warrior (seems to be a popular thought that all Vikings were warriors). The body of this warrior was cremated on a burning boat while the boat sailed to out to sea. While on shore, the mourners, dressed in their finest battle armour and horned helmets. The men would partake in drinking, feasting and merriment all night on behalf of their departed brethren.
“Thus he ordered that all dead be burned on a pyre together with their possessions, saying that everyone would arrive in Valhalla with such wealth as he had with him on his pyre and that he would also enjoy the use of what he himself had hidden in the ground. His ashes were to be carried out
Sounds fun, maybe not for the
to sea or buried in the ground.
person on the boat, but over all a good time
mounds were to be thrown up
would be had by all, unless you were a
as memorials. But for all men
woman. There was no discussion of gender
who had shown great manly
inclusion or equality at a funeral. As well
qualities memorial stones
there was no discussion of grave goods or
were to be erected; and this
personal possessions that would accompany
custom continued for a long
the body. Kinship ties were not addressed,
time there after.
but the most notable omission was; why the
Snorri Sturluson, ynglingasaga 8.
funeral was conducted in such a manner?
(Price, 2008: 257).”
For notable men burial
Most interviewees answered; “because it was” or with a shrug of bemusement. Viking beliefs were never called into question for funerals. “...the descriptions varied, but the annals repeatedly stress that the men from
Despite the laws that are mentioned there are still no consistent patterns of burial or funeral practices in the Viking world. Evidence of both cremation and inhumation have been found with patterns linking to
specific regions. For example the burial urns in Aland island’s which were found with
A boat would be constructed to serve
miniature clay beaver and bear paws
as a funeral pyre. The individuals status in
accompanying them. Odin’s laws appear at
society would determine the size of boat used.
this point to be a set of guidelines (Price,
As the construction of the boat took place, the
2008). The evidence we do have of the
body of the deceased would be exhumed from
funeral is little textual evidence and theories.
the frozen ground and dressed in their finest
When their ideas were combined, the group I
linens. After the completion of the boat, the
interviewed, were fairly close to what is
deceased and their belongs would be gathered
believed to have consisted of a pre-christian
and placed upon the boat by the family. Goods
Viking funeral. Using an extract from the work
that would accompany the deceased would be
of Ibn Falan’s Risala I’m going to fill in events
dependent on their societal status. In the case
from a Viking funeral apart from the actual
of Fadlan’s Risala, the Funeral that was
cremation and feasting.
described was for a wealthy man of higher standing in society. In this case his possessions included slaves, only one slave was required to volunteer for the journey to the afterlife. Alcohol, fruit, bread, and animals (horses, cows, hens, and a dog) were all placed on the boat.
The slave who had volunteered (in this case a young girl) was prepared; cleaned and dressed, and was lead on to the boat followed by an entourage of men and a female priestess or shaman. The slave was given alcohol to drink and would engage in a ritualistic act of calling to her master. The men who had accompanied her on to the boat individually had intercourse with her as a way of thanking her master. Upon completion of Fig. 31 - Gods ascending with the deceased to Valhalla. Finale du Rheingold. (The British Museum, 1877).
this ritual the female priestess, with the help of two of the men, sacrificed the slave and placed her with the deceased.
T he family of the deceased would be the first to set fire to the boat pyre followed by the rest of the mourners continuing to light the pyre. Once the boat, laden with the deceased and their possessions, had burnt down to ashes or at least the deceasedâ€™s body had been consumed by fire, the ashes would be gathered and placed into a burial urn. The type of urn, like the ship and grave goods, would depend on your social status in society; ceramic, bronze were the most common, while silver was reserved for either chiefs or upper gentry (Carver, 2005).
T he urn and any grave goods that did not burn to ash would be placed in a grave and a covered with a mound. Depending, again on the status of the person, a marker of either wood or stone would be placed on the top. Placement of these stone monuments ranged from a singular stone to different shapes created from multiple stones. Some markers were designed like ships, recent explanations suggest that these stones represent the roots of Yggdrasill, the world tree. A tree that connects Midgard, the earthly realm, to Valhalla, a perceived paradise for the afterlife (Price, 2008).
Fig. 32 - A Viking burial plot at Lindolm Hoje. (Aistrup Lind).
This concludes what is to be believed to have been the rituals of a Viking funeral. I informed the group of interviewees what was thought to have actually taken place. It seemed that half the group was shocked and disgusted, one person was even outraged over these rituals, The other half of the group found this to be fascinating and wanted to know more on the topic. These acts might shock you, the reader, or they might intrigue you to learn more about different cultural funeral practices but as I mentioned earlier these were performed as religious acts of the final letting go in the Viking society. Although, having vastly different practices of what we as a modern society believe in for the final farewell of our deceased, the importance and significance of the rites of a Viking funeral is not really that different then what we practice today.
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Back c image ÂŠ Hunterian Museum Archaeology & Ethnography Collections