Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2022

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Sociology and Anthropology

First Advisor

Matthew Murray

Second Advisor

Carolyn Freiwald

Third Advisor

Alexis O'Donnell

Relational Format



Proteomic residue analysis conducted on several ceramic sherds from funerary vessels dating to the early Iron Age (700-400 BCE) led to the discovery of peptides of human blood, tissue, and organs. The pottery was recovered in 1999 from Grave 5 in Tumulus 17, an early Iron Age burial mound, at the Heuneburg, a paramount settlement and mortuary complex in southwestern Germany. Prior to this discovery, there had been no evidence of the removal of body elements and their deposition in funerary pottery during the early Iron Age. This thesis presents a cross-cultural literature survey of archaeological, ethnographic, and historical evidence of excarnation (removal of flesh and organs) in other times and places that identified a range of possible interpretations of this previously unrecognized practice in the early Iron Age. Analysis of the cross-cultural evidence indicates that the practice of body element removal and deposition in funerary pottery had a wide range of materialist purposes and symbolic meanings.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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