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8.3 Coffin and Shroud Fittings

8.3.1 Introduction

Iron nails were found in many of the burials excavated at this site but of the 209 burials uncovered during this excavation, 22 (+E19) had definitely been buried in wooden coffins and a further 19 (+E19) contained a number of nails within the fill but there was no further evidence of a coffin. Within the church and to the north and south of the church and west range (189 burials), many of the burials were very badly disturbed by later medieval grave digging. In several it was possible to see lines of iron nails indicating the outline of the coffin from which the wood had completely disappeared. Wood was generally better preserved in burials within the 'graveyard' area (23 burials) and rectangular dark stains were remains of the wood used to construct the coffins. It was not possible to lift and identify any wood, however, nor was it possible to identify individual planks, which would have allowed a reconstruction of a coffin.

Shroud pins and twisted wires were found in a number of graves. As well as this evidence, many of the bones displayed green staining from copper objects included in the graves. Many of these would have been shroud fasteners.

8.3.2 Coffin nails

Hundreds of coffin nails were excavated from the burial soils, including a group of 32 nails from one burial, AKP [1871]. Very few other iron objects were found in the graves. An iron buckle or coffin handle [1661] was found in a burial soil [phase 2c].

8.3.2 Shroud fastenings

These include lace-ends, pins and twisted wires which may have been used to fasten shrouds or used more generally for fastening clothing. The majority were found in burial soils although a few were residual, found in later features which had cut through the burial soils. Lace-ends from burial soils (including SK 51 [1630, 1631 and 1633]) indicate burial in day-to-day clothing, or may indicate that shrouds were laced together.

Lace-ends are found on many archaeological sites, notably at St Peter's Street, Northampton (Oakley et al. 1979, 262-3, fig 113, nos 254, etc) and at Hadleigh Castle, Essex (Drewett 1975, 14405, fig 29). There were two distinct types of lace-end present. Type 1 is cylindrical with both ends the same diameter, with the edges abutting or folded over. Type 2 is slightly narrower than Type 1, tapering towards one end.

Twisted wire rings [927, 928, 929] are usually associated with the fastening of clothing, but were found on this excavation associated with burial soils. At Linlithgow (Stones 1989, 159) one had been stitched on to leather and a small staple on the reverse side is thought to have provided some additional strength to the fastening. These rings may have been attached to a form of leather shroud as eyelets and coupled up with wooden toggles or pegs.

Pins were found in a variety of contexts including burial soils. The few that were complete or had their head still attached, had wire-wound and 'blob' heads. These would have been used for a variety of purposes to secure clothing and shrouds.


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