Anglo-Saxon Deviant Burial Customs
Anglo-Saxon Deviant Burial Customs is the first detailed consideration of the ways in which Anglo-Saxon society dealt with social outcasts. Beginning with the period following Roman rule and ending in the century following the Norman Conquest, it surveys a period of fundamental social change, which included the conversion to Christianity, the emergence of the late Saxon state, and the development of the landscape of the Domesday Book. While an impressive body of written evidence for the period survives in the form of charters and law-codes, archaeology is uniquely placed to investigate the earliest period of post-Roman society - the fifth to seventh centuries - for which documents are lacking. For later centuries, archaeological evidence can provide us with an independent assessment of the realities of capital punishment and the status of outcasts. Andrew Reynolds argues that outcast burials show a clear pattern of development in this period. In the pre-Christian centuries, 'deviant' burial remains are found only in community cemeteries, but the growth of kingship and the consolidation of territories during the seventh century witnessed the emergence of capital punishment and places of execution in the English landscape. Locally determined rites, such as crossroads burial, now existed alongside more formal execution cemeteries. Gallows were located on major boundaries, often next to highways, always in highly visible places. The findings of this pioneering national study thus have important consequences on our understanding of Anglo-Saxon society. Overall, Reynolds concludes, organized judicial behaviour was a feature of the earliest Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, rather than just the two centuries prior to the Norman Conquest.
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interpretation and discovery
the fifth to seventh centuries
the seventh to eleventh centuries
5 The geography of deviant burial in AngloSaxon England
the wider social context
Appendix 1 A handlist of AngloSaxon lawcodes prescribing capital punishment mutilation and burial in unconsecrated ground
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Abingdon acc sg amputation Anglo-Saxon England archaeological Ashtead associated Bedfordshire Berkshire Birch body Bokerley Dyke Bran Ditch buckle burial rites buried Burpham Castledyke cent charter bounds Chesterton Lane Christian contemporary context copper-alloy corpses death decapitation deviant burials double burials Dunstable Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries earthwork eighth century evidence examples excavated execution burials execution sites furnished Galley Hill gallows Guildown Hampshire heafod heathen burial ibid indicate individuals Inhumation instances interpretation interred iron judicial king’s known landscape later laws Lechlade male in Grave Meaney medieval Meon Hill minster mound multiple burials noted Old Dairy Cottage ordeal orientation parish perhaps possible prone burials radiocarbon recorded Reynolds Roche Court Roman seventh century Sewerby shield boss skeletons skull South Acre Stanton St Bernard Stockbridge stones suggested Summary of burial Surrey Sutton Hoo tenth century tied hands victims Walkington Walkington Wold wergeld West Heslerton Wiltshire Wor Barrow Wormald