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An investigation into the placement of disarticulated human remains into shell middens during prehistory

Hellewell, Emily Rebecca (2015) An investigation into the placement of disarticulated human remains into shell middens during prehistory. PhD thesis, University of York.

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The aim of this thesis was to critically evaluate the evidence for disarticulated human remains in shell middens, using sites in northwest Europe dating to the Late Mesolithic/Early Neolithic as case studies. Traditionally, disarticulated remains placed in shell middens have been overlooked and assumed to be the result of burial disturbance with little in-depth analysis to the plausibility of this as an interpretation. The research considers whether it is possible to determine that the remains occurred through disturbance to inhumations, and to assess to what extent it is possible to reconstruct the processes of deposition of disarticulated remains. A new methodology has been developed with specific emphasis on identifying what taphonomic processes may have led to commingled human remains to be found at shell midden sites. Six hypothetical bone profile diagrams are presented, based on differing taphonomic processes known to affect burial remains. These hypothetical diagrams then provide comparative models to assess the evidence presented in the case studies. Three case studies located on the coast of western Scotland; Cnoc Coig, An Corran and Carding Mill Bay, demonstrate that it is likely that the placement of human remains into ancient shell middens emerged as part of secondary burial practices employed around the time of the Mesolithic/ Neolithic transition, while a Danish case study, Havnø, highlights a potential change in practices occurring from the Mesolithic into the Neolithic. Critically, the close assessment of the disarticulated remains provides strong evidence that disarticulated remains in shell middens are likely to be the result of more complex burial processes than previously thought.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Shell midden, disarticulated burial, human remains, Mesolithic, Neolithic, taphonomy, funerary practices, skeletal elements
Academic Units: The University of York > Archaeology (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.677364
Depositing User: Mrs Emily Rebecca Hellewell
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2016 13:46
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/11418

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