Monday, March 7, 2016

British Mummification (Parker-Pearson, 2016)


Ok, I have now been able to read the paper carefully and I'll share some points and conjectures.
Hat tip, Ype.

A Cladh Hallan Composite Person from 3 Men (Parker-Pearson, 2016)
This strange story will set off a chain reaction in archaeology.  Older burials are going to be reassessed using similar methods, and for starters it is becoming necessary to definitively determine gender in gendered burials, much less to verify it is a single individual and not a bunch of individuals bolted together.

These specific people are from the regular Bronze Age in the islands north of Scotland, however this process appears to have begun in the Bell Beaker Period and extended all over Britain (at least).

In no particular order, I'll run down some bullets:

1)  People in Britain may have used acidic peat bogs to arrest the purification process, and then reclaimed the body weeks later for the official burial.  This is not proven, but the staining of the bones appears consistent with bog burial in the opinions of the scientists working on this case.

When you look at "Cashel Man" (a 1,700 B.C. bog body of Sligo, Ireland) his body was staked off by birch stakes.  Why stake off his burial with birch stakes?  Are bog bodies those occasional mortuary snafus were the body was not reclaimed?

A Mixed Sex Cladh Hallan Composite Person (Parker-Pearson, 2016)
2)  The Cladh Hallan house is situated over the burial of two, normal young girls (non-freaks).  These Franenstein composite individuals are buried on the north end of the house.

The first individual (graphic 1) consists of (an old?) man's head, with either a man or woman's jaw, on another man's body.

The second mixed individual (graphic 2) is a woman's torso with a man's head and a different man's right arm.  The man's head is missing two lateral incisors which are placed in the left and right hands respectively.

Both of these composite individuals are are a century or two older than the dead girls and the home.  The remaining body parts are found within the walls of the structure.  The individuals who comprise the composite person were already anatomically constituted and long mummified before reconstitution.

3)  This now appears to have happened all over Britain. 

4)  It should be clear that the composite individuals are supernatural protectors of the home and maybe the girls from whatever dark forces lie to the north.

Combining the parts of individual animals into a super animal, such as a Griffin or Pegasus, has a strong history in the West.  Certain parts of people of certain occupations have always had semi-metaphoric powers, like the arms of a smith, the heart of a paladin, the whatever of a whatever.

Interesting the heads are men (an old man in one) and the woman's right arm is replaced with a man's arm.  It looks as if we are putting together certain virtues into a single entity.

Canada Farm Bell Beaker Burial (Parker-Pearson, 2016)
The Canuk Beaker above is much older than his Wessex-Rhine beaker cup.  This man was also very important, a nucleus in a mortuary landscape, so where was his mummy all this time?  There is more discussion by Parker-Pearson on other creepy things going on.

One last footnote.  Often you see women buried with their children or husband and wife Beakers.  Unless they all got sick with the Hong Kong flu at the same time, chances are graves were re-opened.  If not, that may mean people were not always buried right away.

You can find an accessible version linked by Ype in the comments section of the previous post.

"Du cadavre au squelette : gérer les morts dans la Préhistoire"
"From Corpse to Skeleton: Dealing with the Dead in Prehistory"

Mike Parker-Pearson (2016)
Bulletins et mémoires de la Société d’anthropologie de Paris

ISSN: 0037-8984 (Print) 1777-5469 (Online)  [Link]