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Title: An investigation into the micromorphology and inorganic geochemistry of Prehistoric, Hellenistic and Roman graves
Author: Williams, Helen
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2015
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Burials are an important feature of archaeological investigations as they reveal information on the cultural and emotional significance of death and the dead by studying the placement of the body, pre-burial treatment of the body as well as grave goods (Parker-Pearson, 2003, Stutz, 2003). In addition to this a wealth of dietary, health and population information can also be obtained through the study of the skeleton (Müldner & Richards, 2007). However the majority of burial investigations focus on the macro remains and microanalytical studies are rarely undertaken, meaning that the soil in contact with the burial is currently underutilised and therefore any information contained in the soil is at present being lost. This research takes a novel approach to the study of Prehistoric, Hellenistic and Roman burials by using microanalytical techniques, specifically micromorphology and complimentary inorganic geochemical analysis to unlock the hidden archive within the soils in contact with the inhumation. The aim of this research is to identify micromorphological and inorganic geochemical evidence that can be related to the degradation products of the body, grave goods and burial practices. This will be achieved by investigating 18 graves (two Prehistoric, two Hellenistic and twelve Roman), using micromorphological samples taken from the skull, pelvic and foot area as well as site and grave controls. The micromorphological investigation identified distinct patterns of organic coarse materials and pedofeature formations in the burial plane, as well as features that were diagnostic of the post depositional burial environment. SEM-EDX inorganic geochemical analysis provided evidence of the body decomposition products (K, Fe and Ca) in the surrounding soils, which correlates well with earlier studies on body stains (Bethell & Carver, 2002, Keeley et al., 1977, Macphail et al., 2013). Further to this the micromorphological features and inorganic geochemical signatures were used as both direct and proxy evidence of burial practice and grave goods which were not visible in the macro scale.
Supervisor: Craig, Oliver ; Wilson, Clare Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available