Covering the Dead in Later Prehistoric Britain: Elusive Objects and Powerful Technologies of Funerary Performance

Anwen Cooper, Duncan Garrow, Catriona Gibson, Melanie Giles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the containment and covering of people and objects in burials throughout later prehistory in Britain. Recent analyses of grave assemblages with exceptionally well-preserved organic remains have revealed some of the particular roles played by covers in funerary contexts. Beyond these spectacular examples, however, the objects involved in covering and containing have largely been overlooked. Many of the ‘motley crew’ of pots and stones used to wrap, cover and contain bodies (and objects) were discarded or destroyed by antiquarian investigators in their quest for more immediately dazzling items. Organic containers and covers – bags, coffins, shrouds, blankets – are rarely preserved. Our study brings together the diverse and often elusive objects that played a part in covering and containing prehistoric burials, including items that directly enclosed bodies and objects, and those that potentially pinned together (now mostly absent) organic wraps. Overall, we contend, wrapping, covering and containing were significantly more central to prehistoric funerary practices in Britain than has previously been recognised.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-250
JournalProceedings of the prehistoric Society
Early online date1 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2019


  • Grave goods
  • later prehistoric Britain
  • burial
  • funerary performance
  • covering
  • containment
  • revelation
  • transformation


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