Bioarchaeology of the Near East, 1:35-57 (2007)
The practice of cremation in the Roman-era cemetery
at Kenchreai, Greece. The perspective from archeology and forensic science
Douglas H. Ubelaker* (1), Joseph L. Rife (2)
(1) Department of Anthropology; National Museum of Natural History, MRC 112
Smithsonian Institution; Washington, D.C. 20560;
email: email@example.com (corresponding author)
(2) Classics Department; Macalester College
1600 Grand Avenue; St. Paul, MN 55105-1899
Abstract: Since 2002 the Kenchreai Cemetery Project has explored subterranean chamber tombs of Roman
date in the main cemetery of the ancient port of Kenchreai, on the eastern coast of the Isthmus of Corinth,
Greece. Analysis of the human remains recovered from three tombs has furnished evidence for cremation as
well as inhumation. The cremated remains represent both adults and immature individuals. Forensic analysis
indicates that the original event of cremation reached high temperatures over a long duration, and that only
a fraction of the cremated remains were transferred to the tombs.
Ancient mortuary sites represent valuable repositories of information regarding not just the burial customs
of past societies, but also biocultural information about the people represented and their attitudes toward
life and death. Such information is augmented through a thoughtful bioarcheological approach in which
knowledge gleaned from skeletal analysis is integrated with archeological interpretation following meticulous
excavation. This report exemplifies this sort of analysis, focusing on the interpretation of cremated remains from
chamber tombs of Roman date in the main cemetery at Kenchreai in southern Greece.
Key words: Greece; cremation; bone; Roman; Kenchreai
Received 23 April 2007; accepted 22 August 2007; published online 15 March 2008; corrected online 20 October 2008.
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