Session: #452

Theme & Session Format

6. Material culture studies and societies
Session format:
Discussion session (with formal abstracts)

Title & Content

European Crypt Burials II - A Heritage (Still) at Risk between Science and Public Display
Church vaults were used as burial places for the European nobility, bourgeoisie and clergy between the 16th and 19th century AD. Due to the environmental conditions, the complete inventory of a crypt is often preserved, including coffins, fabrics, clothes, personal goods, botanical and human remains. These crypts give us important insights into the funeral customs, beliefs and traditions of the early modern period and allow us to investigate sepultures of the social elite in great detail. The vaults are also places of memoria, social representation, familial affiliation and resurrection, which becomes evident through the elaborately decorated and inscribed coffins. Though, 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 potential public display of crypt burials.

Researchers from various European countries gathered during Session #375 at the EAA 2019 in Bern and presented individual case studies, resulting in a volume of the "Acta Universitatis Lodziensis. Folia Archaeologica" (2020).
The goal of the session’s revival is to focus on the following aspects of crypt burial and of crypt archaeology:

- Cultural history: development and origin of crypt burial, transformation of funeral rituals;
- Archaeological evidence: crypt and coffin types, grave goods, symbols/objects of faith, inscriptions, clothing;
- Methodology: documentation techniques, methods for identification, infestation risks;
- Ethics: professionalism in crypt archaeology, handling of human remains, accessibility and current use of crypts.

Our aim is to go beyond local case studies in order to achieve a better understanding of regional and large-scale trends in early modern burial traditions.
crypt burial, church vault, post-medieval, historical archaeology, mummy studies
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
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Main organiser:
Amelie Alterauge (Switzerland) 1,2
Magdalena Majorek (Poland) 3
Karina Grömer (Austria) 4
Tiina Väre (Finland) 5
Sanna Lipkin (Finland) 5
1. Institute of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bern
2. Institute of Pre- and Protohistory and Near Eastern Archaeology, University of Heidelberg
3. Institute of Archaeology, University of Lodz
4. Department of Prehistory, Natural History Museum Vienna
5. Department of Archaeology, University of Oulu