Kistvaen on the southern edge of Dartmoor in Drizzlecombe (England) showing the capstone and the inner cist structure.

In archeology, a cist (/ˈkɪst/; also kist /ˈkɪst/;[1][2] from Greek: κίστη, Middle Welsh Kist or Germanic Kiste) or cist grave is a small stone-built coffin-like box or ossuary used to hold the bodies of the dead. In some ways, it is similar to the deeper shaft tomb. Examples occur across Europe and in the Middle East.[3][4][5][6] A cist may have formerly been associated with other monuments, perhaps under a cairn or a long barrow. Several cists are sometimes found close together within the same cairn or barrow. Often ornaments have been found within an excavated cist, indicating the wealth or prominence of the interred individual.

This old word is preserved in the Nordic languages as kista in Swedish and kiste in Danish and Norwegian, where it is the word for a funerary coffin.[7][8][9] In English the term is related to cistern[10] and to chest.

Regional examples

Stone cist graves from a Bronze Age site in Northern Estonia
Drone video of stone cist graves in Jõelähtme, Estonia
Sri Lanka

See also


  1. ^ Houghton Mifflin (2000). The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.). Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 339. ISBN 978-0-395-82517-4.
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster Unabridged (MWU). (Online subscription-based reference service of Merriam-Webster, based on Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002.) Headword cist. Accessed 2007-12-11.
  3. ^ "A Cist Burial in Jordan".
  4. ^ Callaway, Joseph A. (1963). "Burials in Ancient Palestine: From the Stone Age to Abraham". The Biblical Archaeologist. 26 (3): 74–91. doi:10.2307/3210997. JSTOR 3210997. S2CID 165441707.
  5. ^ "The Early Minoan Period: The Tombs". Archived from the original on 2008-03-23. Retrieved 2008-03-30.
  6. ^ "Excavation of Cist in Bologna, Italy".
  7. ^ sv:likkista
  8. ^ da:ligkiste
  9. ^ no:kiste
  10. ^ cistern
  11. ^ Grīviņš, Valters (2017). "Vidzemes arheoloģiskās apbedījumu vietas" (PDF).