Burning the dead: Human bones subjected to fire in southwestern Swedish megalithic graves

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Malou Blank


In this paper, a series of new radiocarbon dates on burnt human bones recovered from megalithic graves in southwestern Sweden is reported. The purpose was to reveal possible chronological patterns of these depositions. Both the location of the bones within the grave and the characterisation of the burnt bones are discussed. The megalithic graves in the study area were mainly used for successive inhumation burials and have been subjected to extensive reuse throughout prehistory. Burnt human bones have therefore been assumed to originate from later periods when cremation was the dominant burial practice, although indications of Neolithic cremations occur. The radiocarbon dates demonstrate that most of the burnt bones derived from later reuse of the graves. More unexpectedly, several depositions also dated to the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age, confirming parallel practices of inhumation and cremation during these periods. Furthermore, the results indicate that the placement of the burnt bones and the treatment of the human remains to some degree varied over time.

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How to Cite
Blank, Malou. 2021. “Burning the Dead: Human Bones Subjected to Fire in Southwestern Swedish Megalithic Graves”. Journal of Neolithic Archaeology 23 (September), 29–60. https://doi.org/10.12766/jna.2021.2.