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CRUMBEL: What can cremated bones reveal about the life of our ancestors?

Within the CRUMBEL project (Cremations, Urns and Mobility - Ancient Population Dynamics in Belgium), researchers from UGent, ULB, VUB and the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) have been studying the cremated bones found on Belgian burial sites dating from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages. Their goal is to better understand our ancestors' way of life. To that end, they are mapping the migrations and movements of the populations that populated our regions at that time.

Ghent University
Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
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Mathieu Boudin

An extensive database

Between 3000 BC and 700 AD, the deceased were usually cremated before burial. Cremation has so far yielded less archaeological information than other types of burial practices, which means that we currently know little about the migrations and living conditions of these populations.

Scientists from UGent, ULB, VUB and IRPA-KIK use state-of-the-art analytical and geochemical techniques to understand our ancestors' lifestyle at that time. They analyse all the available osteo-archaeological information and integrate it as far as possible into a vast database. The project is expected to provide a better understanding of the way of life of the populations in our regions from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages.

Radiocarbon age dating

Our experts use radiocarbon dating to determine the geographical origin of the cremated human bones to be found in several public and private collections in Belgium. They generally only carry out archaeological dating based on a stylistic study, verifying or refining using the MICADAS particle accelerator. Based on strontium isotope analyses, the researchers can determine from which region the cremated human remains originate and where these individuals lived most of their lives. This offers a unique insight into the migration and mobility of our ancestors.

The Crumbel project came about with the generous support of an FWO and FRS-FNRS grant in the framework of the Excellence of Science programme.

Mathieu Boudin, carbon dating expert
X093985 gold Web

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