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Kinship, community and identity
Author: Duncan Sayer

Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries are well-known because of their rich grave goods, but this wealth can obscure their importance as local phenomena and the product of pluralistic multi-generational communities. This book explores over one hundred early Anglo-Saxon and some Merovingian cemeteries and aims to understand them using a multi-dimensional methodology. The performance of mortuary drama was a physical communication and so needed syntax and semantics. This local knowledge was used to negotiate the arrangement of cemetery spaces and to construct the stories that were told within them. For some families the emphasis of a mortuary ritual was on reinforcing and reproducing family narratives, but this was only one technique used to arrange cemetery space. This book offers an alternative way to explore the horizontal organisation of cemeteries from a holistic perspective. Each chapter builds on the last, using visual aesthetics, leitmotifs, spatial statistics, grave orientation, density of burial, mortuary ritual, grave goods, grave robbing, barrows, integral structures, skeletal trauma, stature, gender and age to build a detailed picture of complex mortuary spaces. This approach places community at the forefront of interpretation because people used and reused cemetery spaces and these people chose to emphasise different characteristics of the deceased because of their own attitudes, lifeways and lived experiences. This book will appeal to scholars of Anglo-Saxon studies and will also be of value to archaeologists interested in mortuary spaces, communities and social differentiation because it proposes a way to move beyond grave goods in the discussion of complex social identities.

Duncan Sayer

expressing and transmitting human social relationships (Lupton, 1998 : 143). In archaeology, as with many other social sciences, these structures can be understood to exist in the relationships between people. Archaeologically, we might consider the physical and the material remains of the past as an invention of interpersonal interaction. Thus we should consider that funerary decisions were the result of complex or incomplete social negotiations, with multiple layers and mutable agents presiding over different agendas and influence. Grave 78 from the early Anglo-Saxon

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries
Duncan Sayer

Each early Anglo-Saxon cemetery was unique, the product of multiple agents working at different times, in different spaces and with different visions. Each grave was the end result of a funeral situated within specific chronological and community circumstances, influenced by social agents and their relationships to the deceased and to each other. In many ways each grave was the product of both a social context and of interpersonal relationships. Inhumation graves were cut into the soil and cremation pyres were built by hand. Together some participants had to

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries
Open Access (free)
Duncan Sayer

Introduction: Horizontal stratigraphy in early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries Metre is a measurement of cadence, of narrative time, and this chapter examines the chronological construction of cemetery space, employing the latest chronologies based on a detailed discussion of artefact typologies, as well as the new chronologies proposed by John Hines and Alex Bayliss (2013), and Catherine Hills and Sam Lucy ( 2013 ). A number of key early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries have been selected to illustrate different sequential characters in order to illustrate common patterns seen

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries
Duncan Sayer

This chapter describes the physical organisation of early Anglo-Saxon cemetery space by detailing the repertoire of shared semiotics used to organise a cemetery, specifically: cemetery topography, clusters of graves or burial plots, grave density, grave orientation, burial rituals and material culture. It also considers cemeteries which combine multiple organisational strategies. Introduction: structuring mortuary semiotics Cemeteries are not simply places where people bury the dead; they are the product of social agents working within the confines of

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries
Open Access (free)
Duncan Sayer

context of your upbringing. In this case then there are in fact multiple societal attitudes towards gender or the family, just as people’s experience of family varies widely. This book uses a comprehensive exploration of the early Anglo-Saxon mortuary context to drill down into the local history and development of cemetery sites to explore the role of family and household and their impact on localised expressions of gender, life course and wealth. This exploration is a case study in mortuary archaeology which proposes a way of looking at the visual aesthetics of

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries
Open Access (free)
Duncan Sayer

national situation (Kopytoff, 1986 ). It is puzzling therefore that archaeology continues to explore social questions in binary or chronological fashion. In the case studies presented in the book, the early Anglo-Saxons did not have one attitude towards status or gender, age or identity. Moreover, social attitudes and therefore the resultant funerary expression were dictated by different attitudes towards children, women, men, wealth, ancestors or the past. Importantly, different attitudes towards these things could be seen in different funerals, among different groups

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries
Open Access (free)
Duncan Sayer

coherent individual and group identities that provide a way to understand and structure their association with others. The negotiations embedded in early Anglo-Saxon mortuary behaviour employed a mixture of semiotics expressed through a combination of spoken and visual knowledge. Some of these visual tools survive in the archaeological record and are described in Chapter 2 , and they included grave clusters, grave orientation, grave density and choice of burial rite, where relational situations were articulated though the juxtaposition of similarity and difference

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries
Duncan Sayer

, like weapon use in the early Anglo-Saxon period, skating may expose a person to injury significant enough to cause skeletal trauma. Skating as an activity may be more common among members of certain ethnic or social/economic groups, or genders. A professional skater, for example, might have achieved their status helped by their economic background, which allowed them time to practise, or because some value systems of classes or families valued the activity or sporting achievements where others did not. Moreover, an individual skater might be unique, defying the usual

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries
Was he more than just ‘Dr Took’?
Jonathan R. Trigg

. Importantly, they go on to argue that the only burials dating to this period related to executed individuals. Whilst it is impossible without the skeletal remains to identify a cause of death, the number of inhumations suggested by Toope’s account make this an unlikely scenario. Returning to the issue of the dating of the cemetery, it seems possible that it was early Anglo-Saxon (Pollard and Reynolds, 2002: 233); the lack of grave goods suggested by Toope’s account makes it more likely to be late seventh century or later (Pollard and Reynolds, 2002: 234). The view that it

in Communities and knowledge production in archaeology