Summary from The Power of Relics: Curating Human Bone in the British Bronze Age by Dr Joanna Bruck and Dr Thomas Booth, University of Bristol, 2017:
“The project investigated evidence for the curation of ‘relics’ - pieces of human bone that were deliberately retained over long periods of time in the British Bronze Age. It is widely recognised that Bronze Age artefacts such as jet beads and ceramic vessels were kept and circulated as heirlooms over many generations. Evidence such as the occasional discovery of worked fragments of human bone suggests that human remains were treated in similar ways.
This project employed a programme of radiocarbon dating to consider whether fragments of human bone from particular settlements and burials are demonstrably earlier than their final depositional contexts. The possible social implications of these practices were explored, casting light on how memory, materiality and the body were drawn into the definition of social and political identities.
The Wilsford G58 musical instrument represents direct and unambiguous evidence for the curation, retention and transformation of human remains by Bronze Age Britons. It looks as though the instrument was not in use for a great duration of time and came from a person that could have lived within living memory of the individual that was buried with it. This may also suggests that the instrument was most likely made specifically for the individual it accompanied. It doesn't seem to be some long-lived ancestral relic. This throws up some interesting questions about why people were only keeping these things over relatively short periods, possibly reflecting the individual passing out of memory.”