Beyond the Grave: The Extended Process and Performance of Burials in Roman Britain
AuthorsPhillips, Reanna S.
Gray Jones, Amy
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractPrevious archaeological studies of Roman Britain have mainly categorised funerary evidence by paradigms of grave construction, body treatments, or types of practice. While it is essential to organise large bodies of data for analysis and dissemination, these categorisations have reinforced research conventions which prioritise the excavated grave context as the ‘final’ and intended ‘product’ of burial. Furthermore, the underutilisation of theoretical approaches to funerary evidence in Roman Britain has resulted in the decontextualisation of the burial process, neglecting the experiences, motives, and remembrance of mourners in the enactment of funerary performance. In response, the thesis designed and implemented a contextual analysis of 2,635 graves from selected cemetery excavations at Cirencester, Lankhills, York, and Eastern London — identifying previously-overlooked evidence of the actions of mourners throughout extended and diverse funerary processes. Using theoretical approaches, this increasingly varied data is interpreted to signify the enactment of commemorative performances and potent interactions between the living and the dead. Elements of the extended burial process are discussed using evidence of the deposition of hobnail shoes, body containers and the engagement with remains, and the adornment or placement of dress objects within graves. Throughout the extended process of funerary performance, the thesis reveals how these emotive and varied funerary rituals negotiate the identities and relationships between the living, the dead, the community, and their understanding of the world. The methodological framework developed by the thesis emphasises the importance of challenging research paradigms and investigating burials as extended processes, along with the need for theoretical interpretations of performances across the spectrum of burial evidence in Roman Britain. Significant elements of funerary performance can be seen within the stages of burial which indicate more nuanced processes than previously presumed. In addition, the results of the study demonstrate wider variation within and between these major cemetery sites, enriching the narratives of these key burial assemblages. These varied findings signify further diversity in the motives and ‘the methods of expression’ available to mourners in order to convey ideas through multivocal and potent funerary performances. By interpreting the enactment of funerary performances and visible participation of mourners throughout the stages of burial, this research identifies and contextualises increasingly varied burial practices currently acknowledged within the archaeology of Roman Britain. The thesis demonstrates the importance of investigating mortuary practices as extended and mnemonic processes, as well as the need to explore the experiences of mourners through theoretical approaches, such as the agency and materiality of the body, emotion, social remembrance, and performance. Through investigation of extended processes and evocative performances behind a large dataset of individual grave contexts, this research contributes an enhanced and dynamic understanding of burial practices in Roman Britain.
CitationPhillips, R. S. (2022). Beyond the grave: The extended process and performance of burials in Roman Britain [Unpublished doctoral thesis]. University of Chester.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
The following license files are associated with this item:
- Creative Commons
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International