Interpreting conflict mortuary behaviour : applying non-linear and traditional quantitative methods to conflict burials
The research in this dissertation concerns methods and theories involved in the analysis and interpretation of burials related to wars and other conflict situations. Its core is a conflict interment model that I developed to facilitate the identification of material differences in burials that will help in understanding burial circumstances (e.g., whether a death occurred in direct conflict on the battlefield, as a direct consequence of battlefield injuries or other trauma, or as an execution, or was unrelated to the conflict; and whether the subsequent burial was by a ‘friendly’, ‘neutral’ or ‘hostile group’). These is a great need for such a model, because exhumations tend to focus on the recovery of remains – while assuming the circumstances of death and burial – and therefore lack the structured methods and procedures that might provide additional information about what actually took place. I analyse nine datasets from seven different conflict episodes spanning the 15th century to the late 20th century. The reason for using data from different centuries, types of conflict, culture, and grave type (or level of a particular type of grave) is to test the applicability of the model to: a) known grave types, in order to discern any common elements to be found in friendly, neutral, or hostile interments; and b) unknown grave types, in order to tentatively identify those responsible for interment and the circumstances surrounding the burials. The model takes account of both normative (cross-cultural) and situational behaviours in the death and burial process, and includes variables dealing with body positioning, cause of death, presence or absence of mutilation, burial container, and ritual markers including clothing and grave goods. The ultimate goal is to develop an approach to burials in archaeology applicable in a wide variety of recent, historic and, possibly prehistoric contexts.