Abstracts: Panel Session 3
University of Bucharest, Department of Ancient History, Archaeology and Art History
Domestic Corpses: Household and Funerary Practices from the Early Neolithic of Romania
The Starčevo-Criș complex represents an important stage in the process of neolithization of Southeast Europe (Romania, Serbia, Hungary), whose identity is given by the new economic base and common characteristics (the Neolithic package, generally accepted to encompass technological, economic, social and ideological aspects as a whole, thus “the Neolithic way of life”) and funreray practices (burials within settlements).
Even if the funerary findings belonging to the Early Neolithic period remain rare in this region, this does not mean that they don’t have an important potential in shaping a better picture on certain circumstances from the distant past of mankind. Nonetheless, the phenomena associated with this complex have not been studied sufficiently. A brief presentation based on the archaeological register will represent the basis on which I construct my discourse. By operating an analysis of such funerary practices I try to provide some meaningful insight into the relationships existing between this given trio - the living, the dead and the domestic space. In addition to this, I turn to find out in what way these elements are means for constructing identity, conclusively discussing a series of hypothesis concerning the interpretation of such funerary behaviour.
Jess E. Thompson
University of Cambridge
The period from the 4th to 3rd millennium BC in the Maltese islands witnesses elaboration in architecture, craft and – importantly for us – burial ritual. Elsewhere in Europe, the late Neolithic to Chalcolithic transition was characterised by a rise in single burial. On the islands of Malta and Gozo, however, the scale of collective burial continued to expand. Most burial sites from this period were excavated in the 20th Century; the resulting short excavation reports often included only a brief description of the human remains. Rock-cut tombs and caves were usually discovered to contain the highly disturbed and rearranged remains of small numbers of individuals.
To these general impressions of the burial programme, we can now add the results of detailed taphonomic analysis of the skeletal remains from two sites: The Xagħra Circle hypogeum and Xemxija tombs. The remains from the Xemxija tombs were recently discovered to be curated at UCL, and the complete assemblage of almost 15,000 fragments of human bone have been analysed. On the basis of pottery typology, these tombs could have been in use up to 500 years before the main phase of deposition at the Xagħra Circle hypogeum. Within the hypogeum, the remains of hundreds of individuals were subjected to a varied and protracted cycle of intervention. The long and intense use of the site resulted in a highly commingled and mixed deposit, displaying various levels of disarticulation. Taphonomic results so far reveal the choice of different burial environments and, in particular, a changing treatment and engagement with the remains of the dead during this 1000 year cultural peak in Malta’s (pre)history.
Sexually Dimorphic Traits of the Maxillary First Molar and their Application to Determine Sex in Immature Human Remains
University of Kent
Sexual dimorphism of permanent teeth is frequently discussed in current literature, with molars and canines regularly presenting sexually dimorphic morphometrics. By combining dental analysis and growth rates it is possible that the earliest developing permanent teeth may present sexual dimorphism before the release of pubertal hormones. This project aimed to identify sexually dimorphic morphometrics from the M1 dentition using adult remains of the Black Gate (7th-12th century AD) collection, and to test their viability in application on immature remains of the same population. In total 11 measurements were taken from 127 adults of known sex. Those features identified as statistically significant in their dimorphism were then used to produce a sex determination equation through discriminant function analysis. The same features were further taken from 42 immature skeletons presenting complete M1 crowns, before comparing the sex determinations produced using the discriminant function equation to those using methods published by Schutowski (1993). Initial results identified all 11 measurements as significant in their sexual dimorphism in adults, with no significant difference found between the mean diameter measurements of the adult and immature M1 teeth. Tests of the immature remains showed a high percentage correlation between sex determinations using dental morphometric features and skeletal morphological features. Overall the results indicated that there is merit in replicating this project, ideally using a clinical sample and/or a skeletal collection of known sex for both adult and immature individuals. Should positive result continue to be produced, there are clear future possibilities of utilising this methodology in both an osteoarchaeological and forensic context.