This illustrationshows the distribution of funerary sites excavatedon the N6 road scheme.
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J o n a t h a n M i l l a r
Human skeletons often reveal more about thelife of an individual than their death. Osteo-archaeology can assess how long people lived,their sex, diet, stature, and whether they suf-fered illness or disease – but the scope of funeraryarchaeology is much broader. Mortuary behav-iour is not just concerned with the dead, but alsothe living people who buried them. A funeralcan involve many activities, such as ceremonyand feasting, which may have been more signifi-cant to the mourners than the actual momentof burial but which leave only faint traces in thearchaeological record. Knowledge of the anthro-pology of ritual is essential in order to understanda funerary site. Archaeologists must look beyondboth dirt archaeology and modern attitudestowards death in order to breathe life back intomortuary remains.
The Newford Bronze Age burial
In prehistoric Ireland, cremation was the usualprocess for disposal of the dead, and the materialremains are at best fragmentary. In many cases,one Early Medieval transitionary burial, two EarlyMedieval cemeteries, and one Post Medieval chil-dren’s burial ground. This feature will focus on justthree of those sites: the Bronze Age pyre at Newford,a solitary burial of the Early Christian period fromBallygarraun West and the early Medieval ‘cíllín’cemetery at Carrowkeel. These sites reveal a multi-tude of different cultural expressions for mortuarybehaviour in prehistoric and Medieval Ireland.With such a great time span to get to grips with, wemight begin by asking: how do we learn about earlysocieties from the way in which they treat death?
Late Neolithic/Early Bronze AgeLateBronze AgeMulti-periodcemetaryEarlyMedievalPost MedievalBronze AgeIron Age