miércoles, 18 de junio de 2014

Bronze Age necropolis reveals variety of funerary practices (France)

A team of Inrap archaeologists conducted a rescue excavation at the commune of Marigny-le-Châtel (north-central France) in April 2014 before work on a new gas pipeline goes ahead. The area under examination revealed burial monuments and tombs dating from the end of the Middle Bronze Age to the beginning of the Late Bronze Age.
The necropolis contained forty burials, a mixture of both inhumations and cremations. The terraced location of the site was particularly interesting as very little archaeological work has been carried out in contrast to the alluvial valleys of the Seine and the Yonne in which most regional reference sites for this period are known.

Outstanding funerary monuments

The necropolis has revealed the existence of outstanding funerary monuments made up of five enclosures surrounded by ditches of various shapes and sizes. Two circular enclosures measuring 5m and 18m in diameter were found on the outer areas of the site, however, they have been almost completely levelled by ploughing and no associated burials were recorded. Only the presence of surrounding ditches marked their presence.
Three other monuments were located in the heart of the necropolis. The first two monuments have retained their central graves which are in the form of rectangular pits dug directly into the chalk, with interior structures composed of sandstone blocks. They had been subjected to past looting, but a few remaining fragments of bone confirmed that they had once contained burials.
The first was 12m long and sub-rectangular with an entrance to the northeast (see header image).
The second was circular (12m diameter) with an entrance to the south indicated by the presence of stake holes (pictured above).
The third ditched enclosure, although partially levelled, was rectangular (8 m wide) and contained at least two graves.
A second type of ‘monument’ that appeared after top soil stripping, took the shape of three fenced rectangular spaces (see above photograph), oriented north-south like the majority of the tombs of the necropolis. Closely spaced post holes delineated the enclosures, the largest of which was 7.50m by 3.75m. Their function has not yet been fully understood, however, the presence of a rectangular area within the interior hints at burial. This type of structure is not known from this period of the Bronze Age in a funerary context, even in the most investigated areas of the Seine and Yonne valleys.

Burials and cremation graves

Thirty burials and cremations were dotted amongst the main funerary monuments. Nearly half of these graves were lined with sandstone blocks, creating burial cists, while other simpler graves were in the shape of small circular pits. Fragments of burnt bone was either scattered into the ditch fills or placed within ceramic urns or perishable containers like a bag or a basket. The graves produced a particularly interesting variety of objects such as pins, belt fastenings, bronze daggers, flint blades and a typical assemblage of ceramics from the beginning of the Late Bronze Age.
This necropolis is regionally important as it reflects the wide variety of funerary practices being carried out at this period, and highlighted through the treatment of the body, the funeral deposit and the tomb architecture. This excavation has produced valuable information to aid the  research programmes already under-way on the valleys of the Yonne and the Seine.

Source: Past Horizons: http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/06/2014/bronze-age-necropolis-reveals-variety-of-funerary-practices

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