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A Merovingian Surprise: Early Medieval Radiocarbon Dates on Cremated Bone (Borsbeek, Belgium)

Guy De Mulder, Mark Van Strydonck, Rica Annaert, Mathieu Boudin

Abstract


Radiocarbon dating of cremated bone is a well-established practice in the study of prehistoric cremation cemeteries since the introduction of the method in the late 1990s. 14C dates on the Late Bronze Age urnfield and Merovingian cemetery at Borsbeek in Belgium shed new light on Merovingian funerary practices. Inhumation was the dominant funerary rite in this period in the Austrasian region. In the Scheldt Valley, however, some cremations are known, termed Brandgrubengräber, which consist of the deposition of a mix of cremated bone and the remnants from the pyre in the grave pit. 14C dates from Borsbeek show that other ways of deposition of cremated bone in this period existed. In both cases, bones were selected from the pyre and wrapped in an organic container before being buried. Recent excavation and 14C dates from another Merovingian cemetery at Broechem confirmed the information about the burial rites and chronology from Borsbeek. This early Medieval practice of cremation rituals seems an indication of new arrivals of colonists from northern regions where cremation remained the dominant funerary rite. Another case at Borsbeek shows the reuse of a Late Bronze Age urn in the Merovingian period. This practice is known from Viking burials in Scandinavia, but was not ascertained until now in Flanders.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.v54i3–4.16151


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