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Mortuary Practices and Social Identities in the Middle Ages

By Duncan Sayer and Howard Williams

Mortuary Practices and Social Identities in the Middle Ages

Building upon Heinrich Härke’s influential research on burial archaeology and early medieval migrations, and in particular, his ground-breaking work on the relationship between the theory and practice of burial archaeology, this book sets a new agenda for mortuary archaeology. Using archaeological data, the essays explore how mortuary practices have served in the make-up and expression of medieval social identities.

Applying explicit theoretical perspectives to case studies based on a range of European sites (from Scandinavia to Britain, Southern France to the Black Sea), Mortuary Practices and Social Identities in the Middle Ages fulfils the need for a volume that provides accessible material to students, engages with current debates in mortuary archaeology’s methods and theories and explores the interpretation of medieval identities through burial data.

Contributions by
Grenville Astill, Richard Bradley, Stefan Burmeister, Robert Chapman, Roberta Gilchrist, Susanne Hakenbeck, Catherine M. Hills, Karen Høilund Nielsen, David Petts, Duncan Sayer, Eva Thäte and Howard Williams

Contents: Preface - Duncan Sayer & Howard Williams; 1. Duncan Sayer (Professional researcher and Visiting Lecturer at the Universities of Bath and Reading) & Howard Williams (Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Exeter) Halls of Mirrors: Death and Identity in Medieval Archaeology; 2. Robert Chapman (Professor in Archaeology, University of Reading) Working with the dead; 3. Richard Bradley (Professor in Archaeology, University of Reading) Beowulf and British Prehistory; 4. Stefan Burmeister (Museum Archaeologist, Hamburg) Fighting wars, gaining status: On the rise of Germanic elites; 5. Susanne Hakenbeck (University of Cambridge) 'Hunnic' modified skulls: Physical appearance, identity and the transformative nature of migrations; 6. Karen Hoilund Nielsen (Independent Researcher, Denmark) Rituals to free the spirit - or what the cremation pyre told; 7. Eva Thate (Archaeologist, Reading) Barrows, roads and ridges - or where to bury the dead? The choice of burial grounds in late Iron-Age Scandinavia; 8. Catherine Hills, (University Senior Lecturer, University of Cambridge) Anglo-Saxon DNA?; 9. Duncan Sayer (Professional researcher and Visiting Lecturer at the Universities of Bath and Reading) Laws, funerals and cemetery organisation: The seventh-century Kentish family; 10. Howard Williams (Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Chester) On display - Envisioning the Early Anglo-Saxon dead; 11. David Petts (Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Durham) Variation in the British burial rite: AD 400-700; 12. Grenville Astill (Professor in Archaeology, University of Reading) Anglo-Saxon attitudes: how should post- AD 700 burials be interpreted?; 13. Roberta Gilchrist (Professor in Archaeology, University of Reading) Rethinking later medieval masculinity: the male body in death.

‘...an engaging and stimulating collection of value for the serious student of the subject.’  (British Archaeology, May June 2010, Christopher Scull)

Duncan Sayer is a part-time lecturer at the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath. His principal area of interest lies in medieval and post-medieval burial grounds, and he has recently contributed to the Handbook of British Archaeology (2008), revising the medieval and early medieval chapters. Howard Williams is a senior lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Chester. He has published widely on medieval and mortuary archaeology. He is author of Death & Memory in Early Medieval Britain (2006), and co-editor of Early Medieval Mortuary Practices: Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History 14 (2007).

Publication Details:

BIC Code:
 1D, 3F, 3H, HDDM, HRCR, HRKP2
  HIS010000, HIS037010, OCC036010, REL055000, SOC003000
 University of Exeter Press


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Exeter Studies in Medieval Europe