Congratulations to Dr Lorna O'Donnell on the publication of the paper "The power of the pyre – A holistic study of cremation focusing on charcoal remains"
This work, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, is one of a set of papers that have been developed as part of a Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellowship here at UCD School of Archaeology (2014-2015). The research builds upon, and extends, the work conducted as part of a PhD undertaken in the School. This paper presents an in depth analysis of the wood used as part of Bronze Age cremations ceremonies, with a particular focus on data from the largest Bronze Age cremation cemetery discovered in Ireland.
"The pyre was an integral part of the ritual of cremation, yet the actual wood that fuelled pyres has rarely been investigated from Bronze Age sites. This research examines environmental results focusing on charcoal data from the largest Bronze Age cremation cemetery discovered in Ireland, Templenoe. A holistic approach combines charcoal, plant macrofossil, osteological and artefactual results to provide new insights into the cremation process in prehistory. It demonstrates that particular trees (oak, pomaceous fruitwood and ash) were selected over 600 years to fuel the cremation pyres at Templenoe, trends which are reflected regionally in both Ireland and Britain. Comparison of charcoal with osteological data suggests that the selection of wood did not reflect age or sex. Pyre material was consistently buried with the cremated bones in graves indicating the importance of the pyre itself in the overall cremation process. Empty funerary pits or possible “cenotaphs” contain the exact same wood taxa as the graves with bone, suggesting that it may be correct to interpret these as graves. It is possible that pyre material could have been buried as a proxy for the body."