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Title: Decomposition of organic materials within burial environments
Author: Pinder, Adam
ISNI:       0000 0004 6348 1964
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2016
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The funerary practices of many past cultures in Northwestern Europe involve the burial of the deceased in clothing and in wooden coffins. Although objects made from wood, textiles and leather that exhibit exceptional levels of preservation, or that hold great significance, are commonly analysed by a wide range of analytical techniques, fragments of degraded coffin wood and funerary clothing materials have not, to date, been chemically analysed. This material therefore represents a wealth of potential information that has yet to be investigated. By identifying and examining the preservation state of wood, textiles and leather placed in archaeological human burials, this research sought to explore the information that could be gained from analysing these degraded materials, and to develop an understanding of the long term decomposition trajectories of different archaeological materials buried in a range of burial environments. This analysis was complemented with data obtained from relatively shorter term burial experiments, aimed at investigating the short term diagenetic processes. A suite of appropriate analytical chemistry techniques were employed to assess the degradation that had occurred in wood, textiles and leather by comparison with undegraded modern analogues. Using this approach, it has been shown that by examining the component biopolymers, not only can their preservation state be assessed, but a greater depth of information regarding their provenance may be gained in comparison to traditional archaeological methods. The degradation modifications that have occurred within the burial environments were shown to be attributable to a range of fungal, microbial and chemical factors. The type and extent of the degradation allow conditions within the burial environments to be elucidated. These findings have potential implications for the understanding, interpretation and conservation of buried archaeological and forensic materials.
Supervisor: Keely, Brendan Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available