Specifically, several bones were missing, others were damaged on their surfaces, were stained, or broken, all of which can be interpreted as resulting from exposure, carrion feeding, as well as being placed in an ossuary. An overall lack of tooth marks on surviving bones and the observed differential pattern of limb and torso survival suggest that bones from the ossuaries had been exposed to bird carrion feeding.
- A mature adult male from the limestone ossuary, distribution of surviving bones.
The fragments could be from either of the two individuals in the ossuary.
Theya Molleson explains:
Since first discovered in the early 19th century, the ossuaries from Bushehr, Persian Gulf, have attracted attention as possible archaeological evidence for ancient Zoroastrian burial practice. Little is known of early Zoroastrian funerary rites in which cadavers were exposed and any remaining bones were gathered and deposited in ossuaries (cf. Vendidad 6:44-51; Hansman & Stronach 1970:153). The practice is believed to have gained ground during the Parthian Period during the 4th century BC and became more or less obligatory under the Sasanians. Kartîr was the virtual founder of the Zoroastrian Church in the 3rd century AD and it can be assumed that he was the fi rst to institutionalise excarnation in Fars. Kartîr reformed the old Magian customs according to which the bones were not collected after decomposition but remained in situ (Trümpelmann 1984:329). Th e Bushehr bones had been placed in ossuaries and, if Zoroastrian, must date later than the 3rd century.
The human remains from Liyan (a quarter of Bushehr) recovered from a stone ossuary (British Museum BM 91933) and from a re-used torpedo jar BM 91952 are described below. They were examined with their archaeological context as well as what is known of funerary customs of Sasanians who did not inter but rather exposed their dead. In addition, an attempt was made to reconstruct the taphonomic history of the skeletal material recovered from the ossuaries, paying particular attention to the fi ndings of Binford (1981), Brain (1981), Duday et al. (1990), Lyman (1994), and Molleson (2000). Age and sex assessment of the remains followed the Recommendations for age and sex diagnoses of skeletons (1980) and Brothwell (1981).