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Promotie Mr. J.G.M. Thilderkvist: Ritual bones or common waste. A study of early medieval bone deposits in Northern Europe

When:Th 23-05-2013 at 12:45

PhD ceremony: Mr. J.G.M. Thilderkvist, 12.45 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Dissertation: Ritual bones or common waste. A study of early medieval bone deposits in Northern Europe

Promotor(s): prof. D.C.M. Raemaekers

Faculty: Arts

The aim of Johan Thilderkvist’s thesis is to test different methods in order to formulate a methodological framework for approaching the identification of ritual deposits of animal bones in settlements. For this purpose four Early Medieval case study-sites were chosen: Dongjum and Leeuwarden, two artificial dwelling mounds situated in the then undiked salt marches of the Northern Netherlands, Midlaren, an inland settlement in Drenthe, and finally Uppåkra, a central place in the south of Sweden.

The bone fragments from the four materials were analysed in a five step process that included the steps definition, description, identification, interpretation and explanation. In the 4 materials 20 deposits were identified as special and of these 17 were interpreted as ritual. These deposits were discussed and explained further with the help of various archaeological, ethnographic and historical sources.

Despite the fact that a number of methods were applied for identifying special deposits among bone materials and the main conclusion is that no single, or even a set of methods stood out as a flawless tool for identifying ritual deposits. The results of the analysis instead lead to a methodological framework for understanding individual deposits based on a holistic perspective where all information should be regarded as potentially valuable. This does not imply that the researcher should get bogged down in incredibly detailed studies. Rather it suggests openness in the approach, to take various methods into consideration and to avoid simplification.

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