Animating the Dead: Bronze Age Burial Practices in Orkney [Hardback]

Jane Downes(Editor)

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ISBN: 9781789255584 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2023 | 416p, H11 x W8.6, color and b/w
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Animating the Dead


This book brings together the results of the Orkney Barrows Project, initiated and directed by Jane Downes and funded by Historic Environment Scotland. The barrows sites detailed and discussed in the volume are Linga Fiold, a barrow cemetery in West Mainland which was comprehensively excavated and which provides extraordinary evidence of pyre sites and cremation practices; Gitterpitten, a barrow cemetery in Rendall of which three barrows were excavated partially, and Varme Dale also in Rendall of which two barrows were excavated – these sites both produced a range of cremation deposits, Vestra Fiold, Sandwick barrow site which was surveyed and excavated to a limited extent is also reported upon. Eight Bronze Age cist burials excavated under ‘rescue’ conditions by a range of other individuals are also included within this volume.

The evidence is also used to compare and contrast the rites and practices of cremation and inhumation. Discussion of chronology and typology of the burials is placed in the context of the other burial evidence from Orkney, and the other aspects of Bronze Age represented by settlement, burnt mounds etc. As such the book will form an update to M Hedges’ contribution ‘The Second Millennium and After’ in ed. C Renfrew Prehistory of Orkney (1985). The significance of the findings will also be placed in the wider Scottish/UK/N Europe context.

The Bronze Age of Orkney is a poorly understood topic with little written on it; the book will make a significant contribution to this area.

Table of Contents

Part 1 Background and Context
1.1 The Orkney Barrows Project
1.2 Cist burials
1.3 Layout of the book
1.4 Bronze Age burial practices
1.5 Bronze Age Orkney
1.6 Bronze Age Burial in Orkney

PART 2 Excavation Findings
'Barrow cemeteries'
2.1 Linga Fiold
2.2 Gitterpitten, Varme Dale, Vestra Fiold
2.3 Riff, Quarrel Geo, Blomuir 1, Blomuir 2, Howe, Moan, Redland, Upper Bigging
Part 3 Mortuary Rites
3.1 Dying and death; Preparation for the funeral
3.2 The funeral: Cremation rites and technology
3.3 Cremation burial rites
3.4 Inhumation & cremation rites compared and contrasted
Part 4 Burial, Cemetery and Landscape Architecture
4.1 Burial, cist, and burial mound architecture
4.2 Cemetery sequence and development
4.3 Bronze Age environment and landscapes
4.4 Cist burial and cemetery sitings in landscape
Part 5 Bronze Age burial rites
5.1 A chronology for Orkney Bronze Age burials
5.2 Burial and Cemetery typology
5.3 Comparing and contrasting rites – cremation and inhumation
5.4 Discussion of findings in context of Orkney, Scotland, Britain and wider N European

Appendix 1 Vessels
1.1 Pottery: Linga Fiold – A Macsween, Campbell et al., M Taylor
1.2 Pottery: Gitterpitten, Riff, Blomuir 2, Redland, Upper Bigging – A Macsween
1.2 Steatite: Linga Fiold – P Sharman
Appendix 2 Stone artefacts
2.1 Coarse Stone Tools: Linga Fiold, Gitterpitten - A Clark
2.2 Flint: Linga Fiold, Varme Dale - C Wickham-Jones
Appendix 3 Human Bone
3.1 Linga Fiold – J McKinley
3.2 Gitterpitten – J Roberts
3.3 Varme Dale – J Roberts
3.4 Quarrel Geo – S King, D Lorimer
3.5 Blomuir – J McKinley
3.6 Howe – D Lorimer
3.7 Moan – D Lorimer
Appendix 4 Soils and Slag
4.1 Soils: Linga Fiold, Gitterpitten, Varme Dale - S Carter
4.2 Vitreous Fuel Ash Slag (Cramp): Linga Fiold – S Carter
Appendix 5 Charred plant remains and pollen
5.1 Charred plant remains: Linga Fiold – D Alldritt; Varme Dale, Vestrafiold – P Wagner
5.1 Pollen: Linga Fiold – J Bunting; Gitterpitten, Varmedale, Vestrafiold – P Wagner

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