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Analysis of color and fracture patterns on burned bones from the Békés 103 Bronze Age cemetery

Author(s): Matthew Capece ; Tucker Hlad ; Jaime Ullinger

Year: 2016

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In this study we use color and fracture patterns of burned bone to reconstruct cremation temperatures and the conditions of the body prior to cremation in highly fragmented skeletal material from a Bronze Age cemetery in Eastern Hungary. Using a Munsell Soil Color Book we were able to qualitatively measure the color of cremains in order to estimate burning temperature. Determining whether or not the body was burned with flesh relied on two methodologies: the analysis of color patterns across the body and the identification of specific heat-related bone fractures. With the majority of bones being a shade of white, it was estimated that the crematory fires likely exceeded 800˚C. Thumbnail fractures along long bones and the prevalence of nonwhite bones on specific areas of the body, such as where two bones articulate, both suggest that the body was cremated while flesh was on the body. Together, these observations indicate that the people of this region during the Bronze Age took care to cremate the dead soon after death and then carefully tended to the pyres, allowing them to maintain such high temperatures.

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Analysis of color and fracture patterns on burned bones from the Békés 103 Bronze Age cemetery. Matthew Capece, Tucker Hlad, Jaime Ullinger. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404304)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America