Browsing History and Archaeology by Journal
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A Place to Rest Your (Burnt) Bones? Mortuary Houses in Early Anglo-Saxon EnglandThis article presents a fresh interpretation of square and rectangular mortuary structures found in association with deposits of cremated material and cremation burials in a range of early Anglo-Saxon (fifth-/sixth-century AD) cemeteries across southern and eastern England. Responding to a recent argument that they could be traces of pyre structures, a range of ethnographic analogies are drawn upon, and the full-range of archaeological evidence is synthesized, to re-affirm and extend their interpretation as unburned mortuary structures. Three interleaving significances are proposed: (i) demarcating the burial place of specific individuals or groups from the rest of the cemetery population, (ii) operating as ‘columbaria’ for the above-ground storage of the cremated dead (i.e. not just to demarcate cremation burials), and (iii) providing key nodes of commemoration between funerals as the structures were built, used, repaired and eventually decayed within cemeteries. The article proposes that timber ‘mortuary houses’ reveal that groups in early Anglo-Saxon England perceived their cemeteries in relation to contemporary settlement architectures, with some groups constructing and maintaining miniaturized canopied buildings to store and display the cremated remains of the dead.
The Smiling Abbot: Rediscovering a Unique Medieval Effigial SlabThe article reports on a newly re-discovered fragment of a recumbent effigial slab commemorating Abbot Hywel (‘Howel’), most likely an abbot of the Cistercian house of Valle Crucis, near Llangollen (Denbighs.). The slab was probably carved very early in the fourteenth century, and could have covered the abbot’s burial place. The stone was dislocated and fragmented at an unknown point in the abbey’s history, and most likely removed from the site during the nineteenth-century clearance of the abbey ruins. It was briefly reported on in 1895 and has been lost to scholarship subsequently. If indeed from Valle Crucis, the stone is the only known effigial slab commemorating a Cistercian abbot from Wales, and a rare example from Britain. Given that few similar Cistercian abbatial monuments have been identified from elsewhere, the ‘Smiling Abbot’, although only a fragment, is a significant addition to the known corpus of later medieval mortuary monuments. The article discusses the provenance, dating, identification and significance of the monument, including the abbot’s distinctive smile. The stone sheds new light on mortuary and commemorative practice at Valle Crucis Abbey in the early fourteenth century.
Socio-semiotics and the symbiosis of humans, horses, and objects in later Iron Age BritainUsing an approach derived from material culture studies and semiotics, this paper addresses possible relationships between humans and horses in the British Iron Age.Through a study of the dominance of horse imagery found on Iron Age British coinage, specifically the Western coinage traditionally attributed to the 'Dobunni', the author explores how it may reflect possible relationships between humans and horses and their personhood therein. Drawing on wider faunal and metalwork evidence it is argued that these coins could be interpreted as a manifestation of the complex perspectives surrounding a symbiotic relationship between humans and horses.