Clitheroe Excavation – The Cremations

The cremated bone from Cremation 4 laid out after micro-excavation, washing and drying. © Copyright ARS Ltd
Micro excavation of Cremation 5 in progress (scale = 30cm). © Copyright ARS Ltd
The smaller, inverted collared urn containing the cremation material within the larger urn (scale = 10cm). © Copyright ARS Ltd

Of the eight individuals, one was probably an adult male (Cremation 1), another was a young adult female (Cremation 4), three were adults of indeterminate sex (Cremations 5, 8 and 9), one was an adolescent of indeterminate sex (Cremation 7), one was an infant or early juvenile of indeterminate sex (Cremation 3), and one was of indeterminate sex and age (Cremation 2). Grave 6 was so badly truncated that none of the cremation material had survived.

Looking carefully at the bones can reveal ‘pathological legions’ which can tell us about the general health and lifestyle of an individual. Some of the vertebrae from the individual within Cremation 4 displayed ‘Schmorl’s nodes’ which are believed to be evidence of the person carrying heavy loads, while bones from Cremation 1 showed signs of degenerative joint disease (arthritis).

Careful analysis of the bone from Clitheroe also revealed that it had all fully oxidised during the cremation process. This indicates that the individuals’ bodies had been cremated at temperatures exceeding 600°C.

Radiocarbon dating of the cremations has dated them to between the mid-20th century BC and the late 17th century BC which shows that the ring ditch was in use as a burial ground for over 250 years. The pottery vessels are currently being stabilised and conserved by Durham University after which they will be sent to Lancashire Museum.

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