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Enigmas, agency and assemblage
James Paz

with a partly supernatural power, it was surely the boon of the whalebone itself that warranted the creation of such a time-​consuming, high-​status artefact. As Vicki Ellen Szabo points out, ‘the material must matter, otherwise its origins would not have merited mention’. One must ‘question whether the material would have merited inscription if it had been something more mundane; the archaeological record offers few such examples’ and so the inscription on the front ‘implies that the material itself is as fantastic as any of the magical iconography 131 The riddles

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
Open Access (free)
Duncan Sayer

factors as local and regional politics, religion, family and wealth. Material and social things like dress, weapons, wealth, children and the past were reflections of that contemporary attitude. This complexity is hard to see in the archaeological record, because individual approaches to life course, gender or status cannot capture that relational Zeitgeist . It is vital therefore that this study proposes a holistic approach, creating a relational mortuary archaeology in which the spatial location of a grave was as important as the chronological date, the objects and

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

preparation of a body, digging a grave or contributing to a funeral, which created the archaeological record. Those events were attended by people whose decisions and actions organised and changed them. They were agents and, importantly, those agents operated within social structures that resulted in power, enslavement or reciprocal attitudes like gender differentiation, social status, kinship or belonging. In short the ability of people to influence the content of a grave, the structure of a cemetery or a social attitude is dependent on them being part of the relationships

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries
Duncan Sayer

these individuals and their immediate social group that returned to a cemetery generation after generation and created high-density burials areas, core groups or rows of graves. Diet, homogeneous or heterogeneous bodies and the lifeways evident in the archaeological record have provided powerful evidence for attitude in the mortuary context. And it is the attitude behind a burial, not the grave wealth within it, which provides us with a holistic approach to social archaeology. Ultimately, attitude may give us good access to questions about social segregation and

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries
Duncan Sayer

contributed to the production of food and clothing, childcare and the maintenance of land, as well as metalworkers and skilled labourers. Some of these individuals may have had their own families, and even their own households consisting of family, free associates and servants. Many of these legal descriptions are contemporary with the early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, and so if they described family situations, and household responsibilities, it is not unreasonable to assume that we might see some evidence of these complexities within the archaeological record. Space

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries