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.

Open Access (free)
Duncan Sayer

Menghin ( 1974 ) analysed Merovingian material culture and based much of their dating on coins. This allowed Evison ( 1987 ) and others to build Anglo-Saxon chronologies, for example Evison’s study of knives from Dover Buckland (1987: 113). Just like Dover Buckland’s knives, some typologies were developed by cemetery excavators to make site-specific observations, and these could end up influencing national approaches, for example Hirst ( 1985 ) on annular brooches from the cemetery at Sewerby. Some systems can prove to be complex or hard to work with outside the

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries
Duncan Sayer

relation to a significant individual, but its deliberate and structured layout places it within a wider Merovingian tradition (for example Dortmund-Wickede, Germany; Stapel, 2007 ). In plain view, rows and lines of graves look very neat, and this organisation may have been utilised as part of a Merovingian tradition designed to create the impression of an ordered mortuary space, derived from an ordered hierarchical society. Even recognisable continental row-grave sites like Dortmund-Wickede would have looked that way only towards the end of their use (Stapel, 2007

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

, buried and commemorated in a way meaningful to the funerary party and relevant at a specific point in time and for a particular generation or group of people. The presence of gravegoods in early medieval cemeteries has a long tradition of being associated with rank; for example, Heiko Steuer ( 1968 ) analysed Frankish and Alemannic cemeteries and connected wealthy individuals with an elite defined in the Merovingian legal codes. This system influenced C. J. Arnold ( 1981 ), who similarly identified ranks defined in the Anglo-Saxon legal codes within Bernicia

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries
Enigmas, agency and assemblage
James Paz

, for instance, she reminds us that the ‘lack of critical art-​historical attention can be accounted for by the singularity of the casket in early medieval English art’ (emphasis added). Moreover, the style of carving and conventions of the representations are ‘not directly comparable to Northumbrian art of ca. 700 unless the casket is regarded as a unique surviving example of folk art of the period’. A page later, our attention is drawn to the ‘striking’ variety of visual sources suggested for the casket, ranging from ‘Oriental, Coptic, Merovingian, Celtic, and

in Nonhuman voices in Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture
Duncan Sayer

problematic, even with Merovingian numismatic dating, which underpins continental chronological schemes. The routine use of chronological groups with attributed artefact types means that it is impossible to definitively identify an earliest burial, and graves end up belonging to phases of costume or funerary practice (see Hines et al., 1999 ). In early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, fifth-century graves are often infrequent, poorly furnished and widely dispersed, which does not suit the character of a founder’s grave (Dickinson, 2011 : 230). The concept of founder’s graves

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries
Duncan Sayer

entity, but changed and evolved in a state of constant negotiation, and this renegotiation and dynamism are evidenced by the variation within and between each cemetery. As described above, the sixth-century cemetery resulted from an aggregate of multiple perspectives and within this space the syntax of the cemetery could change over time. In a second phase in the later-sixth and seventh century, the southern and eastern coasts of England witnessed a new phase which was probably partly inspired by Merovingian burial practice. Rows of graves gave the impression of

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries