Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1893/27694
Appears in Collections:Biological and Environmental Sciences Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Signatures of degraded body tissues and environmental conditions in grave soils from a Roman and an Anglo-Scandinavian age burial from Hungate, York
Author(s): Pickering, Matthew D
Ghislandi, Sabina
Usai, Maria Raimonda
Wilson, Clare
Connelly, Peter
Brothwell, Don R
Keeley, Brendan J
Contact Email: c.a.wilson@stir.ac.uk
Keywords: Human burials
scientific archaeology
triacylglycerols
n-alkanals
bone cholesterol
redox conditions
Roman
Anglo-Scandinavian
Issue Date: Nov-2018
Citation: Pickering MD, Ghislandi S, Usai MR, Wilson C, Connelly P, Brothwell DR & Keeley BJ (2018) Signatures of degraded body tissues and environmental conditions in grave soils from a Roman and an Anglo-Scandinavian age burial from Hungate, York. Journal of Archaeological Science, 99, pp. 87-98. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2018.08.007
Abstract: Despite the importance of human burials in archaeological investigations of past peoples and their lives, the soil matrix that accommodates the remains is rarely considered, attention being focused mainly on visible features. The decomposition of a buried corpse and associated organic matter influences both the organic composition and, directly or indirectly, the microstructure of the burial matrix, producing signatures that could be preserved over archaeological timescales. If preserved, such signatures have potential to reveal aspects of the individual’s lifestyle and cultural practices as well as providing insights into taphonomic processes. Using organic chemical analysis and soil micromorphology we have identified organic signatures and physical characteristics relating to the presence of the body, and its decomposition in grave soils associated with two human skeletons (one Roman age and one Anglo-Scandinavian age) from Hungate, York, UK. The organic signatures, including contributions from body tissues, gut contents, bone degradation and input from microbiota, exhibit spatial variations with respect to anatomical location and features of the immediate burial environment. In the Roman grave broad changes in redox conditions associated with the decomposition of the corpse and disturbance from the excavation and use of an Anglo-Scandinavian age cess pit that partially cuts the grave were evident. Leachate from the cess pit was shown to exacerbate the degradation of the skeletal remains in the regions closest to it, also degrading and depleting spherulites in the soil, through decalcification of the bone and liberation of bone-derived cholesterol into the soil matrix. The findings from this work have implications for future archaeo- and contemporary forensic investigations of buried human remains.
DOI Link: 10.1016/j.jas.2018.08.007
Rights: This item has been embargoed for a period. During the embargo please use the Request a Copy feature at the foot of the Repository record to request a copy directly from the author. You can only request a copy if you wish to use this work for your own research or private study. Accepted refereed manuscript of: Pickering MD, Ghislandi S, Usai MR, Wilson C, Connelly P, Brothwell DR & Keeley BJ (2018) Signatures of degraded body tissues and environmental conditions in grave soils from a Roman and an Anglo-Scandinavian age burial from Hungate, York. Journal of Archaeological Science, 99, pp. 87-98. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2018.08.007 © 2018, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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