• Conversion, Ritual, and Landscape: Streoneshalh (Whitby), Osingadun, and the Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Street House, North Yorkshire

      Pickles, Thomas; University of Chester (Boydell & Brewer, 2019-06-21)
      This paper considers the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons as a social process through the improvised mortuary rituals of one local community. It argues that the royal monastery of Streoneshalh (Whitby) had an estate at Osingadun (modern Easington), which should be connected to a seventh-century cemetery at nearby Street House. It interprets the cemetery as an engine for negotiating and producing social and religious change.
    • Death, hair and memory: cremation’s heterogeneity in early Anglo-Saxon England

      Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Analecta Archaeologica Ressoviensia, 2015)
      This article reconsiders and extends the interpretation of the heterogeneity of early Anglo-Saxon (c. AD 425/50–570) cremation practices and their mnemonic and ideological significance. Cremation burials frequently contain grooming implements (combs, tweezers, razors and shears), often unburnt and sometimes fragmented. The addition of these items to graves can be explained as a strategy of ‘catalytic commemoration’ which assisted in choreographing the transformation and selective remembering and forgetting of the dead by the survivors. This article explores new evidence to reveal the varied character and fluctuating intensity of these practices among cremating communities across southern and eastern England during the fifth and sixth centuries AD. The evidence suggests new insights into how and why cremation was selected as an ideology of transformation linking the living and the dead.
    • Displaying the deviant: Sutton Hoo’s sand bodies

      Williams, Howard; Walsh, Madeline; University of Chester (Equinox, 2019-01-01)
      The interpretation of early medieval deviant burials has come to the fore in recent mortuary archaeology debates. Yet, critical discussion of how early medieval execution cemeteries are portrayed in museums and other media has received no critical attention. Using the prominent case study of Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, this chapter reveals the interpretative and ethical challenges inherent in narrating and visualizing later Anglo- Saxon judicial killing in the absence of well-preserved human remains, but instead through the recording and interpretation of carefully excavated “sand bodies.”
    • Ethnographies for early Anglo-Saxon cremation

      Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Éditions Mergoil, 2016-10-02)
      This chapter shows how archaeological investigations of early Anglo-Saxon cremation practices can be enhanced and extended by anthropological theory and ethnographic analogies. While the interactions between fire, material culture, architecture, space and the human body have been increasingly theorised for early Anglo-Saxon death rituals, this chapter illustrates how refined interpretations can be arrived at using two themes: (i) the significances of vessels and containers as pyre-goods and (ii) building timber-post structures associated with single and multiple cremation burials.
    • Kingship, Society, and the Church in Anglo-Saxon Yorkshire

      Pickles, Thomas; University of Chester (Oxford University Press, 2018-11-15)
      A monograph about the relationship between social and political structures, conversion to Christianity, and the building of an institutional Church in Yorkshire from c. 450-c. 1066.
    • Rethinking heirlooms in early medieval graves

      Costello, Brian; Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2019-09-14)
      Since the influential work of Roger White (1988; 1990), there have been a range of studies exploring the reuse and recycling of artefacts in southern and eastern Britain in the 5th–7th centuries AD, focusing especially on the reuse of Roman artefacts in early Anglo-Saxon furnished inhumation graves. This chapter will reappraise the theoretical and methodological framework for such studies, suggesting that the focus on ‘Roman’ artefacts distracts attention away from the potential mnemonic significance of deploying early medieval curated artefacts in the mortuary arena as key components of burial assemblages. We propose a new approach to early medieval artefacts, focusing on how older early medieval ‘heirlooms’ were deployed within the burial tableau as significant elements of mortuary performance. This argument is illustrated by four furnished inhumation graves, two each from a pair of cemeteries in east Kent.
    • Towards an archaeology of cremation

      Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Academic Press, 2015-06-25)
      How can we begin to understand and explain the changing significance of cremation in past societies? From many parts of the world and for many periods of human history from as early as the Upper Palaeolithic (Bowler et al., 1980) to recent centuries, archaeologists have uncovered and investigated material evidence for the use of fire as a means of transforming and disposing of the dead. This chapter argues that in contrast to the rich and widespread evidence for cremation in the archaeological record, theoretical approaches in the archaeology of cremation have been relatively thin on the ground until very recently. This relative failure to adequately engage with the complexity and the variability of cremation practices across cultures seems connected to the fact that most of the theoretical debates and developments in mortuary archaeology have, until quite recently, been primarily geared to the investigation of unburned human remains. Therefore, alongside increasingly refined methodologies for investigating burnt bones, it is argued that archaeologists need to redress this imbalance by developing explicit theoretical approaches to the phenomenon of cremation. Such theories need to engage with broad cross-cultural themes and also remain sensitive to the considerable variety of mortuary procedures involving fire used at different times and in different places.
    • Why should we write about Anglo-Saxon farms and farming?

      Pickles, Thomas; University of Chester
      A review of four recent works on Anglo-Saxon farms, farming, and food.