Mortuary Practices in Early Anglo‐Saxon England

Howard Williams

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

Mortuary Practices in Early Anglo‐Saxon England

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  • Archaeology
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology



This article presents the argument that mortuary practices were mechanisms for the construction of memories and, in turn, the constitution of identities during the turbulent socio-economic, political, and religious transformations of the fifth and sixth centuries ad. Understanding the mortuary process, variability, and change provide the background from which a fuller exploration of later fifth- and sixth-century cremation and inhumation practices can be based. It is possible to glean elements of the complex mortuary processes associated with inhumation. Graves would have provided a rich display, but not a single tableau, since many artefacts and materials would have successively augmented and concealed the body through its composition and consignment. Mortuary performances provided contexts for creating a sense of historical depth and public affirmation for what may have often been short-lived and experimental social identities and religious systems.

Keywords: Anglo-Saxon England; mortuary process; mortuary variability; mortuary change; inhumation; graves; social identities; religious systems

Article.  10501 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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