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A biocultural approach to identity in the early Anglo-Saxon inhumation and cremation rite

SQUIRES, Kirsty (2012) A biocultural approach to identity in the early Anglo-Saxon inhumation and cremation rite. In: Early Medieval Archaeology Student Symposium, May 2012, University College London.

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The construction of identities continues to attract a significant amount of attention in Anglo-Saxon mortuary archaeology, in particular the expression of the life cycle and gender in the inhumation rite. However, the identities of groups who were afforded the cremation ritual have been neglected due to the fragmentary nature of cremated bone and lack of contextual information from early excavations. Nonetheless, the work of Jacqui McKinley has demonstrated that similar osteological methods, which are more frequently used to assess articulated inhumation burials, can be utilised in the analysis of cremated material. The development of osteological techniques and the growing body of research concerning early Anglo-Saxon cremation burials can now be employed to establish a better understanding of the social identity of groups that practiced this funerary rite. This paper will tackle the issue of why individuals were afforded different burial rites and what these rituals can tell us about the identities of the deceased. In light of new osteological data from the Elsham and Cleatham cemeteries, alongside previously published material from contemporary cremation and inhumation cemeteries it is most prominently noted that, compared to the obvious differences in grave provisions often afforded to men and women in the inhumation rite (e.g. weaponry and jewellery), gender does not appear to have played such a primary role during the cremation ritual. Instead, stages in the life cycle seem to have been emphasised. This paper will also explore other aspects of identity that were expressed during the funerary ritual by looking at grave assemblages and the spatial distribution of burials within these cemeteries.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)
Faculty: School of Law, Policing and Forensics > Criminal Justice and Forensic Science
Event Title: Early Medieval Archaeology Student Symposium
Event Location: University College London
Event Dates: May 2012
Depositing User: Kirsty SQUIRES
Date Deposited: 24 May 2017 13:30
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:46

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