Session: #375

Theme & Session Format

Interpreting the archaeological record: artefacts, humans and landscapes
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

European Crypt Burials - a Heritage at Risk between Science and Public Display
Church vaults were used as burial places for the local nobility, the bourgeoisie and the clergy between the 16th and 19th century AD in Europe. Due to environmental conditions, the inventory of a crypt is often preserved, including coffins, fabrics, botanical and human remains. These crypts represent the unique opportunity to investigate the funeral customs of this period in great detail: While the coffins are prone to typo-chronological comparisons with their rich decoration and inscriptions, the clothing might be examined regarding style, functionality, material, and chronological era. Archival records provide us with the name, origin, status, and circumstances of death of the buried individuals and allow therefore conclusions on their social and religious background. The mummified and skeletonized human remains reveal not only living conditions and diseases of the early modern elite, but also the post mortem treatment of the corpses. However, crypts are often at risk due to changes to the built environment, cutting off the required ventilation to preserve organic materials. In this regard, conservational interventions are important to the preservation and eventually public display of crypt burials.
During this session, we would like to gather colleagues from Europe to discuss the following aspects of crypt burials and of crypt archaeology:
- social history: development and origin of crypt burial, transformation of funeral rituals, social privilege, distinction and/or cohesion;
- theology: history and context of church burial, funeral liturgy, grave goods, symbols/objects of faith;
- methodology: documentation techniques, methods for identification (church records, DNA), infestation risks;
- ethics: professionalism in crypt archaeology, handling of human remains, accessibility and current use of crypts.
crypt burial, post-medieval, coffin, historical archaeology, mummy
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
Session associated with SAfA:
Session associated with CAA:
Session associated with DGUF:
Session associated with other:


Main organiser:
Magdalena Majorek (Poland) 1
Amelie Alterauge (Switzerland) 2,3
Tiina Väre (Finland) 4
Karina Grömer (Austria) 5
1. University of Lodz
2. University of Bern
3. University of Heidelberg
4. University of Oulu
5. Natural History Museum Vienna