Agency, structure and environment
Author: Rick Peterson

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.

Abstract only
Rick Peterson

5 Origins Introduction In this chapter, I want to consider the evidence for the origins of cave burial practice in Britain around the start of the Neolithic period. This is not to suggest that there were no intentional burials in the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic in Britain. However, as discussed in Chapter 1, the data gathered by Chamberlain (1996, Figure 1) and updated by Schulting (2007, Figure 2) shows a significant increase in burial activity which broadly coincides with the beginning of the Neolithic in Britain. In the rest of this book, I will be

in Neolithic cave burials
Rick Peterson

2 In praise of limestone The deposition of significant numbers of human remains in British caves appears to have started around the beginning of the Neolithic period. This was, of course, late in the overall European Neolithic sequence. Therefore, cave burials from across Europe have the potential to help us understand this process. Did cave burials occur in Britain after 4000 BC because cave burial became more common everywhere at this date? Was there a ‘European cave burial horizon’ which just happened to broadly coincide with the start of the British and

in Neolithic cave burials
Rick Peterson

3 Gestures and positions In Nicolas Cauwe’s (2004, 220) review of the Neolithic burials from the Meuse basin, Belgium, he uses the phrase ‘gestes posé s sur les cadavres’ to refer to the analysis of the way in which bodies are deposited. While checking my literal translation of this as ‘gestures and positions of the bodies’, I noticed my dictionary gave several examples of the idiomatic use of gestes posé s to mean ‘the rules of the game’. ‘The rules of the game’ for the bodies seems to me an excellent summary of the embodied nature of burial practice while at

in Neolithic cave burials
Abstract only
Rick Peterson

7 Deep time Introduction The sites reviewed in the last chapter demonstrated two important points. The first was that Early Neolithic cave burial was a relatively diverse set of practices, often connected to other kinds of places. Although caves and rock shelters provided one kind of active environment and helped to constitute the temporality of these rites, there is evidence that the rites could equally well have taken place in other kinds of location. The second was that most Neolithic human remains in caves date to the early part of the period. The Early

in Neolithic cave burials
Rick Peterson

8 Temporality, structure and environment Introduction In this final chapter, I will attempt to provide a synthetic overview of the evidence considered in detail in the previous three chapters. Throughout this book, I have worked on the assumption that we can best understand multi-stage collective burials by understanding the workings of the intermediary period. I have adopted Hertz’s (1960, 201–202) insight that the intermediary period connects the physical condition of the decomposing corpse with the changing social role of the deceased. The soul, for want of

in Neolithic cave burials
Rick Peterson

1 The body in the cave During the Neolithic period in Europe, caves and other underground spaces were used for burial. The evidence for this practice is reasonably well understood but, with certain exceptions such as the Belgian Middle and Late Neolithic (Cauwe 2004), cave burial has usually been regarded as something tangential to the broader narrative of the European Neolithic. Caves are often treated as places for simple expedient burial, perhaps for less socially favoured members of society, when compared to an assumed norm of burial in monuments (see, for

in Neolithic cave burials
Abstract only
Rick Peterson

6 Written on the body Introduction In the previous chapter, I established that multi-stage cave burial rites in Britain had their origins at the beginning of the fourth millennium BC. The review of this evidence also shows that even within these few early cave burials, there were different rites and practices. In this chapter, I will discuss the greater range of evidence we have for cave burial from after around 3800 BC. By this date, in all of the regions of Britain where there are cave burials, a Neolithic way of life was at least a possibility. This is not

in Neolithic cave burials
Abstract only
National and local contexts
Julie Rugg

3981 Churchyard and cemetery:Layout 1 3/7/13 08:46 Page 35 2 Burial in 1850: national and local contexts It is always tempting to view the beginning of any research period as a static point from which substantial change then takes place. No such claim is made here. Even from the 1820s, burial provision was in flux. Early in the decade, the economic viability of the joint-stock cemetery format had been firmly proved by the establishment of cemeteries in Manchester and Liverpool, and from the earliest years of Queen Victoria’s reign cemeteries were becoming

in Churchyard and cemetery
Modernisation and marginalisation (1984–92)
Andrew W.M. Smith

6 Burial or resurrection? Modernisation and marginalisation (1984–92) Just outside Carcassonne at 10 p.m. on 20 April 1984, around 100 ‘wine commandos’ gathered in the car park of a Leclerc supermarket.1 The swelling crowd was soon spotted in the darkness by the store’s night watchman. Concerned, he tried to challenge them. Their response, sporting balaclavas and with weapons in hand, was a gruff warning that the guard should disappear and lock up his guard dogs. No sooner had he retreated than the hooded men advanced on the empty store.2 With iron bars they

in Terror and terroir