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Burning questions: investigations using field experimentation of different patterns of change to bone in accidental vs deliberate burning scenarios

Carroll, E. L. and Smith, M. (2018) Burning questions: investigations using field experimentation of different patterns of change to bone in accidental vs deliberate burning scenarios. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 20. pp. 952-963. ISSN 2352-409X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2018.02.001


Experimental research into thermal alterations to bone has tended to be carried out under laboratory conditions, where different burning scenarios are simulated to reconstruct the respective heat-induced changes in bone. While this approach has greatly advanced this field of research, very little open-air field experimentation has been conducted and consequently documented. The current paper presents the results of the first study to utilise field experimentation to examine the heat-induced alterations that occur in bone when subjected to two different firing conditions. This experiment contrasted a reconstruction of a funeral pyre with a simulated house fire in order to explore differences in the effects of accidental and deliberate burning scenarios on bone. Both advantages and problems faced are discussed with regards to the methodological approach used to document and analyse the resultant burned bone; leading to recommendations for future research. The burned bone assemblage from the accidental fire displayed uneven burning, with an extensive spectrum of colour alteration. Bone fragments recovered from the funeral pyre however showed distinctly uniform thermal changes, with minimal variation. This research demonstrates the value of field experimentation in the analysis of burned bone from both archaeological and forensic contexts. Insight into both ancient and modern households and their subjectivity to domestic fires, as well as the social and ritual implications of past cremation funerals are considered. It is concluded that future research would greatly benefit from employing a similar mode of investigation, in conjunction with laboratory experimentation.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:75512


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