Contemporary archaeologies of death not only investigate the material cultures, memorials, monuments, architectures and landscapes of mortuary practice and commemoration, but also the material cultures associated with the management and organisation of funerary places and spaces. This even takes us to reflect and explore plastic parking cones.

In previous posts I’ve explored the proliferation of plastic traffic cones in and around churchyards and cemeteries as a strategy of instituting temporary restrictions on parking for funerals and other events. Funerary, and more broadly, ritual cones are sometimes simply the standard orange-and-white, but often are a distinctive black-and-white, sometimes marked with the word ‘funeral’ to impress the significance of their demarcation to those that might be tempted to ignore them. Whether purchased as such or adapted by the church in a more makeshift manner, they are a common feature of crematoria, cemeteries and churchyards and therefore a near-ubiquitous material dimension of deathscapes across the UK and beyond.

It’s not just simply the cones themselves that are interesting, but where they are stored when not being deployed. Often they are stacked just inside entrance gates and/or inside lychgates and church porches for easy deployment when required.

Cones and grass roller, stored between buttresses on the south-west side of Kingsley church, Cheshire

With the pandemic lockdown, cones have also become means of demarcating social distancing and channelling movement through funerary landscapes: COVID-cones.

A Covid cone! Margam Crematorium

For my previous blog-posts about cones and death, click here.

Indeed, using Whitford (Flintshire) church lychgate as an example, I’ve even taken my reflections on cones and their storage in liminal spaces within and around churches to TikTok.


Cones for life & death: plastic material cultures for weddings and funerals in a Welsh lychgate #archaeology #plastic #death #funerals #lychgate

♬ original sound – Archaeodeath

What I haven’t yet discussed are bespoke ‘holy’ cones: those with appended signs to them designate mobile, temporary, parking allocations for VIPs! So here’s one for you, illustrating the versatility of cones to protect holy parking for the holiness the Bishop of Sodor and Man. I spotted this one at St Runius’ church (the new church), Marown, Isle of Man.

I wonder if, before I die, I’ll be important enough to acquire my very own Archaeodeath holy cone?!