(Stadt Nürnberg, Stadtarchäologie, Germany)

Keywords: burial orientation, infirmary, historical data

During the excavation of a drainage pipe east of the Chapel of “St. Peter and Paul im Siechgraben”, a late medieval infirmary chapel 2 km southeast of the city walls of Nürnberg, 32 inhumations could be uncovered in situ. Remains of at least 19 more were found disturbed by later burials or recent building activity on the site. The radiocarbon dates ranging from 1387 – 1651 confirmed the historical records of the cemetery, stretching from 1389 to the late 18th century. Surprisingly, only 14 = 45 % of the burials showed the regular east-west orientation of medieval and early modern inhumations. Another 4 were orientated west-east, i.e. with the head in the east, while 7 burials showed a north-south and 5 burials a south-north orientation. Adding identifiable dislocated long bones, the ratio of east-west to north-south orientated burials were approximately 50 : 50. This argues strongly against the common interpretation of north-south orientation as an indicator for unchristian burials. Stratigraphically, the east-west burials usually overlaid the north-south orientated burials, arguing for two main phases of the cemetery. Moreover, the layout of the burials showed a distinct difference. While the east-west orientated inhumations were spread irregular over the area, the north-south orientated burials were lowered in parallel alignments, with burials overlying lengthwise. Anthropological and palaeodontological analysis showed further differences between the two main groups, leading to a historically based interpretation model of the unusual change of orientation.