Megalithic tombs in Orkney have yielded some of the largest volumes of human remains in Neolithic Britain. However, discrete skeletons are lacking; the researcher is often presented with formidable volumes of disarticulated and comingled remains. Themes of transformation, fragmentation and manipulation of the body permeate the literature, conferring on the megalithic structures significance as places of transition. Previously, the inherent complexity of the remains has made them an unattractive proposition for detailed study. However, advances in taphonomic analysis mean that techniques now exist for approaching such complex assemblages. A study has now been successfully carried out on the Orcadian remains, uncovering the wealth of new data presented in this volume. This data draws attention to subtle variations in funerary ritual between and within the tombs, and pushes for a dramatic reconsideration of our current understanding of the practices and cosmologies associated with these enigmatic structures.
Rebecca Crozier is a lecturer in the Department of Archaeology, specialising in human osteoarchaeology, at the University of Aberdeen. Geographically diverse, with projects in the UK and the Philippines, her research is focused on the reconstruction and understanding of past mortuary practices through the analysis of human remains.
‘This work forms a major contribution to the prehistoric archaeology of Orkney and will revolutionise interpretation of the funerary practices associated with megalithic tombs here and elsewhere.’ Dr Eileen Murphy, Queen’s University Belfast
‘A completely new interpretation of the mortuary remains using a novel methodological approach. The result is a new and intriguing interpretation of the function of the site. … Makes a substantive and timely contribution to both mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology in general.’ Prof. Marc Oxenham, Australian National University, Canberra
‘This is an original reanalysis, reworking the material in a very thorough manner. … Crozier’s conclusions are interesting and unexpected.’ Prof. Colin Richards, University of Highlands and Islands