Sunday, 8 May 2016

Coffin Dolls of Arthur's Seat

Coffin dolls - Scotland's National Museum, Edinburgh
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"Seventeen miniature coffins were found in 1836 on Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, each containing a clothed figure. No one knows what they were, why they were buried or who buried them, but people have been trying to solve the mystery ever since.

At the time of their discovery The Scotsman newspaper suggested they were used by witches casting death spells on specific individuals. Another theory is that they were kept by sailors to protect against death.

They may even represent a mock burial, possibly for the 17 known victims of Burke and Hare. In 1827-8 Burke and Hare, working in Edinburgh, sold the bodies of people they had murdered for dissection in the city's anatomy classes. This horrified many Scots who feared that a dissected body would not rise to life at the Last Judgement. William Burke was caught and executed for his crimes in 1829. Ironically, his body was legally given to an antaomy class for dissection. Look at the mortsafe for more about Burke and Hare. 

We are unlikely ever to be sure of the meaning of the coffins. It remains with the hidden aspects of death and belief in Scotland."