In 2019 partial, disarticulated human remains with evidence of perimortem fractures and tool marks were excavated from the site of Kabusanza in southern Rwanda (first millennium AD). The nature and location of these modifications demonstrate that some elements were subject to intentional dismemberment and defleshing, whereas the arrangement of the remains in the burial feature indicates that natural skeletonization had also occurred before final deposition. Human remains with similar patterns of modification and deposition have previously been recovered from the same site, and here we consider the potential behaviours that may have produced this suite of evidence. By comparing the remains with assemblages that have been produced through violence and through ritual activity, we demonstrate that the evidence from Kabusanza is more consistent with complex, multistage mortuary practices than other forms of processing. This may have involved some initial reduction of the body, followed by the retention or circulation of the disarticulated remains before their eventual deposition.
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