Skip Nav

Beliefs and Festivals: objects

Corded urn

Corded urn

 

Decorated urns

These burial urns were excavated at Eweford near Dunbar before the A1 was built. They were buried upside down with the cremated remains of the deceased inside. They date to the Bronze Age.

1) Collared urn
2) Corded urn

Offerings and feasting

The burial ground at Eweford lasted for about 14 generations (around 400 years).

Animal bone found with the burials suggests that either food was burned with the bodies to take to the afterlife or that the mourners held a ‘wake’ as part of the funeral.

Bucket urn

Bronze Age bucket urn

Bronze age bucket urn

Bucket urns are straight-sided burial urns and are often undecorated. This urn was excavated at Thurston Manor Caravan Park near Innerwick.

A photograph of this urn being excavated can be seen on the Beliefs and Festivals main page.

Decorating urns
Various decorative designs can be found on Bronze Age pottery. Common designs include herringbone patterns, diamonds, triangles, dots, lines and circles. These were all pressed or cut into the clay while it was still soft.

We don’t know if there was any significance to the designs but some people think that they had a special meaning to either the deceased or their loved ones.

People used different things to decorate the pots, such as:
Coarse string or cord pressed into the clay;
Sticks or grasses brushed across the clay;
Dots made in the clay with a small stick;
Finger marks;
Grooves cut into the clay.

Polished axe heads

Polished axe heads

Big axe, little axe

Polished Stone Axes date from the Late Neolithic period to the Bronze Age. They come in all shapes and sizes.

3–6) Polished stone axes
7) Small polished stone axe
8 ) Small Stone Battle Axe from Eweford

An axe for all seasons
Like modern axes, stone axes are different sizes for different uses. They could be used for many tasks from chopping wood to clearing weeds and digging furrows for planting seeds. The polished surface strengthens the axe and makes it last longer.

Objects of special meaning?
Everyday items are often found alongside burials. Many of the objects were still useable and placing them with the deceased was a mark of respect or remembrance.

Several of the stone axes in the display were uncovered with burials. The axes themselves show signs of being used day to day. Were these tools to help the deceased in the afterlife or was it more a remembrance of the person’s life? We will never know.

Can you think of other objects often buried with a person? Here are some things that have been found:
Coins – often found with Roman burials, to pay the ferryman to take the deceased across the river Styx;
Jewellery or weapons – possibly a mark of the deceased person’s status in life.

Medieval mould for pilgrim medals

Medieval mould and cast for pilgrim medals

Medals with memories

 Pilgrimage medals have been used since the medieval period as souvenirs of a trip to a shrine or church.9) Pilgrim medal cast from the mould (10)
10) Medieval mould for pilgrim medals from St Andrews Kirk, North Berwick (replica)

Medieval grave marker

Medieval grave marker

Medieval grave marker

While digging a duck pond near North Berwick Priory in 1895 a farmer unearthed this 12th-century grave marker.

Afterwards it stood in North Berwick Lodge grounds for a time. We do not know whose grave it marked.

Stones and statues
From at least the Neolithic period, people have put up monuments and markers in the landscape. Whether it is to mark the grave of a loved one, to commemorate an event or mark a special place, these monuments are often still visible in the landscape.

With the passage of time we have lost the meaning and intent behind many of these monuments but we can still understand and respect that they held significance to our ancestors.

Here are some recent monuments or markers – can you think of any others?
War memorials;
Statues of sporting icons or events;
Filmstar handprints on Hollywood Boulevard;
Flags on the moon!

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *