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
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 earlyAnglo-Saxon
Each earlyAnglo-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
Introduction: Horizontal stratigraphy in earlyAnglo-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 earlyAnglo-Saxon cemeteries have been selected to illustrate different sequential characters in order to illustrate common patterns seen
This chapter describes the physical organisation of earlyAnglo-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
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 earlyAnglo-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
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 earlyAnglo-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
coherent individual and group identities that provide a way to understand and structure their association with others.
The negotiations embedded in earlyAnglo-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
, like weapon use in the earlyAnglo-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
Rumours of bones and the remembrance of an exterminated people in Newfoundland - the emotive immateriality of human remains
See F. Stepputat (ed.), Governing the Dead: Sovereignty and the Politics
of Dead Bodies (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014); K.
Verdery, The Political Lives of Dead Bodies: Reburial and Postsocialist
Change (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999).
2 See Verdery, The Political Lives of Dead Bodies, pp. 27–9; H. Williams,
‘Death warmed up: the agency of bodies and bones in EarlyAnglo-Saxon
cremation rites’, Journal of Material Culture, 9:3 (2004), 263–91.
3 See L. Renshaw, ‘Missing bodies near at hand: the dissonant memory and