• Oleksandra Kozak Institute of Archeology NASU



Vozvyagel, medieval time, taphonomy, anthropology, palaeopathology, bone assemblage, sanitary burial


The person‘s death and burial is the key moment of the thanatology and anthropologic research. Perimortal and postmortem processes alter the macro- and microstructure of bone and often lead to its destruction. It is customary to consider that the poorly preserved bones are uninformative in anthropology. However, in forensic medicine and archaeology the degree and features of “poor preservation” are the main and almost the only source of information about the time, conditions, and causes of death and circumstances of burial.

In 1993 on the Southern hill-fort of Vozvyahil (nowadays Novograd-Volynsky) the building, called “house of jeweller” and dated to the 13th century, was excavated by Zhytomyr archaeological expedition. In the basement of this house, the assemblage of human and animal bones had been discovered. The bones were piled up chaotically. Archaeologists described the dismembered bodies and separated limbs in the cluster. Skulls were located mostly at the bottom of the pit.

Most human bones were committed to the anthropological analysis. For the study of them, the methods of battlefield anthropology have been used.

The paper is devoted to the study of perimortal and postmortem markers on bones in order to clarify the circumstances of the death, conditions and locations of the remnants after death and the time of their burial.

The sex and age of the people whose remains were buried in the basement were determined. 44.5% of all skulls belonged to the children. The bones mostly of young adult men and women were present in this assemblage. The possible perimortal traumas were revealed on the 40% of juvenile and adult skulls and on some limb bones. The nature and character of perimortal injuries, as well as the sex-age profile of this group, indicates the death of the ordinary population of the settlement as a result of some military conflict.

The macroscopic taphonomic markers such as the minimal number of elements (MNE), the minimal number of individuals (MNI) as well as maximum probable number of individuals (MPNI), the integrity of skeletons and representation of the elements, the state of preservation of the bone surface (weathering stage and colour), the of animal tooth marks were studied. The femurs and tibias were the best-preserved bones in this deposition. Circa 46% of adults and 14% of children’s skulls were fully or almost completely survived. The maximum probable number of individuals was estimated as 37 (by Lincoln Index – 39) persons. However, this amount might to be more.

The lack of anatomical order of the bones of most skeletons in the assemblage, the condition of the bone surface, animal (predators or scavengers) tooth marks and other signs indicate that the burial had been created not earlier than 1-3 but not later than 9 months after destroying the town. Judging by the condition of the remains, the bone assemblage is the sanitary pit. With a certain degree of probability, it can be connected to the punitive expedition of the King Danylo to the Bolokhov lands which took place in summer or autumn of 1256.

Additionally, the paper proposes the classification of traditional burials and depositions based on their location, morphology, primacy and other criteria. Such terms as the primary/secondary graves, individual (group) and collective burials, re-burials, as well as intentional, spontaneous and residual depositions, have been differentiated. In the classification of the assemblages or depositions itself, such criteria as the location of the burial, the presence of a grave structure, the number of individuals, the integrity and anatomical order of the skeleton etc. have been used.


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