Burned bones, hot research: Investigating cremation settings using FTIR and carbon and oxygen isotope analysis on archaeological cremated human remains from Belgium

Stamataki, E. (Speaker), Salesse, K. (Contributor), Ioannis Kontopoulos (Contributor), Veselka, B. (Contributor), Sabaux, C. (Contributor), Mathieu Boudin (Contributor), Giacomo Capuzzo (Contributor), Sarah Dalle (Contributor), Hlad, M. (Contributor), Amanda Sengeløv (Contributor), Eugène Warmenbol (Contributor), Martine Vercauteren (Contributor), Dries Tys (Contributor), Guy De Mulder (Contributor), Snoeck, C. (Contributor)

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a conference


Burned human bones are commonly found in archaeological contexts. Due to the high temperatures reached during burning (up to 1000°C), organic components of bone disappear and significant structural, chemical and isotopic changes occur to the inorganic fraction of bone (bone apatite). These changes, along with post-burial/taphonomic alterations make the study of cremated human remains extremely challenging. Despite these limitations, cremated bones play an increasingly important role in understanding ancient societies in which cremation was the dominant funerary practice. A huge diversity exits in the way cremation was performed. It is related to the different attitudes of ancient communities towards death and different managements and treatments of the dead body.
The aim of this project is to combine Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and carbon and oxygen isotope analysis to assess changes in the way cremation was performed in Belgium during the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age with a particular focus on the cremation settings. The results of infrared spectroscopy and carbon and oxygen isotope analysis of different skeletal elements (diaphysis, cranial bones, ribs) from different sites indicate that both the temperature and the position of the body on the pyre vary between different sites. This inter-and-intra site variability adds to our understanding regarding the specialisation on pyre technology and body and pyre management at the studied sites and on the use of fire in funerary rituals.
Period25 Mar 2021
Event titleBioarchaeology Early Career Researchers (ECR)
Event typeConference
Conference number1
Degree of RecognitionInternational