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Blood is thicker than baptismal water: A late medieval perinatal burial in a small household chest

Cootes, KVE, Thomas, M, Jordan, D, Axworthy, J and Carlin, R (2021) Blood is thicker than baptismal water: A late medieval perinatal burial in a small household chest. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 31 (3). pp. 358-365. ISSN 1047-482X

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The interment of stillborn infants in later medieval burial grounds stands at odds with Catholic Church Law, which forbade the inclusion of unbaptised children within consecrated ground. When perinatal remains occur within graveyards, their interpretation can be problematic. Did they live to be baptised, or do such examples represent clandestine burials? Historical documents indicate that some parents disobeyed the Church and secretly buried their offspring within consecrated ground. Proving such actions in the archaeological record, however, is another matter. This paper therefore investigates the discovery of a perinatal burial (Sk953) within a rural graveyard at Poulton in Cheshire, England, placed in a small household box. A multi‐faceted approach was used to interpret the varying strands of evidence. These comprised church law, the birth, container, orientation of the corpse, local topography, date of burial, and status of the graveyard when the infant was interred. The authors interpret the evidence as characteristic of a clandestine burial, and a rare expression of grief and love visible in the archaeological record.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 0403 Geology, 1601 Anthropology, 2101 Archaeology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (from Sep 19)
Publisher: Wiley
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2021 12:57
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2021 06:00
DOI or ID number: 10.1002/oa.2955
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/14384
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