A later prehistoric mortuary complex on the Moray Firth: The Covesea Caves, NE Scotland


The Sculptor’s Cave in NE Scotland is known for its Late Bronze Age and Roman Iron Age human remains, which were unearthed during excavations in 1928-30 and 1979: the former suggest the curation and display of (possibly fleshed and adorned) juvenile heads, while the latter indicate the practice of decapitation of (predominantly adult) individuals inside the cave. These remains are being analysed as part of a project at the University of Bradford to reanalyse and publish the excavation archive. In addition, recent fieldwork at an adjacent cave (Covesea Cave 2) is beginning to reveal similar evidence to that from within the Sculptor’s Cave, suggesting that the latter was not unique but part of a larger mortuary landscape along this stretch of the Moray coastline. This paper will examine preliminary findings from the Covesea Cave assemblage, with evidence for excarnation, trauma, selective redeposition and processing of certain skeletal elements, in what could be considered a ‘chaîne opératoire’ of later prehistoric mortuary practice, and will compare this from what is already known from the Sculptor’s Cave and elsewhere in Britain and Europe.

Cite this Record

A later prehistoric mortuary complex on the Moray Firth: The Covesea Caves, NE Scotland. Lindsey Büster, Ian Armit, Laura Castells Navarro, Jo Buckberry, Rick Schulting. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404572)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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