This chapter provides a brief overview of the emergence of children and childhood as a subject for archaeological investigation, before outlining archaeological evidence for medieval birth and childhood from settlement and cemetery excavations. Children’s burials provide information on the social persona and treatment of children at death, attitudes to the death of infants and older children, and their memorialization in the form of burial location, and above-ground monuments such as brasses. Skeletal material yields evidence of age at death, as well as information on health and life-course. Isotope and other scientific analyses of skeletal material is providing further information about childhoods, including diet and migration. Settlements are a fruitful source of information about geographies of medieval childhoods, children’s involvement in work and play, and the material culture of medieval childhood.
This chapter discusses medieval burial ritual, including the act of burial, cemeteries and burial location, and the grave goods of priest, bishops, nobility, and royalty which included a wide range of clothing and objects associated with their office. The burial of Richard III illustrates how much bioarchaeology can now reveal to us about the biography of the body in the grave. Also outlined here are the distinctive mortuary practices of, for example, Jews, lepers, heretics, and suicides as well as the mainstream Christian tradition of heart burials. Commemorative monuments of all levels of society are described, from medieval royal tombs to the graves of the poorest parishioner, though minor monuments within the graveyard are only rarely discovered.
This chapter discusses the influence of medieval beliefs in the afterlife on church form and fabric, as well as the role of archaeology in articulating a more holistic approach to the surviving evidence. In particular, this study reassesses traditional art historical approaches in light of recent archaeological research. It considers the various theoretical approaches, such as spatial and view-shed analysis, which have provided a more interpretative and contextual framework for the investigation of medieval religion, particularly with regard to the importance of ‘seeing’ within church memorial and intercessory ritual. In particular, this paper examines the development of Purgatorial beliefs and the role of the chantry chapel and related memorial spaces in late medieval religious experience, as well as the crucial and implicit role of the laity in church memorial practice.