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Death is not the end: radiocarbon and histo-taphonomic evidence for the curation and excarnation of human remains in Bronze Age Britain

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2020

Thomas J. Booth*
Francis Crick Institute, London, UK
Joanna Brück
School of Archaeology, University College Dublin, Ireland
*Author for correspondence: ✉


Cremated and unburnt human remains have been recovered from a variety of British Bronze and earliest Iron Age archaeological contexts (c. 2500–600 BC). Chronological modelling of 189 new and extant radiocarbon dates from a selection of these deposits provides evidence for the curation of human remains for an average of two generations following death, while histological analysis of bone samples indicates mortuary treatment involving both excarnation and the exhumation of primary burials. Curated bones came from people who had been alive within living or cultural memory, and their power probably derived from relationships between the living and the dead.

Research Article
Antiquity , Volume 94 , Issue 377 , October 2020 , pp. 1186 - 1203
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2020

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