THE ‘INVISIBLE DEAD’: AN EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT AND THE FINAL MONTHS OF DATA COLLECTION

After months of silence and lots of hard work data collection is just about reaching completion on the Invisible Dead Project. Whilst we are still chasing up a few loose ends (for instance, trying to track down a few extra cemeteries, missing co-ordinates or references for burials we know are out there, but haven’t been able to find), the project is now moving into the data analysis stage. So where have the nearly one and a half years of designing a database, delving into the published and unpublished literature and recording the visible and ‘invisible’ dead got us?

A huge amount of data has been collated as part of this project and one of the challenges has been to enter this in a way which can maximise its potential for analysis and interpretation. In total our combined database has now reached nearly 100,000 data entries, detailing information such as the date of excavation, age/sex data for human remains, preservation or manipulation of human remains through to the types of artefacts found within burial contexts. Throughout this work we have recorded well over 3000 sites and over 40,000 individuals. Since this dataset will only continue to grow, as we make final touches and discoveries, it is clear that it represents an invaluable set of data and will have continuing potential for analysis and further work in the future!!

We have also had the opportunity to present at numerous conferences over the past year, the most recent at the January 2014 British Association for Near Eastern Archaeology Conference (BANEA) in Reading. This was a great event and gave us the opportunity to discuss some of our preliminary findings. In particular, we were able to get people to start to think about what percentage of the dead we actually see within the archaeological record and where everybody else might be.

BANEA Conference, Reading University, 9th-11th January 2014

BANEA Conference, Reading University, 9th-11th January 2014

In terms of the British data the database was never going to be exhaustive for the whole of Britain. There are simply too many data to work with, given the time constraints. However, by combining a high level of detail for selected case study areas with a more general coverage we have managed to achieve a combination of geographical coverage and individual site detail. The data entered into the database are a representative sample and will allow us to build on the existing knowledge base and examine issues of spatial and temporal patterning across the British Isles. Already, interesting patterns are beginning to emerge based on an analysis of the basic burial numbers by period and area and we will be reporting on these further as we continue into our months of data analysis.

Sites across Britain covering a wide range of dates, locations and burial contexts.

Sites across Britain covering a wide range of dates, locations and burial contexts.

For the Levant, as the available data are much more restricted, the approach from the start was to provide detail for every site with recorded human remains. In addition, there has been a strong focus on collating data on the types of material culture found within burial contexts and again preliminary analysis is beginning to reveal some interesting discoveries regarding social identity, gender, and in particular the lack of “poor” burials in the past. Again, watch this space for further information over the next few weeks/months. Whilst it is inevitable that some records and sites will be missing from this dataset we estimate that the database will have recorded between 80-90% of the published burial sites/contexts from the Levant at varying levels of detail.

Finally, to end with an exciting announcement, the project will be hosting two publicly accessible keynote lectures in June 2014. These will be held at Durham University on the 6th and 7th June 2014 and will be delivered by Professor Mike Parker Pearson from University College London and Professor Peter Pfälzner from the University of Tübingen. In the next couple of weeks will send out further announcements, abstracts and titles for these talks, but in the meantime get the dates in your diaries!!

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