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Project: Cremations, Urns and Mobility – Ancient population dynamics in Belgium

2018-01-01 – 2021-12-31


This project proposes to study the collections of cremated bone found in Belgium dating from
the Neolithic to the Early-Medieval period. CRUMBEL greatly improves the current
understanding of how people lived in Belgium between 3000 BC and 700 AD. Until now the
dominance of cremation as funeral practice from that period in Northern Europe led to
limited information on migrations and living conditions.
Over the last decade, it has been shown that radiocarbon dates could be obtained from
cremated bone. Several Belgian collections have since been investigated providing much more
in depth information about the chronology, development, and disappearance of cremation as
funerary practice in Belgium. Thanks to the recent demonstration that calcined bone provides
a reliable substrate for strontium isotopes, more information can be obtained about
population dynamics in Belgium from the Neolithic to the Early-Medieval Period.
Belgian collections of cremated remains are plentiful but spread around different Universities,
Museums and Institutions. It is, therefore, quite complex to comprehensively study these
collections. This project will create a database detailing all these collections, date the most
interesting and relevant specimens using radiocarbon dating and will, through isotope
analyses, extract information about mobility and lifestyles as well as the evolution of funerary
practices in Belgium since the arrival of agriculture in the Neolithic to the arrival of

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