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Anthropological perspective of burial practices in the beginning of the late bronze age in northern Croatia


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Premužić, Zrinka. (2016). Anthropological perspective of burial practices in the beginning of the late bronze age in northern Croatia. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Archaeology.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij arheologije) [mentor Rajić Šikanjić, Petra and Ložnjak Dizdar, Daria].

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Aim. Human skeletal remains from cremation burials discovered at the site of Poljana Križevačka 2, dated to the 13th c. B. C., were subjected to a detailed analysis. The main objective of this research was to expand the current knowledge about the life and burial customs of this Late Bronze Age community, as well as contemporary communities from the region of northern Croatia. The subject was approached from two aspects: biological characteristics of the community and features of burial customs. After obtaining data on both aspects, during interpretation they were correlated, thus creating a complete picture of burial customs of the community from Poljana. Methods. Biological characteristics of the population were determined based on standard anthropological methods. They were used for sex and age estimation, as well as identification of present pathological changes and nonmetric variations. Features of burial customs were determined based on several characteristics of cremated skeletal material. At first, the order of the deposition of the remains in several urns was established. After that, the colour and weight, as well as representation of the skeletal remains was determined. The spatial distribution of burials was analysed according to sex and age of the individuals. Finally, two groups of burials, identified based on the mode of the deposition of cremated remains, were compared in all the above mentioned features. Results. A total of 50 burials were discovered at the cemetery. Seven of them did not contain human skeletal remains, so 43 burials were analysed. All burials were single, therefore making a series of 43 individuals. Analysis of the demographic structure showed the presence of 14 juvenile individuals, 26 adult individuals and 3 individuals of unknown sex and age. The distribution of age and sex groups displayed equal representation of all the groups. This demonstrates that all members of the community were buried at the cemetery in Poljana. Analysis of pathological changes showed the presence of several types of changes: pathological changes on the skull, degenerative changes or osteoarthritis, periostitis and entheseal changes. Pathological changes were present on cranial and postcranial bones. They were observed in 22 individuals, which makes over 50,0% of the sample. The character of the pathological changes implies low life quality for some individuals from Poljana, related to inadequate diet, unsanitary conditions and presence of infectious diseases. The presence of possible cases of scurvy and tuberculosis further contributes to this statement. Also, some members of the community were most likely exposed to strenuous physical activities related to everyday work. Several nonmetric variations were observed: sutural ossicles, Pacchionian granulations, acetabular mark and vastus notch. Detailed microexcavation of 11 urns demonstrated there was no practice of stratigraphic deposition of the remains into the urn. All layers of the content of the urn contained all body parts. The colour of the remains was uniform throughout the sample and also within a certain grave, being white, off-white and white/light grey. These colours are the result of high fire temperatures above 650°C, which also imply similar conditions for the entire pyre and its long duration. The weight of the remains ranges from 1,7 g to 2.033,6 g with the average of 648,0 g. Low weights, compared to data from modern crematoria, demonstrate that it was not essential to collect all the cremated material from the pyre. Rather, the representation of all body parts was more important in order to reconstruct the body of the deceased. This is reflected in complete representation of all body regions in the majority of 33 individuals from the sample, as well as the representation of most characteristic skeletal regions in the rest of the sample. Comparison of burials according to deposition of the cremated material in the grave showed no differences in biological characteristics of the individuals or other features of burial practices. Analysis of spatial distribution of the graves demonstrated the presence of three isolated graves and five groups of graves. These groups contained burials of adults of both sexes and children. This could indicate that the groups were organised based on familial or kin relation of individuals buried in them. Conclusion. Based on the interpretation of the analysed data, it can be concluded that the community from Poljana practiced equal body treatment and uniform, standardised burial practice for all their deceased members, independent of their sex and age. The cremation process was carefully attended to, as witnessed by the nature of the pyre, duration of the cremation and collection of the cremated material. The only aspect of the burial practice showing variability is the mode of deposition of the cremated material. Comparison of the Poljana cemetery to other contemporary cemeteries from northern Croatia (Drljanovac, Voćin, Lepoglava, Jakopovec, Zbelava, Popernjak, Vojvodine–Migalovci and Malinovac) as well as Slovenia (Ptuj – Potrčeva cesta and Podsmreka pri Višnji Gori) and Hungary (Bakonyi) demonstrated the presence of similarities confirming their association to the common Late Bronze Age culture, as well as differences resulting from local customs. The analysis of cremated skeletal material from the cemetery of Poljana Križevačka 2 provided new insight into the biological characteristics of this Late Bronze Age community, as well as its burial practices. Currently, it is the largest analysed cemetery dated to the beginning of the Late Bronze Age and the only one subjected to this kind of comprehensive analysis.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: human skeletal remains, cremation burials, Late Bronze Age, Poljana Križevačka, northern Croatia
Subjects: Archaeology
Ethnology and cultural anthropology
Departments: Department of Archaeology
Supervisor: Rajić Šikanjić, Petra and Ložnjak Dizdar, Daria
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij arheologije
Date Deposited: 12 Sep 2016 11:15
Last Modified: 12 Sep 2016 11:15

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