Mortuary house

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In archaeology and anthropology a mortuary house is any purpose-built structure, often resembling a normal dwelling in many ways, in which a dead body is buried.

Following the laying to rest of the deceased, who is often surrounded with grave goods, an earthwork called a kurgan in Russian or barrow in English is raised over the house and the structure left sealed.

The term has parallels with Christian sepulchres which contain only one burial. Mortuary houses differ from mortuary enclosures in size, design and in the latter's capacity for multiple burials.

Case Studies[edit]

Ballyveelish, Co. Tipperary Ireland [1]

The outline of a timber building was discovered by an archaeologist. From the circle of post holes and foundation trenches, the house was determined to be 7m x 5.1m. This structure was classified as a mortuary house, instead of dwelling, because of a lack of evidence for a hearth.

It is believed the mortuary house was built to serve a ceremonial function associated with the interment of human remains. Using radiocarbon dating it was determined this site was erected in the Bronze Age.


  1. ^ Doody, M. "An Early Bronze Age Burial At Ballyveelish, Co. Tipperary." Tipperary Historical Journal. 1988.