On the curious date of the Rylstone log-coffin burial

Melton, N. D., Montgomery, J., Roberts, B. W., Cook, G. and Harris, S. (2016) On the curious date of the Rylstone log-coffin burial. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 82, pp. 383-392. (doi:10.1017/ppr.2016.5)

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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 (Rilston, Rylston, Rylestone), 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. Coffin fragments and a fragment of the textile are curated in Craven Museum and Gallery, Skipton. Additional textile fragments are curated at the British and Ashmolean Museums. 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 of a Bronze Age date 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, unparalleled in Britain and elsewhere in north-western Europe at a time when disposal of the dead was primarily through dispersed cremated or unburnt disarticulated remains.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Bronze Age, Textile, Radiocarbon dating, Archaeology, Prehistoric Britain, Wool, Burial
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cook, Professor Gordon and Harris, Dr Susanna
Authors: Melton, N. D., Montgomery, J., Roberts, B. W., Cook, G., and Harris, S.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Archaeology
College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Journal Name:Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:0079-497X
ISSN (Online):2050-2729
Published Online:16 June 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 Cambridge University Press
First Published:First published in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 82:383-392
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.

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