chapter  12
20 Pages


Previous chapters in this book have dealt exclusively with inhumation burials. Although these are the most common type of remains encountered archaeologically, cremation was practised in many ancient cultures, either alongside inhumation or as the sole archaeologically visible funerary rite. For example, cremation burials are frequent finds in the later prehistoric periods in most parts of Europe (Coles and Harding 1979; Champion et al. 1984). Cremation was also practised by early European historic cultures, including many in the Roman Empire (Pearce et al. 2000), and Anglo-Saxon post-Roman groups in north-west Europe (Lucy 2000). Although cremation burials are fewer in North America than in Europe, some Native North American groups practised the rite, for example some cultures in the eastern USA (Binford 1963), the US Southwest (Merbs 1967) and western Canada (Curtin 2008). Cremation burials are also known from early Asia (Lisowski 1979; Crubézy et al. 2006) and Australia (Bowler et al. 2003). Archaeological cremation burials are therefore encountered in most areas of the world, and most osteoarchaeologists deal with them on a frequent or occasional basis. This chapter discusses cremated human remains and the information which can be gained from their study.