I've found some more information about another of my favourite research subjects...that of burial rites and traditions and everything associated with them...
The Church took little interest in where the dead were buried until around the end of the eleventh century...it wasn't until then, when the various parishes of England were suffering from a general lack of funds, that the Church began to lay down rules and regulations. One of which was making certain the deceased relatives paid up-front for a burial place in consecrated ground. Village and town Priests actually made a bee-line for the bedside of anyone near to death to ensure the burial fee was paid over...there were reports of squabbles breaking out when Parish boundaries were disputed and a Priest saw his payment disappear into the greedy hands of a neighbouring Priest from an adjoining Parish.
There were execution cemeteries...I'd never heard of them before...specifically for the remains of people who'd been executed for a crime or crimes. Archaeologists have found the evidence in the cuts on the neck which indicate a beheading...and some skeletons were lacking an arm or a foot...punishment it is thought for a misdemeanour. It is recorded that thieves had a hand removed in those days much as modern days thieves in countries like Saudi Arabia.
It was the Church who also introduced burial within the Church grounds...prior to that people were buried where it was convenient...a section of land outside a village maybe or at a parish boundary.
With burial within Church grounds came deviant burials of those the Church deemed unsuitable to be laid to their eternal rest in consecrated ground...anyone unworthy was buried outside the Church boundary. This practice was prevalent in Ireland of course until the late 1960's.
Some people were buried in their clothes and others in shrouds, still others were laid out in hollowed out tree trunks or the wooden chest once used to keep the linen in. It wasn't until later...around the end of the 12c, that wooden coffins became the norm.
The evidence varies according to soil conditions but simple shroud pins obviously indicate a burial shroud whereas tiny fragments of cloth...often embroidered...indicate a person who was buried wearing their best clothes. By the time all burials took place within the Church boundaries it was no longer the tradition to place grave goods in with the corpse. Prior to those burials, grave goods...finger rings, necklaces, polished quartz pebbles and sometimes a small drinking vessel were the norm.
It isn't possible of course, but I'd like to know how some of my ancestors were buried. The Victorians are easy...and they obligingly all had inscribed headstones...but what about those who lived and died six hundred years ago...I wonder where they are and if they were put in the old linen trunk or just wrapped in a shroud...I wonder whether they lay within the boundaries of a Church or in disgrace just outside...
It doesn't much matter, but it'd be interesting to know.