Overview: Signals of Power

Martin Carver

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: Signals of Power

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  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology



The archaeological agenda is intended to illuminate the way that power was exercised and how it changed. Changes in the degree of investment in burial may not indicate changes in social structure so much as the need to signal it. In other words, the social structure of life may have always been hierarchical but the need to mention such ranking in death changes with ideology. Ethnicity and demographic movement were not unknown to the Anglo-Saxons and must have been highly significant at some periods. The neutral scientific role that archaeologists have adopted with respect to the past has been moderated by the realization that everything made by humans — artefacts, buildings, and graves, as well as texts — is potentially skewed by optimism, fear, and aspiration.

Keywords: power; burial; social structure; ethnicity; demographic movement; Anglo-Saxons; artefacts; buildings; graves

Article.  1162 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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