Overview: Mortuary Ritual

Tania M. Dickinson

in The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199212149
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

 Overview: Mortuary Ritual

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The mortuary rituals practised in Anglo-Saxon England have bequeathed a source of information that permeates almost every part of understanding of the period. Whilst the mid Victorian period was formative in establishing a concentration on early Anglo-Saxon grave-goods and an interpretative framework in terms of ethnicity and religion, these were mostly prosecuted in a sketchy manner. Mortuary rituals should be understood as technologies of remembrance, which transformed the deceased bodily and metaphysically, drawing symbolically on their identity in life and at death, and thereby constituted a new identity in the minds of witnesses and potentially of those who come after. The contexts of burial extend to the regional, national, and beyond, offering means to explore and test hypotheses. The variability and complexity of the evidence and the range of competing interpretative approaches make Anglo-Saxon mortuary rituals a rich field for research, but a challenge to summarize.

Keywords: mortuary rituals; Anglo-Saxon England; ethnicity; religion; death; grave-goods

Article.  7407 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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