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On the Curious Date of the Rylstone Log-Coffin Burial

  • Nigel D. Melton (a1), Janet Montgomery (a1), Benjamin W. Roberts (a1), Gordon Cook (a2) and Susanna Harris (a3)...

Abstract

Radiocarbon dates have been obtained from a log-coffin burial excavated in 1864 by Canon William Greenwell from a ditched round barrow at Scale House, near Rylstone, North Yorkshire. The oak tree-trunk coffin had contained an extended body wrapped in a wool textile. The body had entirely decayed and there were no other extant grave goods. In the absence of other grave goods, Greenwell attributed the burial to the Bronze Age because it lay under a ditched round barrow and had similarities with log-coffin burials from Britain and Denmark. This attribution has not been questioned since 1864 despite a number of early medieval log-coffin burials subsequently being found in northern Britain. Crucially, the example excavated near Quernmore, Lancashire in 1973, was published as Bronze Age but subsequently radiocarbon dated to ad 430–970. The Rylstone coffin and textile were radiocarbon dated to confirm that the burial was Early Bronze Age and not an early medieval coffin inserted into an earlier funerary monument. Unexpectedly, the dates were neither Early Bronze Age nor early medieval but c. 800 bc, the cusp of the Bronze Age–Iron Age transition in Britain. The burial at Rylstone is, therefore, one of only two sites in Britain, and is unparalleled elsewhere in north-western Europe at a time when disposal of the dead was primarily through dispersed cremated or unburnt disarticulated remains.

De la curieuse datation de l’inhumation à cercueil de bois de Rylstone, de Nigel D. Melton, Janet Montgomery, Benjamin W. Roberts, Gordon Cook, et Susanna Harris

Des datations au C14 ont été obtenues d’une inhumation à cercueil de bois excavée par le Chanoine William Greenwell d’un tertre rond à fossé à Scale House, près de Rylstone, North Yorkshire. Le cercueil creusé dans un tronc de chêne avait recelé un cadavre en position allongée enveloppé dans un tissu de laine. Le corps était complètement décomposé et il ne subsistait pas d’autre mobilier funéraire. En l’absence d’autre mobilier funéraire, Greenwell a attribué l’inhumation à l’âge du bronze parce qu’elle se trouvait sous un tertre rond à fossé et avait des similarités avec des inhumations dans des cercueils de bois de Grande-Bretagne et du Danemark. Depuis 1864, cette attribution de date n’a jamais été remise en question malgré le fait qu’on a par la suite découvert un certain nombre d’inhumations du début du moyen-âge dans des cercueils de bois dans le nord de la Grande-Bretagne. Point crucial, un exemple provenant de Quernmore, Lancashire fut publié comme étant de l’âge du bronze mais une datation au C14 ultérieure donna une date de 430–970 ap.J.-C..Le cercueil et le tissu de Rylstone furent datés au C14 afin de confirmer que l’inhumation datait bien de l’âge du bronze ancien et n’était pas un cercueil du début du moyen âge inséré dans un monument funéraire plus ancien. Contre toute attente, les dates tournent autour d’environ 800 av. J.-C., à la pointe de la transition âge du bronze-âge du fer en Grande-Bretagne. L’inhumation de Rhylstone n’a donc de parallèle ni en Grande-Bretagne, ni en Europe du nord-ouest à un moment où la disposition des morts se faisait essentiellement par la dispersion de restes désarticulés, incinérés ou non.

Zum sonderbaren Datum der Baumsarg-Bestattung von Rylstone, von Nigel D. Melton, Janet Montgomery, Benjamin W. Roberts, Gordon Cook, und Susanna Harris

Radiokarbondaten wurden von einer Baumsarg-Bestattung genommen, die im Jahr 1864 von Canon William Greenwell in einem Rundhügel mit umgebendem Graben in Scale House bei Rylstone, North Yorkshire, ausgegraben wurde. Der aus einem Eichenstamm gefertigte Sarg hatte einen ausgestreckten Körper enthalten, der in einen Wollstoff eingewickelt worden war. Der Körper war nahezu vollständig verfallen und es gab keine weiteren erhaltenen Grabbeigaben. Mangels anderer Grabbeigaben wies Greenwell die Bestattung der Bronzezeit zu, da sie unter einem Rundhügel mit Graben lag und Ähnlichkeiten mit Baumsarg-Bestattungen aus Großbritannien und Dänemark hatte. Diese zeitliche Zuweisung wurde seit 1864 nicht in Frage gestellt, trotz einer Reihe frühmittelalterlicher Bestattungen in Baumsärgen, die in der Folge im nördlichen Großbritannien gefunden wurden. Äußerst wichtig war ein Exemplar aus Quernmore, Lancashire, das als bronzezeitlich publiziert, aber anschließend nach ad 430–970 C14-datiert wurde. Der Sarg und das Textil von Rylstone wurden ebenfalls radiokarbondatiert, um zu bestätigen, dass die Bestattung in die Frühbronzezeit gehört und kein frühmittelalterlicher Sarg ist, der in ein älteres Grabmonument eingetieft worden war. Unerwarteterweise liegen die Datierungen um ca. 800 bc, also am Scheitelpunkt des Übergangs von der Bronze- zur Eisenzeit. Die Bestattung von Rylstone ist demnach ohne Parallelen in Großbritannien, aber auch in ganz Nordwesteuropa, zu einer Zeit als die Entsorgung der Toten vor allem in Form zerstreuten Leichenbrands oder disartikulierter Knochen geschah.

La curiosa datación del enterramiento en ‘ataúd de tronco de madera’ de Rylstone, por Nigel D. Melton, Janet Montgomery, Benjamin W. Roberts, Gordon Cook y Susanna Harris

Se han obtenido dataciones de radiocarbono de un enterramiento en ‘ataúd de tronco de madera’ excavado en 1864 por Canon Willian Greenwell en un túmulo circular con foso en Scale House, cerca de Rylstone, en el norte de Yorshire. El ataúd de tronco de roble contenía un cuerpo envuelto en un tejido lana. El cuerpo se había descompuesto por completo y no existía ningún elemento de ajuar. Debido a la ausencia de elementos de ajuar, Greenwell atribuyó el enterramiento a la Edad del Bronce ya que se encontraba debajo del túmulo con foso y presentaba similitudes con los enterramientos ‘en tronco’ de Bretaña y Dinamarca. Esta atribución cronológica no ha sido cuestionada desde 1864 a pesar de que posteriormente se han hallado varios enterramientos en ataúdes de tronco de época altomedieval en el norte de Bretaña. Significativamente, un ejemplo de Quernmore, Lancashire fue publicado como de la Edad del Bronce, pero posteriormente se dató en 430–970 ad. Tanto el ataúd como el tejido de Rylstone fueron datados, lo que permitió confirmar su cronología del Bronce Antiguo y que no se trataba de un enterramiento medieval introducido en un monumento funerario anterior. Inesperadamente, las dataciones se situaron en torno al 800 bc, el umbral de transición entre la Edad del Bronce y la del Hierro en Bretaña. El enterramiento de Rylstone, por lo tanto, no tiene paralelos en Bretaña ni en otro lugar del noroeste de Europa, en un momento en el que los tratamientos funerarios consisten en cremaciones esparcidas o en restos desarticulados no quemados.

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On the Curious Date of the Rylstone Log-Coffin Burial

  • Nigel D. Melton (a1), Janet Montgomery (a1), Benjamin W. Roberts (a1), Gordon Cook (a2) and Susanna Harris (a3)...

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