Dr Jenny Crangle


I completed my doctoral thesis in September 2015 and have since been focussing on writing articles on my research, and applying for postdoctoral fellowships. I am interested in funerary archaeology and osteology, particularly in relation to the medieval period of England and the rest of Europe. My research focuses on funerary treatments exacted on human skeletal material and the curation of the dead, both physically and ideologically.

Along with Dr Elizabeth Craig-Atkins and Professor Dawn Hadley, I have established the departmental project on Rothwell Charnel Chapel based on the medieval crypt and collection of human skeletal material at Holy Trinity Church, Rothwell, Northamptonshire.

PhD title

A study of post-depositional funerary practices in medieval England

My research examined the post-mortem treatments of human remains, following initial deposition, throughout the English medieval period (c.600-1550). Peri-mortem treatment of the body and the fate of the soul post-mortem have been extensively studied for this period. However, the fate of physical remains has been largely neglected in comparison, despite there being substantial excavated and documentary evidence for a variety of post-mortem and post-inhumation disturbances and customs.

Certain post-depositional behaviours are frequently encountered in archaeological excavations, such as intercutting of burials and charnel pits in cemeteries and cathedral complexes. To date, these have consistently been interpreted on a purely functional basis, with the assumption that it was necessary to disturb existing graves in order to continue inhuming the deceased in an over-crowded graveyard. Any such collections of disarticulated and disinterred remains are routinely dismissed as simply representing the by-product of such activities, and consequently are thought to be devoid of any symbolic or liturgical purpose.

On sites where time and financial constraints are an issue, charnel habitually is not osteologically examined or even recorded for subsequent reports. Other physical engagements with the buried dead, such as the creation of charnel chapels or translations and elevations, are routinely misunderstood and remain under-researched compared to contemporary pre and peri-depositional funerary practices.

This PhD aims to examine the evidence for medieval post-mortem disturbance to establish when such post-depositional treatments originated, to trace how they developed throughout the period, to identify possible reasons for their cessation and to understand their role within medieval spiritual and ideological beliefs and society. This will incorporate all manifestations of post-burial disturbance, including ossuaries, charnel chapels and charnel pits, emptied graves, relics, successively reopened tombs and graves, additions to existing graves, and box and bag burials of disarticulated individuals.

If it can be demonstrated that the post-inhumation treatments were not limited to circumstantial disturbance in crowded graveyards, then an argument may be made for such acts having been a deliberate practice representing a function and purpose beyond the practicalities of re-using limited consecrated space. A multi-disciplinary approach will be adopted, utilising documentary evidence in the form of wills and contemporary accounts of the dead, osteological analyses of charnel and ossuaries from medieval graveyard sites, and a review of monastic and ecclesiastic sites to verify occurrences of potential post-depositional disturbance.

The approach will include a structural and architectural analysis of secular buildings and complexes to identify any patterns in the spatial location of disturbances. A review of European post-burial evidence will also be undertaken to identify any similarities or traits to English examples.

It is expected that this research will elucidate a misunderstood and frequently unrecognised medieval funerary practise where disarticulated, disturbed and disinterred skeletal remains were curated as opposed to being merely collected or conveniently relocated, and one where the dead were compassionately maintained on spiritual and visual terms, by the living.


  • PhD, University of Sheffield (2011-2015). ‘A study of post-depositional funerary practices in medieval England.’

  • MSc Osteoarchaeology, Bournemouth University, Distinction (2007-2009). Dissertation: ‘Ossuaries and the curation of the dead in medieval England and Europe; Saving of space or saving the soul?’

  • MA Archaeology, Reading University, Merit (2004). Dissertation: ‘Perceiving Neanderthal inhumations: Evaluating the preconditions for intentional inhumations’ existence.’

  • BA University College Cork (UCC), Merit (2002). Dissertation: ‘The question of middle Palaeolithic intentional burials.’


  • 2015: ‘Why did England change its mind? Perceptions regarding human skeletal remains before, during and after the Reformation’, in ‘Anthropological Reformations - Anthropology in the era of Reformation’ (RefoRC Conference Volume Berlin 2013).

  • 2013: ‘The Rothwell Charnel Chapel and Ossuary Project’, PastHorizons.

  • 2005: Archaeological Illustration, Association of Archaeological Illustration & Surveyors (AAI&S), Winter 2004.

  • 2003: ‘The question of middle Palaeolithic intentional burials’, AYIA (The Association of Young Irish Archaeologists), Spring 2003.

Conferences and presentations

  • Presentation, Kettering Museum, 15 April 2016.

  • Presentation, Leeds University Medieval Group Seminar Series, 15 February 2016.

  • Kettering

  • Presentation, UCC (University College Cork) MSc Osteoarchaeology students, 22 October, ‘The sentient dead in medieval England (c.500-1550): Contemporary and current perceptions of the buried dead’.

  • Podium presentation, International Medieval Conference, Leeds, July 2016, ‘Post-depositional disturbance of the medieval buried dead: A functional response to overcrowded cemeteries, or a forgotten funerary practice?’

  • Podium presentation, EAA (European Association of Archaeologists), Glasgow, September 2015, ‘The sentient dead: Managing the medieval cemetery’, The control and management of burial in Christian cemeteries session.

  • Co-Organiser with Elizabeth Craig-Atkins, EAA September 2015, The control and management of burial in Christian cemeteries session.

  • Podium presentation, Day of the Dead: Recent Research in Human Osteoarchaeology.

  • Conference, Belfast, October 2014, ‘English medieval post-burial funerary practices: New insights into old bones’.

  • Podium presentation, 10th Annual Medievalism Transformed Conference, Bangor, June 2014, ‘The sentient dead: Perceptions of corpses and skeletons in medieval England’.

  • Poster presentation, BABAO (British Association of Biological Anthropology & Osteoarchaeology), York, September 2013, ‘Charnel chapels: An examination of a forgotten medieval funerary practice’.

  • Joint podium presentation, with Elizabeth Craig-Atkins, BABAO, York, September 2013, ‘Post-mortem treatment of the body in an early Christian context: New insights from early medieval Kirkdale, North Yorkshire’.

  • Podium presentation, EAA, Plzen, September 2013, ‘Rest in pieces? A re-assessment of post-depositional disturbance and disarticulation of human remains during the English medieval period’.

  • Podium presentation, The Third RefoRC (Reformation Research Consortium) Conference, Berlin, May 2013, ‘Why did England change its mind? Perceptions regarding human skeletal remains before, during and after the Reformation.’

  • Podium presentation, YAPG (Yorkshire Archaeology Postgraduate Group Conference), June 2013, ‘The Rothwell Ossuary and Charnel Chapel Project’.

  • Podium presentation, DVAD (Dearne Valley Archaeology Day), February 2013, ‘The Rothwell Charnel Chapel Project: A new analysis of a medieval crypt and ossuary’.

  • Podium presentation, BABAO, Bournemouth, September 2012, ‘Rest in pieces: The archaeology of medieval post-depositional disturbance’.

Awards and scholarships

  • Award for Best Student Podium Presentation, Day of the Dead: Recent Research in Human Osteoarchaeology, Conference, October 2014.

  • Full University of Sheffield Faculty Studentship/Scholarship, PhD, 2011.

  • Bournemouth University Hilary Williams Travel Scholarship, Spring 2009.

  • Nominated for the Society of Post-Medieval Archaeology Student Dissertation Prize Award, 2009.

Teaching and outreach experience

  • Tutor (adults with learning difficulties), WEA, Melville House Bradford, ‘Introduction to Archaeology’ and ‘Medieval Archaeology’, January 2015 to current.

  • Organiser and Lecturer, Introduction to Human Osteology Short Course, University of Sheffield, 10-12 April, 3-5 September 2014.

  • Teacher, Dux Teaching Scheme, University of Sheffield, June, July 2013, February, March 2014.

  • Demonstrating Assistant, Osteology, Deptartment of Archaeology, various dates autumn semester 2012 and 2013.

  • Tutor, First Year Archaeology Undergraduates ‘Discoverers and Discoveries’, ‘World Civilisations’, spring semester 2012, autumn semester 2012, spring semester 2013.

  • Demonstrator, MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry), Science Festival. Collaborating with Metropolitan Manchester University ‘Bone Ages’ event, November 2013, 2 November 2014.

  • Volunteer, Department of Archaeology open day, Osteology Lab - Organiser, Rothwell Charnel Chapel Project open day, Northamptonshire, 10 August 2013, 28 June 2014.

  • Dissertation Advisor, MSc students ‘Rothwell Charnel Chapel Project’, April to August 2013, April to August 2014, April to current 2015.

  • Osteology Demonstrator, Western Bank Museum open day, 28 May 2013.

  • Osteology Demonstrator, Ilam Archaeology Day, National Trust, 30 June 2013.

  • Volunteer, Sheffield Festival of the Mind: Archaeology Department outreach event ‘Forensic investigation’, 28 September 2012.

  • Voluntary Instructor, Osteology, WEA (Workers Education Authority), Hillsborough, Milton Court Doncaster, Wombwell Barnsley, Brinsworth Local History Society, 3 July 2012, 25 February 2013, 28 March 2013, 10 June 2013.

  • Osteology Demonstrator, Heeley City Farm, Festival of British Archaeology, July 2012.

  • Organiser, Departmental Lunchtime Lecture Series and 50th Anniversary Sheffield Archaeology Lecture Series.

  • Demonstrator, English Heritage at Fort Cumberland, Festival of British Archaeology, July 2009.

  • Demonstrator, Osteological Laboratory Techniques, March 2008.

  • Voluntary Osteology Demonstrator, St Mark’s Primary School, Salisbury, Wool First School, Dorset, April 2007, March 2008, July 2009.