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Roman Cremation weights
#1
Is there any material out there on average weight of material from Roman cremations? Asking for someone trying to deal with bags of remains.
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#2
Jackie McKinley in International J Osteoarchaeology 1993 283-7 but cant remember exact figure c.1200g?
If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers
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#3
I remember 1.2kg, but when I did a late 1st century cremation cemetry in Essex the average was a good deal less, 200-400g maybe.
There seems to have been no great desire to bury all the remains, just a representative sample. Also several burrials had had pyre debris added later, perhaps from a different burrial, in a pit cut into the top of the original burrial. Burial practise seemed to vary a hell of a lot. Some were cremated with goods, some had goods added after, some were in pots, soom in caskets, some in bags.
No rhyme nor reason as far as I could figure out.
One of the coolest sites I ever ran though, lots of fun!
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#4
Steve H is right, it is extremely variable as to date and region. Best to find published sites of a similar time and place to that which your friend is studying and see what weights were found there. Other factors to consider are level of truncation and urned versus unurned. The paper P Prentice refers to will give you the average weight for a modern cremation. To be precise, they are always referred to as 'cremation burials' and the burnt bone is 'cremated bone deposit' - 'cremation' is the act of burning.
*Blatant self interest* there are a number of cremation burials discussed in the OA Lankhills publication, but equally Mola have a good number of publications too.
PhD - found on Ethos - [TABLE]
[TR]
[TD="class: fadeThis, bgcolor: #EEEEEE"]Styles of Romano-British cremation and associated deposition in south-east England[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]Author: Weekes, Jason Richard. [/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]Awarding Body: University of Kent at Canterbury [/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]Awarded: 2005


[/TD]
[/TR]
[/TABLE]
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#5
Usually a lot less in urns than pits I seem to remember.
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#6
BAJR Wrote:Is there any material out there on average weight of material from Roman cremations? Asking for someone trying to deal with bags of remains.

Bone or total deposit?

The recovered weight varies hugely depending on how the remains were recovered. For a lot of older excavations they just picked out the bigger bits of bone and the rest went on the spoil heap, hopefully these days the entire content of the burial pit or whatever is retained and floated, although of course often a lot of that charcoally fill with white bits in has been chucked before the digger gets down to the pot and realises their mistake - this is the kind of information which rarely if ever even gets written down, let alone passed on to the specialist or mentioned in the final report. I've had several prehistoric crems where there was none or very little bone actually in the pot, it was all in the surrounding fill - some Roman crems seem to be the same. Also, the weights can potentially be fairly unreliable since you can't tell how many of the 'unidentified' bits are actually part of the person rather than bits of accompanying animals, bone furniture mounts etc - this can vary wildly depending on the skill/knowledge of the person doing the analysis, and of course how much time/budget they've been given. I had 4 crems out yesterday selecting C14 samples where actually there isn't a single bit of identifiably human bone between them (although all the hobnails in one are a bit of a giveaway, plus they were buried in amongst inhumations)

While we're on the subject, is there any evidence for columbaria in Roman Britain? (?that the right name - the buildings they have elsewhere with all the niches for crems) We've got one that seems to have been kept somewhere for 2-3 centuries before it finally got stuck in the ground [and another who was accompanied by a 200yr-old pot...ergo the cremation vessel isn't a good guide for dating, always get C14] - could explain a lot of the 'missing' Roman population, if they weren't burying them :face-thinks:
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#7
You lovely people... will pass on.
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#8
i've seen niches in rb buildings that must have contained skulls and also been a shrine, focus of coin and brooch deposition so curated cremations not out of the question. in the old days of ams people dated the ash which was a problem and now even a single date on calcined bone might mask a multiple burial - even in a pot. can of worms unless you can manage multiple dates so knowing the weight is the least of your worries
If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers
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#9
P Prentice Wrote:i've seen niches in rb buildings that must have contained skulls and also been a shrine, focus of coin and brooch deposition so curated cremations not out of the question. in the old days of ams people dated the ash which was a problem and now even a single date on calcined bone might mask a multiple burial - even in a pot. can of worms unless you can manage multiple dates so knowing the weight is the least of your worries

Lets not run before we can walk (although you are right), any C14 dates in Roman archaeology seem to be enough of a novelty (have been having considerable difficulty finding any comparative data), let alone multiple determinations, but I'm sure they'll catch up :face-stir:
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#10
monty Wrote:Usually a lot less in urns than pits I seem to remember.

Stuck a pit one through a siraf last Sunday where they'd gone for a token half a dozen good sized bits of calcined bone (no fiddly small flecks) and a few hobnails, not bothered with any of the messy charcoal stuff - actually few of the pit ones from the cemetery seem to come with that much charcoal and I doubt many have more than c.100g of bone, although the ones in pots have gone off to a specialist for lab excavation so they might be a bit better
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