This book looks at sovereignty as a particular form of power and politics. It shows that the fate of bodies in the transition from life to death can provide a key to understanding fundamental ways in which sovereignty is claimed and performed. The contributions analyse (post-)conflict as well as non-conflict contexts, which too often are studied in isolation from one another. Focusing on contemporary issues rather than the equally important historical dimensions, they all grapple with the questions of who governs the dead bodies, how, why and with what effects. The book analyses how dead bodies are placed and dealt with in spaces between competing, overlapping and nested sovereign orders, under normal as well as exceptional conditions. It looks at contributions that draw on psychoanalysis, critical theory, the structuralist-functionalist anthropology of burial rituals and recent ideas of agency and materiality. The book first explains the efforts of states to contain and separate out dead bodies in particular sites. It explores the ways in which such efforts of containment are negotiated and contested in struggles between different entities that claim the dead bodies. The book then shows how entities that claim sovereignty produce effects of sovereignty by challenging and transgressing the laws regarding the legitimate use of violence and how dead bodies should be treated with dignity.
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, burialrituals 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
theory (‘between bio- and necropolitics’), the structuralist-functionalist anthropology of burialrituals (‘rites of separation and the sacralisation of authority’) and recent ideas of agency
and materiality (‘dead agency’). Despite their differences, the various
approaches point towards an excess of meaning and affect relating
to dead bodies and human remains, something that evokes the mystical, the sacred, the liminal and the transgressive, which, in the end,
The following nine chapters are organised in two parts. The first,
is worth mentioning. With regard to the Communist partisans who
threw their opponents into the caves, the historian Rolf Wörsdörfer
conjectures that it was also ‘the fear of the grief of the enemy, of the
extended Serbian Orthodox burialritual and the suggestive power
of the mourning women which persuaded the partisan groups to
dispose of the bodies of opponents they had shot’.27 This may also
have played a role for the Ustaša. Furthermore, apart from the
practical advantages for the perpetrators, the disappearance of the
bodies also represented a threat
lifeway in common with those inhumations.
Figure 1.10 Trauma at Apple Down, West Sussex. The graves that contained evidence of skeletal trauma were found among the peripheral inhumations.
Apple Down was a cemetery with internal stratification according to burialritual and location, and early Anglo-Saxon society was hierarchical, a detail that is evident in seventh-century legal codes such as Æthelberht’s code:
. If [a person] kills a freedman of the first rank, let him pay [with] 80 shillings.
[27.1] If he kills [one of] that second [rank
central place. Integral features were perhaps more common among subgroups within the population, but importantly they had enough autonomy to have their own distinctive burialritual.
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
displaying gender identities; 3) burials in flat graves with limited or no gravegoods.
This was a complex cemetery and the differences in burialritual highlight cultural differences that were markers of social divisions inherent in the community. However, these differences were not easily witnessed in the physical bodies of the deceased, suggesting similar lifeways within, but not necessarily across, the community who used Finglesham. These differences in lifeways are apparent in two types of evidence – skeletal pathology ( Figure 5.1 ) and dental pathology ( Figure 5
group, and the Bronze Age barrows separated these two zones, one to the north-east and one to the south-east. The eastern plot (C) was isolated, with a visible gap in the density of inhumation graves between those graves to the west and to the east of the site. It was also the only plot that contained both types of burialritual in significant numbers, suggesting that this group was purposely internally divided using inhumation or cremation burial. Consequently, in this first phase the spatial organisation and topography of the site was its primary organising element