Neolithic cave burials

Agency, structure and environment

The book studies Neolithic burial in Britain by focussing primarily on evidence from caves. It interprets human remains from forty-eight Neolithic caves and compares them to what we know of Neolithic collective burial elsewhere in Britain and Europe. It provides a contextual archaeology of these cave burials, treating them as important evidence for the study of Neolithic mortuary practice generally. It begins with a thoroughly contextualized review of the evidence from the karst regions of Europe. It then goes on to provide an up-to-date and critical review of the archaeology of Neolithic funerary practice. This review uses the ethnographically documented concept of the ‘intermediary period’ in multi-stage burials to integrate archaeological evidence, cave sedimentology and taphonomy. Neolithic caves and environments and the dead bodies within them would also have been perceived as active subjects with similar kinds of agency to the living. The book demonstrates that cave burial was one of the earliest elements of the British Neolithic. It also shows that Early Neolithic cave burial practice was very varied, with many similarities to other Neolithic burial rites. However, by the Middle Neolithic, cave burial had changed and a funerary practice which was specific to caves had developed.


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