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Bogs, bones and our bodies: the deposition of human stays in northern European mires (9000 BC–AD 1900) | Antiquity

Bogs, bones and our bodies: the deposition of human stays in northern European mires (9000 BC–AD 1900) | Antiquity

2023-01-13 00:57:44


Prehistoric and early historic human stays have been recovered from quite a few northern European mires—outlined right here as peatlands the place energetic peat formation has or continues to happen (cf. Joosten & Clarke Reference Joosten and Clarke2002: 24; Tanneberger et al. Reference Tanneberger2017). Most of those discoveries have come to mild throughout peat extraction and drainage work (e.g. van der Sanden Reference van der Sanden, Menotti and O’Sullivan2012; Giles Reference Giles2020). Such finds are usually described underneath the overarching time period ‘bathroom our bodies’. On nearer inspection, nonetheless, completely different classes might be distinguished primarily based on ranges of preservation (e.g. Nielsen et al. Reference Nielsen, Christensen and Frei2020: 2) (Figure 1). On this article, the time period ‘bathroom mummy’ is used for human stays with preserved comfortable tissue and/or hair, whereas ‘bathroom skeleton’ refers to skeletal stays which may moderately be assumed to have been deposited as an entire physique. Disarticulated or partial stays of each bathroom mummies and bathroom skeletons additionally happen; relying on context, these could mirror both intentional previous practices or post-depositional disturbance.

Determine 1. a) Instance of a bathroom mummy (Rabivere, Estonia); b) the severed head of a bathroom mummy (Stidsholt, Denmark); c) bathroom skeleton (Luttra, Sweden); and d) disarticulated skeletal stays (Alken Enge, Denmark) (copyright: Estonian Nationwide Museum (a); Nationalmuseet Copenhagen (b); Jan Kask (c); Peter Jensen (d)).

Present data of the character and growth of ‘the bathroom physique phenomenon’ is biased in numerous methods. First, the dichotomy between bathroom mummies and bathroom skeletons might be deceptive, because it a minimum of partially represents preservation circumstances quite than previous human behaviour (Bennike Reference Bennike, Lynnerup, Andreasse and Berglund2003). Though the scientific potential of skeletal materials from mires is steadily being realised (e.g. Bennike Reference Bennike, Coles, Coles and Jorgensen1999, Reference Bennike, Lynnerup, Andreasse and Berglund2003; Fredengren Reference Fredengren2018; Nielsen et al. Reference Nielsen, Christensen and Frei2020), analysis into bathroom mummies dominates debate. As a rule, generalising conclusions are drawn from a small group of well-preserved bathroom mummies, the representativity of which has been insufficiently questioned. Second, most overviews give attention to particular time frames (usually the Iron Age/Roman interval; observe that right here we use Western European chronologies) and on restricted geographical areas. Some elements of Europe (e.g. Norway, Finland, Poland, the Baltic States) and chronological phases (particularly the medieval and post-medieval intervals) are not often included generally research of the phenomenon (for exceptions, see Cowie et al. Reference Cowie, Pickin and Wallace2011; Kama Reference Kama2017). These biases hamper an empirical evaluation of developments in each time and area.

To deal with these points, this current article provides the primary large-scale overview of well-dated human stays from northern European mires, together with Eire, the UK, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and the Baltic States (Figure 2). Our principal objective is to determine broad spatio-temporal developments within the frequency and common character of finds, with the goal of addressing the next analysis questions: 1) are there chronological peaks within the deposition of human stays in northern European mires? And a couple of) what are the primary traits that distinguish every part, particularly in relation to spatial patterns, preservation, age at loss of life, organic intercourse and assumed causes of loss of life?

Determine 2. Distribution of various website sorts (a) and preservation (b) of human stays in European mires (maps by the authors; peatland distribution primarily based on Tanneberger et al. Reference Tanneberger2017).

The database we have now collated consists of 266 websites and greater than 1000 people (see on-line supplementary supplies (OSM) 1–2). Utilizing statistical modelling, we determine six main chronological phases, the traits of that are mentioned intimately beneath. The outcomes of this examine contribute to ongoing debates regarding the probably dynamic and numerous underlying processes and motives regarding ‘the bathroom physique phenomenon’. Extra usually, they supply new insights into how northern European prehistoric and early historic societies perceived mires and different wetlands, and the roles that these locations performed in practices regarding loss of life and burial.

Analysis background

The variety of identified bathroom our bodies in Europe, together with bathroom mummies and bathroom skeletons, is estimated to be roughly 2000 (e.g. Gill-Robinson Reference Gill-Robinson and Mathieu2002: 111; Nielsen et al. Reference Nielsen, Christensen and Frei2020: 2). This quantity is conservative. Current regional surveys—of, for instance, Scotland (Cowie et al. Reference Cowie, Pickin and Wallace2011) and elements of Scandinavia (e.g. Ravn Reference Ravn2010; Sjögren et al. Reference Sjögren2017; Fredengren Reference Fredengren2018)—have persistently yielded many extra websites than beforehand recognised, and bathroom skeletons and disarticulated skeletal materials markedly outnumber surviving bathroom mummies (van der Sanden Reference van der Sanden, Menotti and O’Sullivan2012: 404). As well as, many finds have been misplaced within the distant previous or are solely identified by way of printed sources. The latter class, generally referred to as ‘paper’ bathroom our bodies, are documented with various ranges of element and reliability (van der Sanden Reference van der Sanden, Menotti and O’Sullivan2012: 403). The out there relationship proof for every type of finds has, nonetheless, enormously elevated during the last 20 years.

The state of preservation of human stays from European mires varies enormously (Brothwell Reference Brothwell and Spindler1996: 161–64; Figure 1). Most bathroom mummies are present in raised bogs, the place the antibiotic properties of sphagnan, an natural part derived from Sphagnum moss, are important within the our bodies’ preservation (Painter Reference Painter, Turner and Scaife1995). The survival of human tissue additionally is dependent upon how shortly a physique is immersed in water, the temperature and time of 12 months, and the presence of bugs and inside micro-organisms. Relying on native circumstances, the bones of bathroom mummies could or might not be preserved. Normally, calcified and keratinous constructions, corresponding to bones, enamel, pores and skin, hair and nails, are probably the most proof against decay. In additional alkaline wetlands corresponding to calcareous fens, nonetheless, solely bone will probably be preserved (van der Sanden Reference van der Sanden1996: 18; Giles Reference Giles2009: 77–78). Equally, clothes manufactured from wool, pores and skin and leather-based could also be well-preserved in raised bogs, whereas clothes manufactured from plant fibres, corresponding to linen, decays (van der Sanden Reference van der Sanden1996: 18). Preservation circumstances could even fluctuate considerably inside a single mire, and circumstances inside mires could change over time (Gill-Robinson Reference Gill-Robinson and Mathieu2002: 118). This variability in atmosphere and preservation ranges highlights that daring distinctions between bathroom mummies and bathroom skeletons are unjustified, and that any distribution map of finds is inevitably uneven.

The deposition of human stays in mires extends from the Mesolithic to latest occasions (van der Sanden Reference van der Sanden, Menotti and O’Sullivan2012: 404). To our data, detailed overviews of long-term developments within the numbers and spatial patterning of finds are unavailable (for some primary developments, see van der Sanden Reference van der Sanden1996). Nonetheless, some chronological peaks and spatial clustering have beforehand been recognized. The earliest dated peak issues a cluster of skeletal stays from southern Sweden and Denmark, which dates to the fourth millennium BC (Sjögren et al. Reference Sjögren2017; Nielsen & Sørensen Reference Nielsen and Sørensen2018). There may be additionally a focus of skeletons relationship to the later third/early second millennium BC within the English fenlands (Healey & Housley Reference Healey and Housley1992; Roberts Reference Roberts1998). The Iron Age and Roman interval, nonetheless, are usually perceived as the height of the ‘bathroom physique phenomenon’, with finds distributed all through North-west Europe. Medieval and later finds cluster predominantly in Scotland and Eire (van der Sanden Reference van der Sanden, Menotti and O’Sullivan2012: 404).

There was a lot dialogue of why human stays had been deposited in mires. Hypotheses might be divided into 5 classes (cf. Munksgaard Reference Munksgaard1984; Giles Reference Giles2009; van der Sanden Reference van der Sanden, Menotti and O’Sullivan2012), with such finds urged to characterize: 1) the stays of ritualistic sacrifice to supernatural powers, for instance for fertility or agricultural success; 2) burials of deceased (and generally executed) people who had transgressed social conventions and weren’t allowed burial in a ‘regular’ cemetery; 3) victims of legal acts; 4) ‘deviant’ burial customs; or 5) unintentional deaths in treacherous circumstances (e.g. drowning). As these explanations could partly overlap, a contextual strategy is vital to decoding particular person finds (cf. Roberts Reference Roberts1998; Giles Reference Giles2009). Excessive-resolution artificial research of spatial and temporal developments regarding assumed causes of loss of life are at present missing. Equally, assessments of variation within the variety of people discovered at every website and the frequency of website use (e.g. single or recurrent occasions) haven’t been thought-about so far.

Strategies and supplies

Database building

We now have constructed an in depth database (OSM 1–2), together with all finds of reliably dated human stays from mires throughout Northern Europe. Websites had been inventoried utilizing a variety of overview research and site-based publications. Moreover, numerous regional specialists had been consulted (listed within the Acknowledgements). To our data, there are not any related finds from Belgium and France. South-central Europe and the Mediterranean, which have far fewer mires (Tanneberger et al. Reference Tanneberger2017), are excluded.

‘Mire’ is an overarching time period and finds from all sorts of peatlands are included (e.g. fens, coastal bogs, blanket bogs and raised bogs). As we’re particularly involved with finds from peat layers shaped within the context of standing water, finds from river contexts (that’s, working water) have been excluded as representing a special environmental setting. In just a few conditions, finds contexts could have differed from the unique panorama setting on the time of ‘deposition’ as, for instance, within the case of Swedish ponds or lakes that subsequently developed into mires (e.g. Sjögren et al. Reference Sjögren2017). Excessive-resolution environmental reconstruction of particular person websites was not possible throughout the scope of this examine, however related data concerning panorama adjustments is recorded within the database.

The ensuing database includes 266 websites, divided into single-phased websites with one particular person (A1), single-phased websites with a number of people (A2), and websites reflecting recurrent depositional occasions (Figure 3; OSM 1–2). For methodological functions, the latter class is split into websites that present high-resolution relationship proof for people (B1), and websites for which solely a common date vary is obtainable (B2). People discovered at completely different places throughout the similar mire (greater than 250m aside) are recorded within the database as separate websites. Varied properties for every website and particular person are recorded, together with: website traits; the age and organic intercourse of people; ante-, peri- and autopsy traumas; assumed explanation for loss of life; and relationship proof. It’s not doable to find out the precise variety of people current throughout all 266 websites, as solely estimates can be found for some websites (particularly these within the B class). Nonetheless, the entire variety of people definitely exceeds 1000.

Determine 3. Website sorts integrated on this examine and their relationship proof (determine by the authors).

Relationship proof and evaluation

Uncalibrated radiocarbon dates can be found for a lot of the websites recorded within the database, together with high-resolution dates for 317 people (in just a few instances, solely calibrated dates can be found). As δ13C, δ15N and C:N values (which comprise probably vital data on collagen high quality and doable reservoir results) are solely printed for a restricted variety of finds, these are excluded from the database and omitted from our modelling. Radiocarbon dates that had been deemed unreliable within the literature are additionally excluded from analyses. Lastly, websites with dependable relationship proof aside from radiocarbon (e.g. related archaeological finds, historic data) are additionally included within the database and modelling. All dates are analysed in OxCal (v4.4; Bronk Ramsey Reference Bronk Ramsey1995, Reference Bronk Ramsey2009) and radiocarbon dates calibrated utilizing IntCal20 (Reimer et al. Reference Reimer2020). The place a number of radiocarbon dates can be found for a similar particular person, we use R_Combine or Mix.

To deal with the primary analysis query—the identification of chronological peaks—we chorus from assuming a priori groupings or phases. Though summed calibrated date likelihood distributions (SCDPD) are extensively used to analyse demographic developments (Shennan et al. Reference Shennan2013; Holton Value et al. Reference Holten Price2021), right here we use kernel density estimates (KDE), as this methodology retains the underlying sign whereas eradicating excessive frequency noise (Bronk Ramsey Reference Bronk Ramsey2017). Subsequently, we use the KDE_Model() operate to find out the temporal density of ages. Our three KDE_Models had been constructed for websites within the classes A1 and A2 and for reliably dated people from classes A1, A2 and B1. Be aware that the primary two fashions are primarily based on websites, whereas the third is predicated on all well-dated people, and due to this fact contains situations the place a number of people derive from the identical website. The distributions of the intervals of use for websites within the B class are both primarily based on a identified date vary (principally utilizing non-radiocarbon dates) that utilized to all our bodies or on a KDE_Plot inside a Part mannequin (assuming a uniform distribution) that contained both radiocarbon-dated people or a number of radiocarbon dates that weren’t clearly ascribed to people.

Based mostly on the KDE_Models, six predominant phases might be outlined. The boundaries chosen are primarily based on the mixed interpretation of the three KDE_Models (that’s, the underlying distributions) and are clarified with the help of a multiphase plot (Determine S1 in OSM3). To deal with the second analysis query—what had been the primary traits that distinguish every part—the well-dated A1, A2 and B1 people are assigned to phases primarily based on their calibrated age vary (at 95.4% reliability; the place ambiguous, the person’s calibrated median age is used). For every part, we current pie charts and bar plots for a number of properties and, for phases together with greater than 20 people, (kernel density) warmth maps created in ArcMap (v10.6; Esri).

Normal distribution patterns

Nearly all of websites (n = 210) mirror single occasions. Most often, single people are concerned (A1; n = 196); websites with a number of people are uncommon (A2; n = 14). Websites within the latter class function usually two to 4 people. The one exception is the exceptional website of Alken Enge, Denmark, which incorporates greater than 380 people killed in violent battle and deposited in open water (Løvschal et al. Reference Løvschal, Birch Iversen and Kähler Holst2019). Repeatedly used websites are extra widespread (B; n = 56). Their character is variable, with the numbers of people current starting from two to roughly 100.

The best discover densities happen in Eire, the UK, northern Germany, Denmark, southern Norway and southern Sweden (Figure 2). Fewer finds are identified from Poland, Finland and the Baltic States. Whereas websites reflecting single occasions seem all through the examine space, those who had been repeatedly used are primarily present in Denmark, southern Norway and Sweden, and elements of the UK. Remarkably, repeatedly used websites are utterly absent in Eire. Lavatory skeletons and disarticulated skeletal materials dominate in japanese Denmark and southern Sweden, whereas bathroom mummies are way more widespread in different areas, such because the northern Netherlands, Germany and Eire.

Normal relationship patterns

The KDE_Models exhibit clear temporal developments. The fashions primarily based on single-event websites with single people (Figure 4a) and all dated people (Figure 4c) are comparable. The mannequin for single-event websites with a number of people (Figure 4b) contains no Mesolithic dates however is comparable with the opposite two fashions. All three fashions permit for a chronological division into six predominant phases (Table 1), that are separated by intervals with fewer finds.

Determine 4. KDE_Models of all single use websites with single and a number of people (a and b), and all people with dependable dates no matter website sort (c). The six phases distinguished listed below are indicated in (c) (dates modelled in OxCal v4.4.4 (Bronk Ramsey 2021) and calibrated utilizing IntCal20 (Reimer et al. Reference Reimer2020)) (determine by the authors).

Desk 1. Incidence frequency of website sorts and key traits of all reliably dated people (no matter website sort). Numbers in parentheses discuss with unknowns.

The ‘boundaries’ between these phases are indicated in Figure 4c and the multiphase plot in Determine S1 (in OSM3). Part 1 consists of solely 5 websites, with dates clustering between the ninth and seventh millennium BC. A temporal hole of virtually two millennia separates these finds from the oldest examples in Part 2. Phases 2 and three exhibit clear peaks in exercise, whereas Part 4 is much less distinguished. The excessive peak of Part 5 stands out, adopted by the distinguished however barely decrease peak of Part 6. The typical variety of deposited people per century (Table 1) could be very low in Part 1, considerably increased and fairly steady throughout Phases 2–4 and demonstrates a steep (roughly fourfold) improve in Phases 5–6. One other notable pattern is that repeatedly used websites are notably well-represented in Phases 2 and 5, whereas they’re comparatively uncommon in Part 6 (Table 1).

Noticed adjustments in key traits

The important thing traits for every part are summarised in Figures 5–10 and Table 1.

Determine 5. Website distribution and key traits of people from Part 1: a) website distribution sample; b) preservation developments; c) assumed explanation for loss of life; d) proof for violence-related peri-mortem trauma; e) age distribution; f) organic intercourse (determine by the authors; age classes adopted from Frei et al. Reference Frei2019).

Determine 6. Website distribution and key traits of people from Part 2. For a common key, see Figure 5 (determine by the authors; age classes adopted from Frei et al. Reference Frei2019; the warmth map in (a) was created in ArcMap (v10.6; Esri)).

Determine 7. Website distribution and key traits of people from Part 3. For a common key, see Figure 5 (determine by the authors; age classes adopted from Frei et al. Reference Frei2019; the warmth map in (a) was created in ArcMap (v10.6; Esri)).

Determine 8. Website distribution and key traits of people from Part 4. For a common key, see Figure 5 (determine by the authors; age classes adopted from Frei et al. Reference Frei2019).

Determine 9. Website distribution and key traits of people from Part 5. For a common key, see Figure 5 (determine by the authors; age classes adopted from Frei et al. Reference Frei2019; the warmth map in (a) was created in ArcMap (v10.6; Esri)).

See Also

Determine 10. Website distribution and key traits of people from Part 6. For a common key, see Figure 5 (determine by the authors; age classes adopted from Frei et al. Reference Frei2019; the warmth map in (a) was created in ArcMap (v10.6; Esri)).

Spatial developments

Part 1 websites are all located in Denmark, southern Sweden and Norway. In Part 2, a transparent cluster of websites emerges in Denmark and southern Sweden, and the primary websites seem in Eire and the UK. In Part 3, a brand new cluster arises in south-east England. The comparatively restricted variety of websites in Part 4 demonstrates a dispersed sample. In Part 5, numerous clusters seem and northern Germany, Jutland and the Irish Midlands turn out to be distinguished for the primary time. The primary websites in Poland, the Baltic States and the northern coastal areas of Norway additionally seem on this part. Part 6 demonstrates a exceptional shift from Denmark and southern Sweden in direction of Eire and the central/northern elements of the UK.

Preservation developments

Phases 1 and a couple of websites have completely yielded bathroom skeletons and partial/disarticulated skeletal materials. The primary bathroom mummies seem later, in Phases 3 and 4, with simply 5 bathroom mummies from earlier than 1000 BC, in contrast with nearly 80 finds of bathroom skeletons/skeletal materials. Part 5 incorporates a far bigger variety of bathroom mummies, though they nonetheless characterize fewer than half of instances. In Part 6, the stability utterly shifts, with bathroom mummies predominating.

Reason for loss of life

Reason for loss of life is established for 57 people. In 45 instances, violence was concerned, that includes in all phases apart from Part 1. The earliest indications for violent deaths cluster in Denmark. The best numbers of violent deaths seem in Phases 2 and 6, adopted by Phases 3 and 5. Proof of violence seems to be much less frequent in Part 4. Some people, primarily in Part 5, exhibit proof for extreme violence, with a number of potential causes of loss of life. In uncommon instances, solely occurring in Part 5, illness is the possible explanation for loss of life. Part 6 contains six suicide victims and 4 instances of unintentional loss of life (e.g. drowning).

Organic intercourse and age distribution

In Phases 1, 3, 5 and 6 males kind the most important group, whereas Phases 2 and 4 present nearly equal numbers of females and males. Adults are commonest and, generally (Phases 2 and 4–6), the ‘younger grownup’ (18–25-year-old) group shows a slight dominance. In nearly all phases, excepting Part 4, youngsters—of varied ages—are additionally current.


Our outcomes illuminate a spread of points. Right here, we focus our dialogue on two key themes for future research: 1) chronological and spatial developments and their representativity; and a couple of) explanation for loss of life and underlying motives.

Chronological and spatial developments and their representativity

Lavatory physique analysis is biased on account of: 1) depositional circumstances—that’s, the distribution of mires and their preservation circumstances; 2) post-depositional components mirrored within the historical past of finds; and three) scientists’ alternative of examine area, chronological focus, and discover class. Our strategy exhibits that widening our focus to embody a bigger examine area, longer timeframe, the incorporation of bathroom mummies in addition to bathroom skeletons, and the inclusion of each radiocarbon and historic relationship proof, permits new developments to come back to mild. Solely by broadening our perspective will we be capable of hyperlink these developments to the underlying motives and societal transformations behind the deposition of our bodies inside mires, corresponding to inhabitants density, migration and ideological change.

We don’t focus on the histories of discoveries in several nations intimately right here. An summary is, nonetheless, offered in Determine S2 (in OSM4). Variations within the character and timing of wetland reclamation have undoubtedly influenced the discoveries recorded within the database. Moreover, some areas have obtained larger consideration than others and show clear finds clusters, as demonstrated by our distribution maps. As solely reliably dated websites have been integrated into our examine, seemingly ‘empty’ areas are usually not essentially devoid of finds.

Lavatory skeletons and partial/disarticulated skeletal stays are way more quite a few than beforehand assumed (cf. Bennike Reference Bennike, Coles, Coles and Jorgensen1999, Reference Bennike, Lynnerup, Andreasse and Berglund2003). With out their inclusion in our examine, Phases 1–4 wouldn’t have been recognised. The numbers of bathroom mummies strongly improve from 1000 BC onwards. On the similar time, new clusters of finds seem (Part 5), and finally the spatial focus shifts in direction of Eire and the northern/central UK (Part 6). These simultaneous spatial shifts and altering preservation developments are in all probability associated. It’s clear that areas such because the Irish Midlands (dominated by raised bogs, with quite a few bathroom mummies from Phases 5–6) and Zealand (wealthy in alkaline fens, with quite a few bathroom skeletons from Phases 1–4; Bennike Reference Bennike, Lynnerup, Andreasse and Berglund2003) supply very completely different preservation circumstances; whether or not these developments in our knowledge are brought on primarily by human behaviour or altering environmental circumstances, nonetheless, requires additional analysis. Equally, additional work is required to evaluate the unique panorama character of the websites of ‘deposition’, versus the environmental settings from which the human stays had been recovered, which, in some instances, could have been very completely different. Importantly, bathroom mummies and bathroom skeletons characterize various kinds of archaeological proof (Bennike Reference Bennike, Coles, Coles and Jorgensen1999, Reference Bennike, Lynnerup, Andreasse and Berglund2003), creating biases in regard to the ‘archaeological visibility’ of particular traits (e.g. explanation for loss of life; see beneath).

The Iron Age and Roman intervals are usually thought-about to characterize a peak within the deposition of human stays in mires (e.g. van der Sanden Reference van der Sanden1996). This persistent notion, nonetheless, requires nuancing. Although this peak certainly is highest, it’s considerably longer than beforehand thought, beginning within the Late Bronze Age and persevering with into the early Center Ages, and seems to be a part of a long-term pattern that started far earlier. Numerous finds date to the Early/Center Neolithic (Part 2) onwards and the importance of this earlier peak—beforehand famous by Sjögren et al. (Reference Sjögren2017) and Nielsen and Sørensen (Reference Nielsen and Sørensen2018)—is confirmed right here; a putting attribute of Part 2 is the big variety of repeatedly used websites. Conversely, Part 3 has not beforehand been recognised, aside from the Early Bronze Age cluster within the south-eastern English Fens (Healey & Housley Reference Healey and Housley1992; Roberts Reference Roberts1998). The identical applies to the much less marked Part 4. The height of Part 6, which was detected by way of the inclusion of historic relationship proof, demonstrates that medieval and later finds are way more quite a few than anticipated. Figuring out the extent to which fluctuations within the numbers of finds are associated to adjustments in inhabitants density is difficult. That is as a result of shortage of research with a big spatial and temporal scope (however see, for instance, Müller & Diachenko Reference Müller and Diachenko2019), methodological points and probably important spatial variability. Nonetheless, regional-scale analyses could yield vital insights on this respect.

Reason for loss of life and underlying motives

It has been repeatedly said within the related literature that single hypotheses are inadequate to clarify the presence of human stays in mires (e.g. Brothwell Reference Brothwell and Spindler1996; Giles Reference Giles2009). Contemplating the big time span, in addition to the large geographical distribution and number of website sorts, we assist that assertion. A complicating issue is that the potential motives behind the deposition of our bodies in mires don’t essentially go away distinct archaeological traces, usually rendering our interpretations speculative. The numerous variety of suicide victims and unintentional deaths recognised in Part 6 due to particulars from historic sources which can be unavailable for earlier intervals, means that such deaths may have been widespread in earlier intervals. However, the chance that the notion and sensible makes use of of mires could have modified considerably over time must be thought-about. Notably, Part 6 demonstrates each a marked intensification within the financial exploitation of mires all through the examine space and, a minimum of in some areas, a simultaneous continuation of ‘pagan’ practices, together with ‘ritual’ depositions of varied sorts of objects by way of till early trendy occasions (e.g. van der Sanden Reference van der Sanden, Coles, Coles and Jørgensen1999). This nicely illustrates that mires might have a number of meanings at anyone time (see additionally Paulissen et al. Reference Paulissen2022).

Setting apart unintentional deaths, the numerous proof for violent deaths and the big variety of repeatedly used websites make it secure to imagine that almost all finds of human stays in mires mirror intentional depositions. Violent deaths are in all probability underrepresented in our database on account of preservation points and a frequent lack of high-resolution palaeoanthropological investigation. Normally, distinguishing between ‘ritualistic’ and different types of violent acts, corresponding to armed conflicts, raids or robberies, is commonly unimaginable primarily based on archaeological proof. The exceptions are ‘cult websites’, the place ritual depositions of different supplies happened alongside (usually disarticulated) human stays (e.g. Behm-Blancke Reference Behm-Blancke2003). The identical applies to people topic to extreme violence or so-called ‘overkill’ (primarily Part 5), that are usually thought-about to be ritualistic choices (e.g. van der Sanden Reference van der Sanden, Menotti and O’Sullivan2012; Giles Reference Giles2020: 166–216). Extra usually, ritual and violence might be variously entangled, as seen at websites corresponding to Alken Enge (Løvschal et al. Reference Løvschal, Birch Iversen and Kähler Holst2019) and ‘war-booty’ websites (e.g. Monikander Reference Monikander2010). Consequently, making a tough distinction between websites demonstrating violent causes of loss of life and ritual violence is unjustified.


Based mostly on the collation of knowledge for greater than 1000 people, we have now recognized spatial and temporal patterns within the deposition of human stays in European mires. Following an prolonged interval of sporadic examples, the phenomenon of intentional deposition of human stays first turns into persistently seen within the Early/Center Neolithic, subsequently persevering with over the following seven millennia. Distinct fluctuations within the depth of deposition are obvious. Lavatory mummies, which have been central to scientific debates so far, kind just one finish of a spectrum of preservation. These bathroom mummies usually date to the newer phases mentioned right here and are solely present in elements of the examine space. Our extra inclusive strategy, together with bathroom skeletons, considerably will increase the dimensions of the database and permits for the popularity of particular and strong developments that haven’t beforehand been recognised.

Given the huge time span, large geographical distribution and selection in website sorts concerned, a nuanced and context-based strategy is critical to unravel the potential motives for the deposition of those stays. There may be important proof for violent causes of deaths, particularly in Phases 2, 5 and 6. In some instances, such finds show clear ‘ritual’ connotations; nonetheless, distinguishing between violence and ritual violence will not be at all times doable, and might be not helpful. Moreover, numerous finds from Part 6 point out that unintentional deaths and probably suicides could have been extra widespread in earlier phases than beforehand believed.

On a extra common observe, this examine demonstrates the added worth of artificial research of huge databases masking large spatio-temporal scales. In our case, this scope of analysis, mixed with the sharp improve in out there relationship data during the last 20 years and new computing strategies for summarising giant units of radiocarbon dates, has allowed us to determine hitherto unrecognised patterns. The complete database, freely out there within the OSM, provides nice potential for the popularity of different developments and for additional examine.

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