10 July 2010
The Official request to Dept of Justice,
Mike Parker Pearson of Sheffield University Riverside Project,
for a research extension on the Aubrey Hole cremated remains.
I am applying for a 5-year extension for scientific study of the cremated bones from Stonehenge that were excavated in August 2008 by the Stonehenge Riverside Project. The original licence only permitted two years of study, which has turned out to be inadequate.
1. The purpose of archaeological excavation of these bones (which number about 50,000 fragments), under the scheduled monument consent of the Secretary of State for Culture, was to carry out full osteological analysis and radiocarbon dating.
Those bones derive originally from about 60 prehistoric cremation burials.
They were excavated in the 1920s from various locations within Stonehenge and were subsequently co-mingled
and dumped in 1935 in the prehistoric pit known as Aubrey Hole 7.
2. Osteological analysis has so far established that most of the individuals from these c. 60 burials were adult males, with evidence for just 2 women and 2 or 3 children.
3. Analysis is not yet finished as Ms Christie Cox Willis' preliminary analysis has not been completed. The assemblage is unusually complex because the bones of separate individuals were all mixed up in the 1920s and 1930s, an unexpected state of affairs that has slowed down subsequent analysis. Additionally, Ms Cox Willis has only been able to work part-time and she is now on maternity leave.
4. The full analysis (details in the attached project timetable) will not be completed until 2012 as this assemblage of bones is so important and interesting.
5. Further work on the Stonehenge material is likely to take 5 more years as you will see from the attached project timetable.
After Ms Cox Willis returns from maternity leave, she is due to finish her part-time doctoral research in 2015; it is important to keep the material accessible until the PhD has been examined and awarded in case of questions by examiners or the need to check osteological results at any stage prior to PhD examination.
With best wishes Mike
"Project timetable for analysis of prehistoric cremated remains from Stonehenge".
This research was commenced in September 2008, as soon as the bones were excavated from Aubrey Hole 7.
The aim of the research is to establish who was buried at Stonehenge, with regards to age, sex, demography, pathology, trauma and health.
The cremated human bones from Stonehenge were recovered for scientific study under licence from the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Justice, the latter requiring reburial after 2 years from August 2008.
Initially, analysis was carried out by Christie Cox Willis as research paid for by the Stonehenge Riverside Project but, in spring 2010,
Sheffield University allowed Ms Cox Willis to complete the research as part of a PhD programme.
This is a 5-year, part-time PhD programme at the University of Sheffield, supervised by Professor Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield and advised on by Jacqui McKinley of Wessex Archaeology.
PHASE 1, Analysis of the Stonehenge cremated remains (begun in September 2008)
1.1 Preliminary recording of c. 50,000 human bone fragments (commenced Sept 2008, to be completed July 2011,
including 10 months maternity leave June 2010-March 2011).
1.2 Data inputting of results of preliminary analysis (Jan 2009-May 2011) – the osteological data are recorded in an Excel database.
1.3 Full analysis of the cremated remains (June 2011-November 2011), to standards of analysis laid down in national and international guidelines (Brickley and McKinley 2004, Mays et al. 2002; McKinley and Roberts 1993) and as deemed appropriate by Jacqueline McKinley, the consultant osteologist advising on this project
as required in the Aubrey Hole excavation project design agreed by English Heritage and DCMS.
1.4 Selection of individual cremated bone fragments for radiocarbon dating, to determine MNI (minimum number of individuals) (December 2011).
1.5 Review of radiocarbon results and selection of any further samples for dating to replace those that failed (May 2012).
1.6 Data input of results of full analysis of the bone fragments (December 2011-March 2012).
1.7 Statistical analysis of skeletal elements, age and sex data, pathologies and trauma indicators (April 2012-August 2012).
PHASE 2, Review of archaeological literature.
Coverage of published archaeological reports from excavated mid-late Neolithic cemeteries and relevant sites, as well as the unpublished ‘grey literature’ in county SMRs. Review of the secondary literature pertaining to the archaeology of Neolithic Britain.
PHASE 3, Analysis of skeletal remains and unpublished data
Previously unexamined human remains, unpublished osteological data and unpublished archaeological data will be assessed
in order to complete the database for Britain.
It is expected that both Phase 2 and Phase 3 will take 2 years to complete.
PHASE 4, Synthesis of results from across Britain
This incorporates new osteological findings from sites across Britain with the data from the cremation deposits at Stonehenge.
It will take 6 months.
PHASE 5, Writing-up of PhD thesis
This is expected to be completed by September 2015.
*Brickley, M. & J.I. McKinley. 2004. Guidelines to the Standards for Recording Human Remains. IFA Technical Paper no. 7. Southampton: BABAO.
*Mays, S., M. Brickley & N. Dodwell. 2002. Human Bones from Archaeological Sites: guidelines for producing assessment documents and analytical reports. London: English Heritage/BABAO.
*McKinley, J.I. & C.A. Roberts. 1993. Excavation and post-excavation treatment of cremated and inhumed human remains. Institute of Field Archaeologists Technical Paper 13.
30July 2010 - From Mike Parker Pearson:
“Here is some information on radiocarbon dating, prepared by English Heritage's radiocarbon advisor, Dr Alex Bayliss.
"About 10 years ago, a new method for the radiocarbon dating of cremated bone was proposed by a research group at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (Lanting et al 2001). This followed some work on dating the carbonate fraction of unburnt bone from the Sahara by a group based in Lyon (Saliège et al 1998).
This method works by dating the structural carbonate fraction of bone. The carbon in this fraction derives from the whole diet of the dated individual (not just theprotein component that dominates the carbon in the collagen fraction), and so is much less susceptable to dietary offsets than dates on collagen. Also structural carbonate often survives in situations (such as in cremations) where collagen diagenesis makes this fraction unsuitable for radiocarbon dating.
Unfortunately, early attempts to date the carbonate fraction of unburnt bone (largely in the 1960s) gave dates that were anomalously young because the bone carbonate exchanges with humic acids in the burial environment.
Consequently only in special, very dry environments, such as in the Sahara did bone carbonate give accurate radiocarbon ages. The major advance of the new method
was to isolate the part of the structural carbonate in cremated bone that has had its crystalline structure altered by the cremation process in such a way as it is no longer contaminated by the burial environment (van Strydonck et al 2005).
So, to answer Mr Somers' query, when dating cremated bone we are dating the time when the individual died, but the sample becomes datable because of the cremation process itself. This is why we need a 2-4g from a single piece of white, calcined bone. The crystalline structure in less calcined material has been insufficiently altered for accurate dating. Because this method was new, and was dating a sample type which had previously proved extremely problematic, it underwent extensive testing in the early 2000s in radiocarbon laboratories in many countries (eg De Mulder et al 2004; Naysmith et al 2007). It has been shown to produce accurate radiocarbon dates routinely and has now been adopted as a standard technique worldwide.
Concerning the schedule for radiocarbon dating,
Dr Bayliss says
"In my view it would be unwise to programme less than a year for the radiocarbon dating from the submission of the first samples."
The laboratory will be either Oxford or SUERC.
Lanting, J N, Aerts-Bijma, A T, and van der Plicht, J, 2001 Dating of cremated bones, Radiocarbon,
Naysmith, P, Scott, E M, Cook, G T, Heinemeier, J, van der Plicht, J, Van Strydonck, M, Bronk Ramsey, C, Grootes, P M, and Freeman, S P H T, 2007
A cremated bone inter-comparison study, Radiocarbon, 49, 403-8
Saliège, J-F, Person, A, and Paris, F, 1998 Datation du carbonate-hydroxylapatite d'ossements Holocènes du Sahel (Mali, Mauritanie,Niger), Pré-actes du 3ème Congrès International 14C et Archéologie, Lyon 1998, 172-3
Van Strydonck, M, Boudin, M, Hoefens, M, and de Mulder, G, 2005 14C-dating of cremated bones-why does it work?, Lunula, 13, 3-10.
De Mulder, G, van Strydonck, M, and Boudin, M, 2004 14C-dateringen op gecremeerde menselijk botten uit de urnenvelden te Velzeke (O.-Vl.), Lunula,12, 51-58"
Yours Mike Parker Pearson
Sheffield University. Archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson
has made an undertaking to keep the S,G,W,I informed
regarding the length and extent of research on the ancestoral
bones removed from the Aubrey hole at Stonehenge in 2009.
We are also in contact with Andrew Tucker of the Dept of Justice who will decide on whether the research can be extended for another two years from 2011.
Responses to our emails from Andrew Tucker, Dept of Justice and Mike Parker Pearson, the archaeologist in charge of the Riverside Project research follows:
~This is Page 2, H,A,D. Stonehenge,a.~
Mike has kindly asked us to publish his communications to SGWI as "widely as possible"
in order to obtain proper consultative views. All communications received from
Mike Parker Pearson remain his copyright and authorship and are reproduced here
with his express permission
Sent: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 10:25 AM
Subject: A PENDRAGON'S LATEST ON STONEHENGE REBURIALS
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST
Good morning all,
You no doubt have the latest from Arthur Pendragon, threatening a judicial review - if not I will copy and paste it at the end of this email.
Suffice to say his views are his own and Im most concerned to see that he says that via his FOI demands he has found out from either or all of you that some druids and pagans 'are on the side' of the Uni and therefore implicated in his other accusation - that they knew Mike and his team never intended to return the bones at all!
Its pretty obvious from the objections presented to Rupert against retention any longer than necessary, that at least Stonehenge Druids, Honouring the Ancient Dead and Sacred Grove Western Isles network do not concur with the prospect of the Uni keeping the bones indefinitely. I cannot speak for other pagan or other groups etc of course.
We hold no interest in Pendragon's argument for any JR and would appreciate your confirmation on behalf of Sheffield University and the Department of Justice and English Heritage that NONE of you -
1. plan to allow the bones of the ancestors lifted from Stonehenge to be kept by Sheffield University for ever,
2. confirm that it was never your intention to do that, and
3. that the paragraph in Rupert's letter of 2 November 2010 still stands, namely:
“The decision has therefore been made to grant an extension to the re-burial condition for five years, in accordance with the application made on behalf of the Stonehenge Riverside Project. Instructions for the licence to be amended have therefore been given. However, it is proposed that once the work has been completed the religious views of the Pagans and Druids will be respected and the remains reintered” [my underlining]
4. Since Pendragon's contention is causing dismay and outrage amongst pagans interested in this issue, please furnish me with the same documentation to which he relates, especially where it says some druids and pagans are on the side of the archaeologists, in order that we can defend ourselves via its disclosure. This is also requested under the Freedom of Information Act if that is indeed required.
I trust you can answer these queries as soon as possible in order to allay the fears of our community.
Many thanks - Scribe SGWI
SEE M PARKER PEARSON'S REPLY BELOW RECEIVED 23 JAN 2011 - NOTE THAT THIS CONFIRMS WHY WE ARE CAMPAIGNING, THAT SHEFFIELD RIVERSIDE PROJECT AND M-P-P DO NOT INTEND TO RELEASE THE BONES IN THE FUTURE, BUT THEY WILL OBVIOUSLY ADHERE TO THE MINISTRY OF JUSTICE'S DECISION EITHER ON OR BEFORE 2015, WHICH IS WHY WE SUPPORT ANY COGENT LEGAL CONTEST AGAINST CONTINUAL RETENTION - JUDICIAL REVIEWS TO OVERTURN DECISIONS HAVE FAILED SO FAR IN OTHER SUCH CASES BUT THAT IS NOT TO SAY ONE MAY SUCCEED WITH THE CORRECT ARGUMENT .
Dear SGWI Scribe
I shall of course abide by the law and act as instructed under the legislation by the Ministry of Justice when the licence extension comes to an end.
I do not believe any prehistoric or ancient remains excavated in the UK should ever be reburied, and I shall campaign hard to have the current interpretation
of the law amended to permit the curation of such remains in museums.
I do not know how you make a freedom of information act request. I do know that Arthur sent an official FoI request to the MoJ, asking for correspondence
between the MoJ and me (as an official body) on the subject of the licence concerning the Aubrey Hole cremations.
REBURIALS CORRESPONDENCE IS SEPARATED INTO 3 PAGES
A = SHEFFIELD UNIVERSITY
B = MINISTRY OF JUSTICE
C = ENGLISH HERITAGE