White Rose University Consortium logo
University of Leeds logo University of Sheffield logo York University logo

An osteological analysis and social investigation of the cremation rite at the cemeteries of Elsham and Cleatham, North Lincolnshire

Squires, Kirsty Elizabeth (2011) An osteological analysis and social investigation of the cremation rite at the cemeteries of Elsham and Cleatham, North Lincolnshire. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Full text not available from this repository.


This thesis provides a detailed osteological and social analysis of the cremated human remains from the early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries (5th-6th centuries AD) of Elsham and Cleatham, both located in North Lincolnshire. Primarily, the results of this assessment address demography, identity and pyre technology. The cremated remains of 566 burials from Elsham and 979 from Cleatham were subjected to osteological analyses. These results were then statistically interrogated in order to observe patterns between the demographic profile of the burial population, their differential grave assemblages, and their spatial distribution within each cemetery. This comprehensive contextual assessment highlights the fact that the Anglo-Saxon cremation rite was deeply symbolic, multi-layered, and communicated a multitude of messages concerning the deceased’s identity. A number of significant correlations were found between grave provisions and the demographic profile of the deceased and these are suggested to have related to the construction of various identities through the mortuary ritual. Similarly, social significance was also observed in the cremation process itself. An analysis of pyre technology, which assessed the effects of burning on bone (using histomorphometry and FTIR analysis alongside an examination of the macroscopic appearance of cremated skeletal remains), examined the duration, temperature and oxidising conditions to which the body was exposed, and found duration to be an especially variable factor, and one that may have had social significance. These new results from Elsham and Cleatham significantly increases the number of Anglo-Saxon cremation cemeteries from which osteological data is currently available. Therefore this study makes an important contribution to our sum of knowledge as well as offering some original social interpretation and analysis.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Archaeology (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Science (Sheffield) > Archaeology (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Kirsty Elizabeth Squires
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2012 09:50
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:48
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2250

Actions (repository staff only: login required)