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Title: Dealing with the dead : manipulation of the body in the mortuary practices of Mesolithic north-west Europe
Author: Gray Jones, Amy
ISNI:       0000 0004 2707 9804
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis focuses on practices of disarticulation and bodily manipulation in the Mesolithic of north-west Europe. While the presence of 'loose human bone' has been noted on Mesolithic sites for several decades, this has often been dismissed as the result of taphonomic factors, such as disturbed graves. Instead, studies of mortuary practices have primarily focused on the cemeteries and issues of social complexity, ranking and status. Disarticulated human bone, which cannot throw new light on such issues, has consequently been ignored. Only with more recent discoveries of larger collections of disarticulated human remains, from secure contexts, has this phenomena begun to be taken more seriously, Cauwe (2001) arguing for example, that disarticulation represents the primary Mesolithic mortuary practice. Despite this claim, little work has focused on practices of manipulation and disarticulation beyond a few studies of individual sites, thus little is understood about the nature and variability of these mortuary practices. The aim of this thesis is therefore to provide a broad study of disarticulated Mesolithic remains across north-west Europe (though excluding Scandinavia). In order to tackle the methodological issues involved in the analysis of these assemblages, as well as to provide a considered study of the context of these remains, three detailed osteological case studies - Hardinxveld in the Netherlands and Les Varennes and Petit Marais in France - are presented. These are then compared with a series of well-published sites in order to draw out the full parameters of Mesolithic mortuary variability. It is argued here that Mesolithic mortuary practices were complex and were often temporally and spatially extended. These practices of disarticulation and manipulation also appear to indicate a concern with bodily decay and the circulation of body parts. The implications of these practices for the understanding of Mesolithic identities, bodies, and attitudes to death are also drawn out.
Supervisor: Conneller, Chantal Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Mesolithic ; disarticulation ; 'loose bone' ; north-west Europe