Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Mystery of the Miniature Coffins
In July 1836 five boys hunting for rabbits on the slopes of Arthur's Seat made a strange discov-
ery: in a hollow beneath a rock, arranged on a pile of slates, were 17 tiny wooden coffins. Each
was just 4 inches (10cm) long and contained a roughly carved human figure dressed in handmade
Many theories have been put forward in explanation, but the most convincing is that the coffins
were made in response to the infamous Burke and Hare murders of 1831-32: the number of
coffins matched the number of known victims. It was a common belief that people whose bodies
had been dissected by anatomists could not enter heaven, and it is thought that someone fash-
ioned the tiny figures in order to provide the murder victims with a form of Christian burial.
Eight of the 17 coffins survive, and can be seen in the National Museum of Scotland ( Click
here ) . Edinburgh author Ian Rankin makes use of the story of the coffins in his detective novel
The Falls .
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