Crypt Burials from the Cloister Church of Riesa (Germany) – Changes of Funerary Customs, Body Treatment, and Attitudes to Death.

Alterauge, Amelie; Hofmann, Cornelia (2020). Crypt Burials from the Cloister Church of Riesa (Germany) – Changes of Funerary Customs, Body Treatment, and Attitudes to Death. Acta Universitatis Lodziensis. Folia Archaeologica, 35, pp. 73-96. Uniwersytet Łódzki 10.18778/0208-6034.35.05

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The cloister church of Riesa (Saxony, Germany) contains two burial crypts which were used from the 17th to 19th century AD by local noble families, namely the barons von Felgenhauer, Hanisch/von Odeleben and von Welck. The crypt beneath the altar originally contained 50 inhumations of which about 30 are still preserved at present, either as coffins and/or mummies, while the northern crypt contained eight interments.

During the last two centuries, the crypts have experienced major changes which could partly be reconstructed through historical records, photographs and oral history. The aim of the investigations, supported by the parish and the city museum, was to document the current state-of-preservation and to identify the inhumations by combining different types of evidence.

The coffins were visually inspected and dated by typo-chronological comparisons, and inscriptions were transliterated whenever possible. Material, fabrication, clothing type and dating of the garments were determined during costume analysis. The mummified remains were subjected to a morphological investigation, including X-rays. Different body treatments resulting in natural or artificial mummification could be observed. In selected cases, samples for aDNA analysis were taken to test for kinship between individuals, and stable isotope analysis was performed for the reconstruction of diet, origin and age of weaning. Probable identification could only be achieved for the individuals with contextual information; however, the bioarchaeological analyses are still ongoing.

The coffin ornamentation and inscriptions as well as the garments show chronological changes as well as individual preferences from the 17th to 19th century, most distinctive in the children burials. Faith in God and hope of resurrection remain constant attitudes to death, but familial affiliation becomes an important factor in early modern noble burials.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of Archaeological Sciences > Pre- and Early History
04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute of Legal Medicine > Anthropology

UniBE Contributor:

Alterauge, Amelie Sophie


900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)
900 History > 940 History of Europe




Uniwersytet Łódzki




Amelie Sophie Alterauge

Date Deposited:

19 Apr 2021 10:15

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:50

Publisher DOI:





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