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Theatres of Closure: Process and Performance in Inhumation Burial Rites in Early Medieval Britain

Brookes, S; Harrington, S; Semple, S; Millard, A; (2020) Theatres of Closure: Process and Performance in Inhumation Burial Rites in Early Medieval Britain. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 10.1017/S0959774320000050. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Inhumation burials are recorded in Britain and Europe during excavations in a standardized way, especially graves of early medieval date. Just a limited number of attributes are usually foregrounded and these mainly concern skeletal identification, the grave plan and, when a burial is furnished, a list of objects, particularly metalwork, as well as occasional reference to burial structures, if present. In this paper, we argue that concealed within these recorded details are attributes that often receive little attention, but which can provide evidence for community investment in the individual funerary rite. These include grave orientation, grave morphology, the body position and the empty spaces in the grave, as well as categories of material culture. We argue here that these factors enable us to define communal burial profiles and can facilitate the identification of group perceptions and actions in dealing with death. By capitalizing on these additional aspects of funerary ritual, archaeologists can move away from a general dependency on well-furnished burials as the main stepping-off point for discussion of social and cultural issues. This has particular relevance for regions where unfurnished burial rites are the norm and where furnished rites do not rely on a wealth of metalwork.

Type: Article
Title: Theatres of Closure: Process and Performance in Inhumation Burial Rites in Early Medieval Britain
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/S0959774320000050
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0959774320000050
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10090101
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