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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.

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

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

central place. Integral features were perhaps more common among subgroups within the population, but importantly they had enough autonomy to have their own distinctive burial ritual. Semiotics and social differentiation in cemetery space One of the most useful analytical tools available to archaeologists is difference, and quite understandably gravegoods provide a useful vehicle to understand the differences that existed between graves. However, gravegoods are not the only difference present within mortuary archaeology. In Chapter 2 we discussed the semiotics of

in Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries