Charles, by using the word "burned" are you implying cremation or merely imolation? In the first case, even with modern gas fired equipment and fire bricks, the body's ashes, depending upon the frame, may weigh four or more pounds, and large and small bone fragments, as well as teeth and metals are in the mix. Unknown to most people, the modern crematory then removes the metals especially things like titanium, and then grinds up the rest of the remains in a large grinding machine to produce the power or granular material that is given to the family. Tempertures reach 1,500 to 2,000 degrees F., and the process for one body takes about two hours. It seems the Nazi's had some problems with mass cremations, but that is another story.
The cremation of individual bodies or masses of bodies would have been an intensly long process with just the use of wood, as well as expensive, and doubly so in an area where wood was in short supply or literally had to be imported, and was also used for numerous other purposes like cooking, heating, forging, brick firing, dying cloth,firing ceramics etc.
Immolation, on the other hand, may just reduce the body to a cooked human much like a cooked pig, or lamb, then the well cooked body / corpse, might be disposed of in other manners, like burial, tossed into lakes or rivers, or left to scavengers in garbage dumps, etc. If scavengers were depended upon to dispose of the remains, then they would efficently dispose of and scatter the remains of the dead to a point whereby they would most certainly disappear within a few months or years unless deposited within caves, etc., where the remains or at least parts of the remains might survive for a long time if conditions were right.
This method was certainly useful when mankind recognized that disease was carried within the body and that heat killed most all of the microscopic germs, virus, etc. Thus plague victims might well have been immolated and the bodies then disposed of safely.
But this implies an understanding of germs? Was it understood 3,000 or 4,000 years ago and then forgotten? Or were religious undertones more important?, or political reasons, or just common sense?
In any event, unless the bones and teeth were crushed, then large amounts of this material would exist for quite a while in nature unless the acidity or baseness of the soil or waters as well as access to oxygen, further contributed to the breakdown of bones, etc., which seems to have been the case in a large part of Europe.
This of course excludes those bodies found in bogs or peat bogs where the oxygen content is almost zero as well as those found frozen!
Just some background, and my thoughts on the subject.
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© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.