Post-Mortem Interactions with Human Remains at the Covesea Caves in NE Scotland


As liminal places between the above-ground world of daily experience and the underworld, caves form a persistent focus for human engagements with the supernatural. As such they have frequently been used as places for the dead, whether as final resting places or as places of transformation. Late Bronze Age human remains were recovered from the Sculptor’s Cave, on the Moray Firth in North-East Scotland, during the 1920s and 1970s. They suggest the curation and display of human bodies and body parts, associated with wooden structures and a range of objects dominated by small personal ornaments. Recent fieldwork at the nearby Covesea Cave 2 has revealed similar evidence, as have other caves along the same stretch of coast. The Cave 2 assemblage displays evidence for excarnation, trauma, selective redeposition and processing of bodies and body parts. Although individuals appear to have entered the cave whole, certain elements were subsequently removed, while others appear to have been displayed. In this paper we consider the ways in which the Late Bronze Age communities of this region interacted with their dead and consider the role of the Covesea sea caves as a coastal mortuary landscape.

Cite this Record

Post-Mortem Interactions with Human Remains at the Covesea Caves in NE Scotland. Ian Armit, Lindsey Büster, Rick Schulting, Laura Castells Navarro, Jo Buckberry. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429261)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14350