• Memory through monuments: Movement and temporality in Skamby’s boat graves

      Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Göteborgs Universitet, Institutionen för historiska studier, 2014)
      Boat inhumation graves were one among many ways by which waterborne craft were deployed in the mortuary arena in late first millennium AD Scandinavia: they might be represented on stone, burned, decommissioned or set adrift. Moreover, smaller craft and parts of craft might have been readily employed in inhumation and cremation practices far more than is revealed in the archaeological record. Further still, boats can be symbolised through boat-shaped stone-settings and their depiction on picture-stones (see Andrén 1993; Williams et al. 2010). Consequently there are strong grounds for seeing boat-inhumation as part of a diverse versatility in mortuary expression drawing upon water transportation as metaphor and medium. Yet within this diversity, I here contend that the high archaeological visibility of wealthy boat-inhumations was not an accident of archaeological preservation. Instead, I argue that boatinhumation was a strategic choice to exhibit and constitute a distinctive identity for the dead using a specific use of a maritime vessel in early medieval mortuary practice. Hence, as technologies of remembrance, boat-inhumations are the surviving archaeological traces of a distinctive chains of ritual acts by which the dead were selectively remembered and forgotten by survivors and interred unburned within a maritime craft (Williams 2001, 2006). Moreover, boatinhumation was a practice that rendered the grave persistent in the landscape as an ongoing place for memory work, prone to subsequent manipulations, whether sanctioned interventions by the survivors or plundering inspired by a range of motivations (e.g. Bill & Daly 2012).