ossamenta: (Book store = shiny!)
As one of the contributors, I got a copy of the new Lankhills cemetery book last Friday. The book is so new it’s not out in the bookshops yet, but will probably be in the online catalogues next week or so.

Lankhills book cover


It’s a very thorough book, with good illustrations and (several) photographs. It deals with the AD300-400 cemetery outside the Roman town Venta Bulgarum, now Winchester, in southern England. The site has been excavated previously, see for example Clark, 1979, The Roman cemetery at Lankhills, Winchester studies Vol.3. A total of 807 inhumation burials and 32 cremations have been excavated so far. The latest excavations, which this book covers, recovered 284 articulated skeletons, 100 deposits of disarticulated bones and 25 cremations. This latest assemblage also includes some unusual burials, such as eight prone inhumations (i.e. buried face to the ground) and five decapitated skeletons, one of which was an infant.

The main part of the book consists of the grave catalogue, artefact analysis and human remains analysis. The grave catalogue has colour drawings of almost every inhumation, including drawings of pottery and photographs of most grave goods (glass beads, bracelets of copper alloy and shale, rings of copper alloy and silver (including a few intaglio ones), copper alloy brooches (including one with inscription - this is featured on the book cover), bone combs, copper alloy buckles, knives, hair pins, spindle whorls and one glass vessel and a pair of decorated spurs). The hob nails and the textile imprints on artefacts are discussed (and photographed) in the artefact chapter, as is the pottery. The artefact chapter also includes analysis and discussion of each of the abovementioned artefact types, as well as coffin nails, coins and tiles.

The human remains analysis has the usual detailed studies of age, sex and stature, as well as a very extensive pathology section. There is much variation in the pathologies, not just the usual caries, fractures and osteoarthritis, but amputations, decapitations, DISH, cribra and femora orbitalia, osteomas, ankylosis, Perthes’ disease, necrosis, spondylosis, sinusitis, rickets and possible scurvy (as well as several other pathological conditions).

Smaller parts of the book discuss the cremation burials (including pyre technology), burnt and unburnt animal remains in the graves, isotope analysis and funerary rites. The isotope analysis concerns both 13C + 15N and oxygen + strontium. The 13C and 15N analysis focusses on unusual individual graves (DISH, decapitations, prone burials, ones with unusual grave goods) to see if the diet of these people differed from the rest of the population. The oxygen and strontium analysis on the other hand discusses ancestry. Samples were taken from 40 individuals, of which 11 showed non-british signatures: 10 were from the mediterranean region and one possibly from central Europe. The discussion on funerary rites includes the use of coffins and shrouds, body position and grave goods.

All in all, if you’re interested in Roman artefacts, or Roman human remains, I recommend getting hold of this book, or at least checking it out in the local university library. Even if you’re only interested in human paleopathology in general it might be worth having a look.


P. Booth, A. Simmonds, A. Boyle, S. Clough, H.E.M. Cool and D. Poore, 2010. The late Roman cemetery at Lankhills, Winchester. Excavations 2000-2005. Oxford Archaeology Monograph No. 10.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
To the benefit of those not reading the Swedish archaeology blog Ting och tankar, here's a link to a brand new Ph.D. thesis in archaeology, on Scandinavian burial customs during the Medieval and Post-medieval periods. It looks very interesting, and I hope to be able to have a look at it at the Lund university library when I am home over Christmas and New Year's.

Abstract excerpt: The main themes of the thesis are burial customs and social identities, and how medieval and post-Reformation graves can provide information on such as age structures, phases in life, gender relations and social organization. The study is based on nine groups of Scandinavian material, and it comprises four case studies. The first one deals with social zoning in medieval cemeteries and how age and gender structures varied within and between different social strata. The second concerns ‘atypical’ medieval burials, such as graves in which individuals have been buried in a deviant or peripheral position; and it also focusses on burials of the sick and the impaired. The third case study examines two mainly medieval burial practices: the use of charcoal and burial rods, and possible interpretations of their inclusion in graves. The fourth study deals with post-Reformation burial customs; how they differ from the medieval ones and what notions may have caused the changes in practice.


The Times had an interesting article today about burials of liberated slaves on St Helena, in the middle of the Atlantic. The cemetery was found during excavations for a new road to a planned airport, and approximately 325 inhumations have been excavated. Apart from the regular osteological analysis, isotope analysis are planned on the remains, to see where in Africa these individuals came from. After the analysis has been completed in May, the findings will be published by the Council for British Archaeology.

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