Moscow University

The experience of using an experimental method to study the antiquity cremation rite

Svirkina N. G., Volodin S.A.

Institute of Archaeology of Russian Academy of Sciences, Dm. Ulyanova st., 19, Moscow, 117036, Russia

Svirkina Natalia G., ORCID ID: 0000-0001-5712-5953;; Volodin Semen A., ORCID ID: 0000-0003-3681-3241;


Introduction. The experiment was carried out in 2018 within the framework of the research project dedicated to the study of antique cremation on the Bosporan Kingdom territory. The purpose was to clarify some details of carrying out the open-air cremation ceremony technique: construction of the funeral pyre, its duration and temperature, body arrangement and wood type. The experiment is based on the evidence from written and graphic sources of the antique era as well as archaeology and natural science data. Materials and methods. We used about 2.5 m3 of oak timber, it was placed in rows crosswise. The height of the structure was 110 cm. We used the pig carcass (about 10 months old) weighing about 50 kg. It was placed on the top of the construction. Results and discussion. The cremation lasted for 4 hours and 55 minutes. The temperature of the pyre ranged from 600 to 940 !. The total weight of the remains was about 650 grams. The color of fragments varied from brown and black to white. As a result of incomplete combustion of soft tissues, we didn’t find any traces of direct contact with fire on some areas of the sacrum, pelvic, and femoral bones. Cremated bones are fragile, the parabolic cracks or deformations are not detectable. On several fragments, the yellow, pink and green colored pigmentation have been identified. Conclusion. The burning conditions formed in the framework of the experiment preparation and conduct apply to open-air high-temperature cremation, and it is possible to achieve complete combustion of the body. However, for a reasonable reconstruction of the antique ritual burying rite on the Bosporus territory, it is necessary to conduct an additional series of experiments that would consider the various options for funeral rites, as well as answer several methodological questions.


archeology; cremation; reconstruction; funeral pyre; antique burial rite; the Bosporan Kingdom territory

DOI: 10.32521/2074-8132.2019.4.114-125

Цит.: Svirkina N. G., Volodin S.A. The experience of using an experimental method to study the antiquity cremation rite // Moscow University Anthropology Bulletin (Vestnik Moskovskogo Universiteta. Seria XXIII. Antropologia), 2019; 4/2019; с. 114-125

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