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Quick Question about burials
One of our volunteers asked me a question today that i didn't know the answer to, so I thought i would skry in the BAJR tea-leaves of wisdom...

'How old does a burial have to be for it to count as archaeology?'

I had thought it was 100 years, but I don't know where i heard that. Any advances?

Many thanks!
when I was taking forensic archaeology classes a few years ago, I was told 50 years.

So that would mean the remains of a person buried in 1959 would be classed as archaeology?

Have i got that right? (seems awfully recent) :-S

I wonder how the number of years is decided upon? I would have thought it would be something decided upon by how likely it was that there would be direct relatives still surviving, but if i have understood this correctly, that doesn't seem the likely reason.

Sorry, i might be asking really obvious questions but it's a hole in my knowledge and i want to fill it Smile

Thunder rolled. ... It rolled a six.

This is probably where i got my idea of 100 years from.

From my very brief scan of the intro this seems to be because remains of less than 100 years old are covered by the 'Human Tissue Bill'.

But this is a guidance document; i wonder if there is a legal definition for the age at which a burial becomes archaeology? Maybe this is where the 50 year figure comes in?

Thunder rolled. ... It rolled a six.
It seems I mis-remembered (althouh I'm sure that's what I was told), as Hunter (1996: 43) says: "working practice has tended to use an interval of at least 70-100 years as a guide to whether further enquiries are necessary, crimes older than that being adjudged to be beyond any realistic chance of solution"


Hunter, J., 1996. Recovering Buried Remains, in Hunter, J., Roberts, C., and Martin, A. (Eds). Studies in Crime: An Introduction to Forensic Archaeology (London: Routledge)
aaah, so it's not perhaps so much about whether there are living relatives; but more a case of (certainly in the eyes of the law) the chances of resolving any issues of foul-play.

I hadn't thought of it that way.

Smile thanking you!

Thunder rolled. ... It rolled a six.
You might also want to look at Ferlinni et al for a perspective on Archaeology and Human Rights violations, where forensic archaeology and forensic anthropology have been involved.

My opinion is that archaeological methodology is a valuable tool with a myriad of potentials and there is no logical reasoning (and certainly no legal justification in the UK) for any kind of cut off date regarding its application.

Some other countries (Scandinavian nations for example) have specific cut-off dates written in to their heritage legislation.

[Image: 3216700919_bab3ee7520_t.jpg]

With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
thanks for that... brings up some interesting points for discussion with the volunteers at lunchtime.

I agree with you on the reasoning for having no cut-off date. It'd be daft to rule out an available methodology on a point of semantics.

Thanks again to both of you for your help!
sorry, I didn't mean to suggest that recent burials shouldn't be looked at archaeologically, no no no... actually I think archaeology is always the best means for exhumation. I suppose I saw it more from a 'when is a burial of archaeological, rather than forensic, interest' perspective. Which isn't really the question that was asked at all. Oh dear.

I'm very glad to have, erm, helped though

lol i agree with you completely Big Grin i guess it's one of the eternal problems of written text, that it's very easy to get wires crossed [:I]

i don't see why archaeological methods shouldn't be used for more recent burials. Archaeological techniques might be able to produce additional information when coupled with forensic techniques. The techniques are eminently transferable and apply the same to a 50 year old burial as a 500 year old one.

my original question was very loose, which reflects how little i know about the topic. All information, aspects and perspectives are good :face-approve:

Plus this all leads to lively discussion in the dig hut, which always makes me smile.

Thunder rolled. ... It rolled a six.

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