Burial and funeral rites in Iron Age Britain

Evidence for human burials or other funerary practices is lacking for large parts of Britain in the Iron Age. Some burials have been found, but these are the exception, not the rule. In most parts of Iron Age Britain funeral rituals did not lead to burying the dead person in a grave. Individual human bones are sometimes found on Iron Age farms, hillforts and villages. More rarely, the complete skeletons of a small number of people are found placed in pits, postholes or in ditches. The evidence suggests that when most Iron Age people died they were placed somewhere until their body had rotted away, leaving just the bones - similar types of funeral rituals take place in many places around the world today. In Iron Age Britain some of the bones left behind were later buried around the settlements as part of other rituals. Those human remains that are found on settlement sites probably came from the burial of special or odd people, from human sacrifice and other rituals.

At certain times in some parts of Iron Age Britain, a tribe or community would break with the traditional ways of treating the dead and, instead, bury them in graves. This was the case in Cornwall where the dead were buried in stone lined graves for much of the Iron Age. In East Yorkshire, about 400-100 BC, the dead were buried in graves arranged in long cemeteries. In south-eastern England, from about 100 BC until after the Roman conquest, the dead were cremated before being buried.

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