Here’s something new in burial archaeology!
In 2008 a cremation burial of the Pre-Roman Iron Age was excavated at Skrea backe near Falkenberg in Halland province. It’s unusually rich for its time, being housed in a continental iron-and-bronze cauldron and containing three knives, an awl and 5.3 litres of burnt bones from a lamb, a sheep, two pig’s trotters, a bird and three people.
I’ve never seen a knife-handle like that before, with an iron-rod frame, but I’ve never really worked with the period nor with Halland so that counts for little. A bizarre detail though is that a foot bone from the sheep has two pieces of thin iron tube inside. I think they may be the remains of two solid iron rods whose surface layer was altered by the pyre’s heat, their innards rusting away.
All of this is very nice but not unheard-of before. What’s new with this burial is that the excavator has had bones from all three buried people radiocarbon-dated, and they turned out to have died at different dates over a span of about a century! A man of ~35 and an adolescent of 10-14 have been disinterred and cremated along with a woman of ~55 around 150 BC, long after the first two people died. Or their bones were curated above ground. Cool!
(A 100-year gap is too long among Iron Age porridge eaters to represent a marine reservoir effect.)
Update 4 February ’11: Writes Per Wranning, one of the excavators: “… there are two (identical) dates from the child, one from the woman and one from the man. The first date we got was for the child, but selected from non-determinable material [i.e. they knew the sample was from the child but not which bone in its body]. As this date was slightly confusing — the person in question appeared to have died at least half a century before cauldrons like this appeared — we decided to re-date all three individuals. Our funds at the time could only cover one analysis per individual.”
Read osteologist Anna Kloo Andersson’s report on-line. Thanks to Niklas Krantz for the tip-off.