In June 1836 five young boys, hunting for rabbits on the north-eastern slopes Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh, found 17 miniature coffins hidden inside a cave.
They were arranged under slates on three tiers, two tiers of eight and one solitary coffin on the top. Each coffin, only 95mm in length, contained a little wooden figure, expertly carved with painted black boots and custom made clothes.
They may represent a mock burial, possibly for the 17 known victims of Burke and Hare. Working in Edinburgh, they 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 anatomy class for dissection.
We are unlikely to be sure about the meaning of the coffins. It remains hidden, among many other aspects of death and belief in Scotland.
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The Burke and Hare murders (also known as the West Port murders) were a series of murders committed in Edinburgh, Scotland over a period of about ten months in 1828. The killings were attributed to Irish immigrants William Burke and William Hare, who sold the corpses of their 16 victims to Doctor Robert Knox as dissection material for his well-attended anatomy lectures. Burke and Hare’s accomplices were Burke’s mistress, Helen McDougal, and Hare’s wife, Margaret Laird. From their method of killing their victims came the word “burking”, meaning to smother and compress the chest of a murder victim, and a derived meaning, to suppress something quietly.  {via}

 

 

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