LUMIERE
Landscape Use and Mobility In EuRopE

Bridging the gap between cremation and inhumation

Movement represents a key feature of an individual’s life both now and in the past. How and why people moved in the past can be documented by biogeochemical studies on bone and teeth, and these are at the core of this project. However, in many cases, due to different funerary practices (i.e. cremation and inhumation), the type of archaeological skeletal elements available and their state of preservation is very variable. Characterizing mobility in times where both cremation and inhumation were practiced is challenging for three main reasons: (1) important amounts of information are destroyed during cremation with temperatures reaching up to 1000°C, (2) the bioarchaeological information obtained from unburned and burned human remains often represent different times in their life (e.g. youth/adolescence vs adulthood), and (3) the limited adequate baselines available prevent the refined contextualisation and interpretations of the results in many parts of Europe. 

In this project, new proxies are developed for charred and calcined bone (burned above 650°C), while the potential of charred bone is also re-evaluated. In parallel, adequate baselines need to be created. This enables, not only increasing the amount and the quality of information extracted from cremated human remains, but also significantly augmenting the number of individuals analysed as charred bones are currently excluded from palaeomobility studies. Furthermore, to bridge the gap between cremation and inhumation and enable the full reconstruction of life histories, it is crucial to better characterize turnover rates of the different skeletal elements.

Coupled with state-of-the art statistical and spatial models, previously published results combined with newly obtained data significantly contributes to the documentation of human mobility from the Neolithic to the Early Medieval Period at a local (i.e. landscape use), regional and European scale, at times where both cremation and inhumation were practiced.

This project will yield important new insights into the nature and extent of mobility and migration across Europe from the Neolithic through to the Early Medieval Period and show how past mobility forged the Europe of today.

The outcomes of the LUMIERE project include

  • The development of new ground-breaking analytical tools for palaeomobility and palaeodietary studies of burned animal and human bone.
  • The development of unique ways to reconstruct human life histories.
  • The establishment of baselines (maps) of the biologically available Sr for Europe developed especially for the study of human mobility.
  • The establishment of a large dataset of isotopic data from inhumed and cremated human remains for Europe stored in the on-line open-access IsoArcH database (www.isoarch.eu).
  • The establishment of state-of-the-art models for the study of human mobility and landscape use in Europe at a local, regional and European scales integrated within historical and archaeological contexts.

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