A Multidisciplinary Study of a Burnt and Mutilated as 2017 Journal of Archae

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  A multidisciplinary study ofa burnt andmutilatedassemblageofhumanremains from a deserted Mediaeval village in England S. Mays a,b,c, ⁎ , R. Fryer b , A.W.G. Pike b , M.J. Cooper d , P. Marshall a a Research Department, Historic England, United Kingdom b  Archaeology Department, University of Southampton, UK  c School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, UK  d Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton, UK  a b s t r a c ta r t i c l e i n f o  Article history: Received 30 November 2016Received in revised form 13 February 2017Accepted 20 February 2017Available online 2 April 2017 ThisworkisastudyofanassemblageofdisarticulatedhumanskeletalremainsfromapitontheMediaevalvillagesiteofWharramPercy,England.Theremainsshowevidenceofperimortalbreakage,burningandtoolmarks.Thepurposeofthestudyistoattempttoshedlightonthehumanactivitythatmighthaveproducedtheassemblage.Theremainsaresubjecttoradiocarbondating,strontiumisotopeanalysis,andgrossandmicroscopicosteologicalexamination.The assemblage comprises137bonesrepresentingthesubstantially incompleteremains ofa min-imum of ten individuals, ranging inage from 2 ‐ 4 yrs to  N 50 yrs at death. Both sexesare represented. Seventeenbones show a total of 76 perimortem sharp-force marks (mainly knife-marks); these marks are con 󿬁 ned to theupper body parts. A minimum of 17 bones show evidence for low-temperature burning, and 6 long-bonesshow perimortem breakage. The radiocarbon dates centre on ca. 11th – 13th century CE, and the remains repre-sent the residua of more than one event. Strontium isotopic analyses of dental enamel are consistent with alocalorigin.Possiblebehavioursthatmayhaveproducedtheassemblageincludestarvationcannibalismandapo-tropaic efforts to lay revenant corpses.© 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license( Keywords: RadiocarbonStrontium isotopeKnife marksBurningWharram PercyRevenant corpsesCannibalism 1. Introduction Thispaper is a study of anassemblageofdisarticulated human skel-etal remains from a Mediaeval settlement site in England. The remainsshow evidence of perimortem tool marks, burning and breakage. Thework uses osteological study, isotopic analysis and radiocarbon datingin an attempt to shed light upon the human behaviour that mighthave produced the assemblage. 2. Material The studymaterialcomes from WharramPercy, a desertedMediae-val village in North Yorkshire, England (Fig. 1). Wharram Percy was asmall,low-statusruralagrariansettlement,andintheMediaevalperiodit consisted of two facing rows of dwellings orientated approximatelynorth – south. The shorter eastern row lay in a valley, together with thechurch and its churchyard. The longer western row lay on a 10 – 15 mhigh plateau, separated from the eastern buildings by a steep escarp-ment (Beresford and Hurst, 1990). Archaeological excavations havetaken place bothin thechurch/churchyard and in areasof domesticoc-cupation (Marlow-Mann and Wrathmell, 2012).Thehumanremainsthatarethefocusofthecurrentworkcomenotfrom thechurchyard, butfrom a domesticcontext towardthesouthernendof thewesternrowof buildings,situatedontheplateau.Theywererecovered in 1963 – 4 from a location now known as Site 12(Fig. 1), butformerly known asArea 6 (Milne, 1979). Theprimepurposeof excava-tioninthisareawastoinvestigateanearthworkthatappearedtorepre-senttheremainsofalargelong-house.Thehumanremainsthatarethesubject of the current study come from features comprising threeintercutting, approximately square pits. This pit-complex consists of acentralpitabout2.1mwide, 󿬂 ankedtotheeastandwestbytwosmalleroneseachabout1mwide.Thedepthofthewesternmostpitwas0.3m,thedepthoftheothertwoisnotrecorded.Thecentralpitappearstobecut by the westernmost one but its relationship with the other is un-clear. The pit complex lay immediately to the south-west of the long-house (which was 15th century in date), but predated its construction.Duringexcavation,allremainswerehand-recovered;therewasnosiev-ing to retrieve small bones. The pit-complex was not excavatedstratigraphically, but rather numbers were assigned to  󿬁 nds trays asthey entered post-excavation processing. The human remains weredisarticulated when found and bear seven different  󿬁 nds numbers.Thesenumbersshowarelationshiptotheverticalorhorizontallocationwithin the pit-complex. However, upon examination of the skeletal re-mains,itbecameclearthatconjoinsexistedbetweenfragmentsbearingall seven  󿬁 nds codes. Therefore, for analytical purposes, the human  Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 16 (2017) 441 – 455 ⁎  Corresponding author at: Research Department, Historic England, United Kingdom. E-mail address: (S. Mays).© 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license ( Contents lists available at ScienceDirect  Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports  journal homepage:  remains are treated as a single group. The site report (Milne, 1979)noted that the pits contained a mixture of Roman and early Mediaevalpottery, and it is therefore likely that the  󿬁 lls represent reworked de-posits.Theexistenceofconjoinsbetweenhumanremainsfromdifferentlocationsinthepit-complexsupportsthis.Thenatureofthesiterecordsmeans that it is now unclear what  󿬁 nds (other than pottery), if any,came from these features, and it is not possible to con 󿬁 rm that thehumanremainsinthesitearchivecompriseallofthosethatwererecov-ered. The publication on the site (Milne, 1979) containsnoosteologicalreport and mentions no anthropogenic modi 󿬁 cation to the skeletal re-mains. The interpretation offered was that the remains were Romano-British burials inadvertantly disturbed and reburied by villagers in lateMediaeval times (Milne, 1979: 46). This explanation subsequentlyproved untenable when radiocarbon determinations of   󿬁 ve (unspeci- 󿬁 ed) human bones produced dates in the Mediaeval period (Clark,1987). 3. Methods  3.1. Osteology Forsubadult(agedca. b 18yrs)remains,ageatdeathwasestimatedusingdentaldevelopment and epiphysialfusion,usingmethodsidenti-caltothosefortheWharramPercychurchyardburials(Mays,2007:84 – 5). A general impression of age was also gained from bone size bycomparison with growth curves constructed for the churchyard burialswhich have been aged using dental development (Mays, 2007: Table26). In adult remains, age was estimated from dental wear, and sexfrom cranial and pelvic morphology using identical methods to thoseappliedtothechurchyardremains(Mays,2007:85).Forthemorecom-plete adult mandibles, measurements were taken (Mays, 2007: 131n),and discriminant functions were generated using mandibles fromchurchyard burials whose sex could be determined from pelvic indica-tors. Both these, and morphological features (Brothwell, 1981: 61),were used to determine sex, which was only assigned to a mandiblewhen the two methods were in agreement.Uponinitialexamination,itwasclearthatsomeofthebonesshowedsharp force marks, signs of burning and perimortem breakage. Thesefeatures were identi 󿬁 ed and recorded systematically.Tool marks, and breaks to bones occurring in antiquity were distin-guished from recent damage by their weathered edges. Two types of perimortem sharp force trauma were distinguished: knife-marks andchop-marks. Knife-marks are made by drawing a knife blade acrossbone and are identi 󿬁 ed as elongated grooves of V- or U-shaped cross-section; they may show parallel, longitudinal striations within themain groove (Walker & Long, 1977; Reichs, 1998; Green 󿬁 eld, 1999).Chop-marksresultfromstrikingbonewithaswordorothersharpblad-ed implement. They may completely slicethrough bone, tendtobe lin-ear,theiredgesaregenerallywell-de 󿬁 nedandclean,andthesurfacesof thecut edges are usually fairly 󿬂 atand smooth(Wenham, 1989;Lewis, Fig. 1.  Location map.442  S. Mays et al. / Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 16 (2017) 441 – 455  2008;Kimmerle&Baraybar,2008:276).Examinationofboneswasun-dertaken under strong, raking light, aimed at highlighting surface fea-tures. A hand lens and a binocular microscope were used to aididenti 󿬁 cation of features. Morphology of marks was elucidated usingscanning electron microscopy as appropriate.Mechanical properties of fresh bone are characterised by signi 󿬁 cantelasticityandplasticity byvirtueof its organic content. Duetodegrada-tion of the organic component (mainly collagen), the typical fracturepattern of dry bone differs from that of fresh bone (Outram, 2002). Forlong bone diaphyses, fresh bone tends to break with a curvilinear frac-ture, dry bone tends to show straight or stepped breaks. In fresh bone,the broken surface of a fracture is usually smooth with sharp edges,but in dry bone it has a roughened appearance. The above criteria arenot absolute (Outram, 2002), but they act as a guide to distinguishbreaks that occurred when the bone was fresh, as would be expectedof perimortem anthropogenic breakage. Carnivore gnawing and otheranimal damage was identi 󿬁 ed using established criteria (Haynes,1980, 1982, 1983; Binford, 1981: 44 – 77), as were human tooth marks(Cáceres et al., 2007; Fernández-Jalvo & Andrews, 2011).Heating of bone causes colour changes which vary (inter alia) withtemperature,andthesealterationswereusedtoidentifyexposureofre-mainstoheat.Uponheating,bonesdarkenincolourtodarkbrownandthenblack, correspondingto charringof theorganic component. As thetemperature risesfurther, thecolour lightensuntil it becomes predom-inantlylightgreyorwhite;thislighteningappears tocorrespondtotheprogressivelossoftheorganiccomponentbycombustion(Mays,2010:322).  3.2. Radiometric dating  Because of the mixed nature of the deposits in the pit-complex, itwas decided to radiometrically date some of the specimens bearingsharp force marks and evidence for perimortem breakage, and to com-bine the results with those of the  󿬁 ve (unidenti 󿬁 ed) human bonesfrom the pit-complex dated in the 1980s. The aims are to: investigatewhether the remains from the pit-complex are contemporary with theburials in the churchyard; to estimate the date range encompassed bythe remains; and to investigate whether the anthropogenically modi- 󿬁 ed remains have dates consistent with one another and hence poten-tially represent the result of a single event, or else were a result of repeated behaviours over a period of time. Ten bones ( 󿬁 ve showingknife-marks, 󿬁 veshowingperimortembreakage)wereselectedfordat-ing on the basis that they had suf  󿬁 cient cortical bone to provide a datewithout unduly damaging the specimen.The  󿬁 ve samples of human bone dated at AERE Harwell between1982and 86were all pretreated usingthestandard acid – base-protocoland converted to carbon dioxide (Otlet and Slade, 1974). One sample,HAR-4949, was dated by liquid scintillation spectrometry. Followingpretreatment the carbon dioxide was synthesised to benzene using amethod similar to that initially described by Tamers (1965) using a va-nadium-based catalyst (Otlet, 1977) and dated as described by Otlet (1979) and Otlet and Warchal (1978). The remaining four samples, HAR-4948 and HAR-4950 – 52, were dated in a miniature gas propor-tional counter. Procedures for gas puri 󿬁 cation, counter  󿬁 lling, and gasproportional counting, using the miniature counter, followed Otlet andEvans (1983) and Otlet et al. (1983). The ten samples of human bone submitted for dating in 2014 weresent to the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU; 5 samples)and Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC; 5samples) to provide a degree of cross-checking and ensure the repro-ducibility and accuracy of the radiocarbon measurements (Bayliss andMarshall, forthcoming). The samples of human bone dated at ORAUwereprocessedusingthegelatinisationandultra 󿬁 ltrationprotocolsde-scribed by Bronk Ramsey et al. (2004a). The samples were thencombusted, graphitised and dated by accelerator mass spectrometry(AMS) as described by Bronk Ramsey et al. (2004b) and Dee and Bronk Ramsey (2000). One sample, from a mandible, failed due to alow collagen yield.The human bones submitted to the SUERC were pretreated using amodi 󿬁 ed Longin method (Longin, 1971). CO 2  was obtained from thesamplesbycombustioninpre-cleanedsealedquartztubesasdescribedbyVandeputteetal.(1996),withthepuri 󿬁 edCO 2 convertedtographite(Slota et al., 1987) and dated by AMS (Xu et al. 2004; Freeman et al., 2010).  3.3. Strontium isotope analyses Onepotentialreasonfordeviantmortuarytreatmentisthatindivid-uals come from outside the community that buried them (Binford,1971).Analysisofstrontiumisotoperatiosindentalenamelwascarriedouttoinvestigatethispossibility.Isotopiccompositionofdentalenamelvaries withthelocationinwhichanindividuallivedwhilstthatenamelwas forming during childhood (Bentley, 2006). Results from materialfromthepit-complex( N  =7individuals)werecomparedwithMediae-val burials ( N   = 9) from the churchyard at Wharram Percy, to test thehypothesis that those individuals buried in the pit came from outsidethe normal catchment area (the parish) for burial in the churchyard.SampleswereremovedfromM3,orM2whereM3wasnotavailable.The surface of the enamel in the sampling area was  󿬁 rst cleaned byabrasion with a dental burr. A longitudinal section of enamel was thenremovedasawedgeusingadiamondcuttingdisk.Thesamplewastyp-ically 1 mm thick, representing the complete available growth axis of the enamel (i.e. from crown to cervix). The Sr isotope analyses of eachsample representthe weighted (by Sr concentration and enamel thick-ness) average isotopic values over the periods of enamel formationwhich are approximately 2.5 – 8 years for M2 and 8.5 – 14 years for M3(AlQahtanietal.,2010).Adheringdentine,whichisfarmoresusceptibleto diagenetic alteration, was removed using a dental burr. The samplewasthencleaned inanultrasonic bath, with multiplechanges ofMilliQ 18 M Ω  water and dried in a vacuum oven at 60 °C.The prepared samples were then dissolved in 3 N HNO 3  prior torunningthrough~50 μ  lSr-SpeccolumnstoisolatetheSr.TheSrfractionwasdrieddownandloadedontoanoutgassedRe 󿬁 lamentwith1 μ  lofaTaactivatorsolution.The sampleswere analysed on a ThermoScienti 󿬁 cTriton Thermal Ionisation Mass Spectrometer using a static procedurewith ampli 󿬁 er rotation and a  88 Sr beam of 2 V. Fractionation wascorrected using an exponential correction normalised to  86 Sr/ 88 Sr =0.1194. NIST987 was run as a standard and the long term average forNIST987 on this instrument is 0.710249 ± 0.000022 (2sd) on 70analyses. 4. Results 4.1. Inventorial and demographic data Theremainsareratherfragmented,butaregrosslyingoodconditionwith little post-depositional erosion of surfaces. They represent a mini-mum of 100 adult and 37 subadult bones, together with 409.6 g of un-identi 󿬁 ed fragments. There were also 24.9 g of non-human bone  Table 1 Skeletal elements with discolouration indicative of exposure to heat.NumberBurnt TotalCrania 5 6Mandibles 1 7Vertebrae 2 15Scapulae 2 7Sterna 1 2Humeri 2 9Ribs 3 23Tibiae 1 6443 S. Mays et al. / Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 16 (2017) 441 – 455  fragments.AfullinventoryisgiveninSupplementaryTable1,asisalistofthealterationsduetodiseaseidenti 󿬁 edintheremains(seealsoSup-plementary Fig. 1).For the adults, the minimum number of individuals (MNI) is givenby jaw bones. There were six mandibles and a right maxilla with zygo-maticthatdidnotcomefromthesameindividualasanymandible,giv-ing an MNI of 7. There were a minimum of four adult crania, threerepresented only by a partial calvaria, and one by a partial calvaria andsome of the basi-occipital. The incomplete nature of the crania meantthatnomandibleormaxillacouldbeassociatedwithanycalvaria.Skullsandlong-bones(ofwhichtherewere31)arewellrepresentedintheas-semblage,butbonesofthevertebralcolumnandextremitiesarefew.Asregards sex, there were pelvic bones from two females; one craniumand two mandibles were probably male; onecranium wasprobably fe-male.Forthemandibles,threewereoverabout50yearsofage,onewasabout40 – 50years,andtwowereabout30 – 40years.Themorphologyof the maxilla and articulated zygomatic (Brothwell, 1981; White, 1991)was suggestive of female sex, and the individual was aged about 17 – 25. One cranium was adult-sized but showed an unfused spheno-occipital synchondrosis, suggesting an age in the mid-late teens(Coqueugniot and Weaver, 2007).More than half the subadult elements comprised most of the righthand bones of a single individual, aged about 15 – 17 years. There werealso paired radii from a child of about 13 – 14 years, a pair of pelvicbones from an individual about 10 – 17 years, and a mandible agedabout 14 – 15 years. There were cranial elements from two young chil-dren (approximate ages3 – 4 years and 2 – 4 years). Theminimum num-ber of subadult individuals was three.Representation of skeletal elements in the assemblage as a whole,given as a percentage of that expected of complete individuals, givenan MNI of 10, is shown in Fig. 2. Figures for the articulated burialsfrom Wharram Percy churchyard, expressed as a percentage of thoseexpected if all burials ( N   = 687) were complete, are given for compar-ison(data calculated from Mays,2007:Table 8).Giventhatthe church-yard burials were interred as complete corpses, these data indicate thegeneral patterns of losses of elements that might be expected due tobone survival and archaeological recovery at Wharram Percy (as withthe pit contents, the churchyard burials were hand recovered on sitewith no sieving to aid recovery of small elements). Comparisonsbetween the two data sets should be made with caution, not least be-cause of the difference in the way the percentage representation wascalculated. Despite this caveat, Fig. 2 suggests that all elements, otherthan the cranium and mandible, are more poorly represented in thepit-complex assemblage. Among the post-cranial elements, patterns of representation appear broadly similar in pit and churchyard remains;an exception is bones from the vertebral column, which are less wellrepresented relative to other postcranial elements in the pit-complexmaterial.The palaeopathological  󿬁 ndings comprised degenerative joint con-ditions, porotic hyperostosis and a case of Paget's disease of bone(Sup-plementary data). With the exception of this last, these conditions arecommonplace in the churchyard population (Mays, 2007). Thepalaeopathological  󿬁 ndings therefore offer no evidence that the pit-complex individuals were consistently singled out for non-normativeburial treatment because of any unusual skeletal diseases.In sum, the whole collection consists of 137 bones representing aminimum of 10 individuals: six full adults (two females, two probablemales, two unsexed), one possible female who died in her late teens/early 20s (above enumerated with the adults), one subadult in theirmid teens, one child aged about 2 – 4 and one aged about 3 – 4 years. 4.2. Thermal alteration A total of 17 bones showed evidence for burning (Table 1), 5 craniaand 12 post-cranial elements. Crania more frequently showed burningthan did other elements (chi-square (with Yates' continuity correc-tion) = 24.4,  p  b  0.001). Most of the burnt post-cranial bones werefrom the upper body. Of the cranial fragments that could not beassigned to any individual cranium, 41% by weight showed evidencefor burning. For the unidenti 󿬁 ed post-cranial fragments, the  󿬁 gurewas 26%.Inallcases,burntbonesshowadarkbrown/blackdiscolouration.AtWharramPercy,unburntboneischaracteristicallypaleyellowincolour(Mays,2007),sodarkeningduetocharringwasreadilydistinguishable.Otherthanmandibles,therearefewfacialbonesinthecollection,soas-certainingtheextenttowhichburningaffectedthisareaisproblematic,butamaxillaofthe3 – 4yroldchild,andamandibleofanadultshowedburning on their anterior aspects. In the calvariae, burning was most Fig. 2. Representationof skeletalelements,calculatedasapercentageofthoseexpectedifeachof theMNI of 10wereacompleteskeleton,inmaterialfromthepit-complex(heavy line).For comparison, representation of elements in burials from the churchyard at Wharram Percy, calculated as a percentage of that expected if all burials ( N   = 687) were complete, is alsoshown (dashed line).444  S. Mays et al. / Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 16 (2017) 441 – 455
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