April 29, 2021

Darganfod-Discovery 2021: Adelle Bricking

Adelle Bricking, PhD researcher at Cardiff University, on ‘Life and death in Iron Age Wales: preliminary results from histological and stable isotope analysis from Dinorben and RAF St Athan’. (CAA Research Fund project)

The study of human remains provides us with our most direct window onto the Iron Age population in Wales. However, burial evidence from Wales has been understudied compared to areas such as Yorkshire and Wiltshire. This is due in part to poor preservation as acidic soils destroy much of the osteological material—for example, Rowan Whimster (1981) identified only eight records of Iron Age burial in the whole country. This led to the popular assumption that the lack of human bone means that the majority of burial rites were “archaeologically invisible”, particularly excarnation within hillforts. However, a more recent reappraisal of the published and unpublished literature on excavations of Iron Age sites by Oliver Davis (2017) has shown that the corpus of burial material in Wales is much larger than previously recognised. This provides an opportunity to asses funerary rites and treatment of the dead, mortality profiles, health, diets and origins of the Iron Age population in Wales.

This presentation shows some preliminary results from histological and isotopic analysis from two sites with the largest assemblages – RAF St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan and Dinorben in Conwy. By combining contextual study of this material with isotopic and micro taphonomic analysis, the aim of the project is to directly address how we understand mortuary practices, but also to reveal new insights into the demographics of later prehistoric populations in Wales.

Further reading:

Davis, O. 2017. Iron Age Burial in Wales: Patterns, Practices and Problems. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 37(1), 1-49.

Davis, O. 2017. Filling the gaps: the Iron Age in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 83, 325-256.