eesti teaduste
akadeemia kirjastus
SINCE 1997
Archaeology cover
Estonian Journal of Archaeology
ISSN 1736-7484 (Electronic)
ISSN 1406-2933 (Print)
The age of the stone-cist graves at the lower reaches of the Pirita River reconsidered: analysis of the radiocarbon data; pp. 27–55
PDF | 10.3176/arch.2022.1.02

Margot Laneman

The area around the lower reaches of the Pirita River in northern coastal Estonia is a unique region where the majority of the known stone-cist cemeteries have been excavated. The number of such cemeteries is seven or eight, with approximately 50 excavated stone mounds. A profound study by Valter Lang in the 1990s, proceeding mainly from artefact finds, dated the stone-cist cemeteries of the area to roughly 600–200 BC, with one exception in 800–500 BC. The current paper summarises and discusses the recently obtained and partly published radiocarbon dates of the skeletons from these sites, including the hitherto unpublished data from Iru 18 and Kuristiku 4. A total of 28 radiocarbon dates has been obtained from nine graves of probably five cemeteries. The numbers are regrettably small, the main reason being the absence of proper excavation and osteological records, which are a prerequisite of consequential and efficient radiocarbon dating. The radiocarbon data suggest that the majority if not all cemeteries had been established between 1100 and 900 or 800 BC, and the last graves were added around 400 BC at the latest. A few graves also contained burials from the subsequent centuries. This is consistent with data from stone-cist graves in other regions of Estonia. The discrepancies between the radiocarbon dates and the dates based on artefact typo-chronologies suggest certain caution, although the most likely explanation of the differences lies in the absence of closed find complexes, which has always presented a challenge to the dating of stone-cist graves.


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