| 6 December 2016
Bone objects discovered in ancient cremated remains
Archaeologists studying Neolithic and Early Bronze Age human remains in the Manx Museum collection for the 'Round Mounds of the Isle of Man' project have made an exciting discovery. Contained within a box of cremated bones excavated in 1947, osteologist Dr Michelle Gamble, discovered a collection of small bone objects that had not been noticed by the excavators. The bones had been buried almost 4000 years ago at Staarvey Farm in what is now German parish, Isle of Man.
Basil Megaw who was director of the Manx Museum excavated the site, discovering a stone-built cist containing fragments of burnt bone, two flint tools, and two Collared Urns buried upside-down. But it is only now that the bones have been studied in detail.
Dr Gamble said: "there was a large quantity of cremated bone from this site. Within this burial, we have four skeletons, very fragmented and mixed together - 2 adults, one of which is a male, an adolescent, and an infant. The bone objects were burned as well and mixed in with the cremated human remains."
Dr Chris Fowler, co-director of the Round Mounds of the Isle of Man project, said: "I opened my email to find a photograph of an extremely rare Bronze Age object - a bone pommel from a bronze knife. This would have been fitted to the very end of the hilt. There are only about 40 surviving knife and dagger pommels of this period from the British Isles, and none have been found on the Isle of Man before".
The size and shape suggest it was once attached to a 'knife-dagger'. Several other bone objects were found: a burnt bone point or pin, bone beads, and four enigmatic worked bone strips.
It is rare to find cremated remains buried in both a Collared Urn and cist. The objects may have been worn by one or more of the dead as they were placed on the funeral pyre, or may have been placed by the dead on the pyre by mourners. It is possible that there were multiple episodes of burial in the cist.
Round mounds are found through the British Isles and in Continental Europe. In the British Isles the earliest round mounds appeared in the Neolithic period, after c. 3800 BCE. More were built periodically over the next 2500 years or so.
The current project aims to investigate what these sites and their associated burials, people and artefacts can tell us about life on the Isle of Man and interaction with other communities across Britain, Ireland and potentially beyond. It includes analysis of the landscape location of the mounds, geophysical survey at several sites, and re-analysis of both previously excavated remains and records of previously destroyed or excavated sites.
The project, which began in September, is directed by Dr Rachel Crellin (University of Leicester) and Dr Chris Fowler (Newcastle University) and has received funding and support from Culture Vannin and Manx National Heritage. For more information about the project please visit: roundmounds.wordpress.com.
Edited from isleofman.com (5 December 2016)
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