Using Commingled and Fragmentary Remains to Reconstruct Social Interaction and Social Change

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American Journal of Physical Anthropology





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Commingled and collective burials are found worldwide and span human history. Analysis of these materials necessitates a detailed approach focused on individual fragments, features, and elements (instead of individuals), and focuses the questions asked to population-level questions since individuals can rarely be identified within the assemblages. With specialized methodologies, data from commingled remains can be used to examine questions of population health, mobility, violence, and mortuary practices, and so on. This presentation will detail how commingled remains from three different assemblages were used to examine questions of social change and interaction. Tell Abraq, an ossuary from the UAE (ca. 2100 BC) contains the remains of at least 400 individuals; this has been used to understand the variety of Umm-an-Nar mortuary practices as well as understand population health and marriage patterns. Sacred Ridge, a massacre assemblage consisting of at least 33 individuals from Colorado (ca. AD 810) has been examined to understand the social role of violence in the pre-contact Southwest. Finally, the assemblage of Gustav II, a small assemblage consisting of at least 9 individuals from three tombs from the Gusića Gomila II site (ca. 2200-2000 BCE) in Croatia, helps to provide context for the interpretation of mortuary monuments of the Cetina culture. Their analysis marks the formation of baseline data which can be compared with other sites in the future. Without analyzing these materials to their fullest extent, we risk an incomplete understanding of social interaction and social change.


Social and Cultural Anthropology