Weight but occasionally also the volume of cremated human remains may often be the primary basis for interpreting the many stages involved in past cremation ceremonies. However, methods used for describing volume for cremated remains are extremely varying and biased by many factors. Here we evaluate different methods for calculating and describing volume and propose a method for estimating the original prehistoric post-cremation weight. Our data suggests that low cremation weights reported for archaeologically recovered cremated remains are markedly underestimated, and that whole cremated bodies probably are represented more often than discussed in osteoarchaeology. Hence, this contests many suppositions on ritual selection of cremated human remains in prehistoric and early historical archaeology. A simple descriptive Fragmentation Index for cremated remains is further suggested.
Journal of Archaeological Science, 2013, Vol 40, Issue 6, p. 2713-2722