Children’s Burial Grounds in Ireland (Cilliní) and Parental Emotions Toward Infant Death

Article

Abstract

Cilliní—or children’s burial grounds—were the designated resting places for unbaptized infants and other members of Irish society who were considered unsuitable by the Roman Catholic Church for burial in consecrated ground. The sites appear to have proliferated from the seventeenth century onwards in the wake of the Counter-Reformation. While a number of previous studies have attempted to relate their apparently marginal characteristics to the liminality of Limbo, evidence drawn from the archaeological record and oral history accounts suggests that it was only the Roman Catholic Church that considered cilliní, and those interred within, to be marginal. In contrast, the evidence suggests that the families of the dead regarded the cemeteries as important places of burial and treated them in a similar manner to consecrated burial grounds.

Keywords

Burials Unbaptized infants Archaeology of emotion Ireland 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Dr. Colm Donnelly, Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork, Queen’s University Belfast, for his support and encouragement during the preparation of this article and for his comments on earlier drafts of the text. I am also very grateful to Joanna Nolan, Mayo County Council, for many stimulating discussions about the cillín at Tonybaun, County Mayo and for her permission to use the illustration displayed in Fig. 2, which was drawn by Paddy Ryder. I would also like to thank Michael Gibbons, Walking Ireland, for providing me with valuable information concerning cilliní in Connemara. I am also very grateful to Sharon Greene Douglas, School of Archaeology, University College Dublin, for bringing the photograph of the graveyard at Inishkea North to my attention and to the School of Archaeology, University College Dublin, for permitting me to use this image. Thanks are also due to Patrick Murphy, Derrygonnelly, for providing me with Fig. 4; to Tony Corey, NIEA, for providing me with access and permitting me to use Fig. 1 and to Libby Mulqueeny, School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen’s University Belfast, for re-drawing Fig. 5.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Geography, Archaeology and PalaeoecologyQueen’s University BelfastBelfastNorthern Ireland

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