St Bees Man: A Cold Case Review

Author(s): Emily Cline

Year: 2015


St Bees Man was discovered in 1981 during an archaeological excavation of the south chancel aisle of St Bees Priory in Cumbria, England. His body was extremely well-preserved with pink tissue, blood present, and intact organs all observed during a forensic autopsy. This ‘cold case’ review shows the importance of balancing both archaeological and forensic techniques. In forensic archaeology, the handling of potential evidence, overall sampling strategy, and opportunity for further analysis are significant factors in the re-examination of archaeological cold cases. After providing background information on this case and analyzing previous research involving St Bees Man, new evidence is given for the mechanism of preservation in the burial environment using analytical techniques including XRF/EDS, textile analysis, and soil analysis. While efforts were made to preserve St Bees Man at the time of his death, many other factors influenced the remains, most significantly the inter-relationship of the lead, resin, shroud, soil, geology, and moisture in the burial environment. This presentation will consider the burial environment, preservation methods, adipocere formation, issues with exhumation, and the opportunity for interviews and further forensic analysis in an archaeological cold case along with the burden of proof for establishing an identity for St Bees Man.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

St Bees Man: A Cold Case Review. Emily Cline. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398364)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;