A team of academics at the University of Glasgow has announced a new research project designed to explore the burgeoning UK funerary phenomenon of being interred within modern reconstructions of prehistoric-style burial mounds.
A British Academy Leverhulme small grant was awarded to Dr Kenny Brophy, the university’s Professor of Archaeology, and PhD researcher Andrew Watson for their project, Death BC.
They will investigate the recent trend for constructing burial mounds as columbaria – places for housing the cremated remains of the deceased. These megalithic structures draw their inspiration from the Neolithic and Bronze Age burial mounds known as ‘barrows’.
The Long Barrow at All Cannings, Wiltshire, was the first barrow to be built in Britain for thousands of years. Completed in 2014, it comprises a passageway linking to five stone chambers with niches in which to store cremation urns. As is the case with many famous prehistoric megaliths, the barrow is aligned with the winter solstice.
There are now more than a dozen burial mounds in operation, or in the planning process, throughout the UK.
Through archaeological fieldwork and surveys, the research team will explore how the architecture and design of each barrow has been influenced by its prehistoric predecessors, and conduct interviews to shed light on why people have chosen these mounds as their final resting place.
Commenting on modern-day approaches to death and burial, Dr Brophy said: ‘The construction of prehistoric-style monuments appears to be more fashionable now than it has been for millennia and I want to make sense of why this might be.’
‘Death BC is the first project of its kind and builds on my doctoral research with Dr Brophy,’ said Andrew Watson, whose work includes the study of the Cotswold-Severn megalithic long barrows.
‘This project will allow us to advance this research further, exploring the significance of these monuments not only to people interring loved ones but to wider society,’ he added. ‘We also hope to be able to explore contemporary perspectives on death, burial, mourning and remembrance through these monuments and the communities associated with them.’