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Interpreting the Evidence: Burials Reveal Social Status

How to interpret burials on a site? What does this reveal about the nature of society at that time?

General Burials
Only the rich and powerful made it into a formal cemetery. Normal people were cremated by their immediate relatives and buried next to their house. One of these family plots was found a short distance from the Carn More cemetery. Here, two cremated adults were found, but neither of these people had a stone-lined cist or a barrow monument. However, the high degree of charcoal on and around the bones indicates the entire remains of the funeral pyre, including all the bones, were raked up and deposited in a grave-pit. These graves contained a few fragments of pottery.



Burial of the Rich (the Big Cist)
As more people were buried at Carn More, a large 'communal' cist was built. This big cist had a huge granite capstone that could easily be found when it was necessary to add another person. In this grave a complete pot was found. This capstone appears to have formed a rough right-angle triangle with two large granite 'Boulder Burials'. A stone with a fine 'axe' motif was found with one of these boulders.

ASI Site Examination: Can burnt bones tell us anything?
There were at least eight people in the Carn More Big Cist: two infants, three children and three adults. The white colour of the bones show us that these people were burnt in fires that reached 645oC or higher. The bones were removed from the funeral pyre while still warm and brittle, which caused them to break up even further in the grave.

Only some of the bones were collected, just enough to allow a body to be represented. A few bones showed a green staining probably from a now dissolved bronze item placed in the grave. It is possible that all these people are from a single family. If they had their own tomb, it would indicate they were rich and influential.



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