Book: Human skeletal remains from caves in Yorkshire

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David Gibson
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Book: Human skeletal remains from caves in Yorkshire

Post by David Gibson » Sat 06 Jun 2015 13:35

Going Underground: An anthropological and taphonomic study of human skeletal remains from caves and rock shelters in Yorkshire

BCRA Council has agreed to promote this book on behalf of the author

PhD thesis by Stephany Leach, available as a softback book (416 + xvii pp. ISBN 978-1-903564-37-0), price £25 plus £3 UK postage from Dr. K. Boughey, c/o YAS, Church Bank, Church Hill, Baildon, SHIPLEY, BD17 6NE. (Price is reduced by £2 if volume 2 (the appendices) is not required).

In what amounts to the most comprehensive, up-to-date and scholarly study of the human archaeological remains in Yorkshire caves and cave shelters, making full use of the most recently obtained radiocarbon dates, this volume – originally submitted as a PhD thesis in 2006 – presents the results of an anthropological and taphonomic reanalysis of human skeletal remains excavated from 21 subterranean sites in the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.

Until now, the skeletal collections had received little if any serious anthropological study and were all generally considered to be Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age in date and derived from articulated burials. Osteological study has highlighted the diverse treatment and a range of activities with regard to the deposition of human remains at these sites, including the exclusive deposition of cranial material and the deliberate fragmentation and processing of a corpse have been documented in the constructed osteological profiles of these sites. Ritual activities evident from the death assemblages are discussed within their temporal contexts and compared with evidence derived from other natural places and more formal sites.

The differential treatment of the human corpse is considered in relation to demographic factors, manner of death, health and evidence for disfigurement and disability in the skeletal record. Perimortem trauma was identified in many of these death assemblages none of which had been recognised before. This suggests that levels of physical risk and interpersonal violence in the past have clearly been underestimated.

Due to the complexity of these subterranean sites, radiocarbon analysis of bone samples has proved essential to establishing a firm chronology of deposition, revealing a period of use of these sites stretching over three thousand years. The assumed chronology of use based on the presence of artefacts, previously considered to be Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age, has been shown for the most part to be inaccurate.

The term ‘cave’ is generally applied to a wide range of natural features, but they should not be considered as one site type. What this study clearly shows is that their uses and relationships with other features in the landscape, both natural and constructed, were complex and varied, overturning a number of previously held assumptions.

There are discussions of the role of caves in the archaeology of the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and early Roman periods as well as a full set of appendices, a glossary and an extensive bibliography. To anyone with a strong interest in the prehistory of Yorkshire, and in particular the archaeology of its caves, this publication is a must have.
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