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Durham e-Theses
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Material Belief: A Critical History of Archaeological Approaches to Religious Change in Anglo-Saxon England

DOOLEY-FAIRCHILD, SIRA,MADDALENA (2012) Material Belief: A Critical History of Archaeological Approaches to Religious Change in Anglo-Saxon England. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis aims to explore the long-term historical background for the archaeological study of the Anglo-Saxon conversion to Christianity in seventh century England. Following the recent work that has been done on the context and motivations of the migration debate within Anglo-Saxon archaeology (Lucy 2002, Hills 2003) this project has looked at the ways in which contemporary socio-cultural, religious and political factors have shaped the study of early medieval religion in Britain. Beginning with the early modern period, this study traces the history of the material of conversion through subsequent generations of scholars, exposing the historical and religious motivations behind each new interpretation. A careful critical reading of the published texts was performed, covering both antiquarian and archaeological interpretations of the subject. It was found that the study of the conversion and the wider topic of early medieval religion, both before and after the coming of Christianity, has been very much contingent on the historical context in which it has been undertaken. Several common threads have been identified throughout the period, including a consistent focus on the graves and grave-goods as the best way of accessing religious information about individuals and a frequent tendency toward the unquestioning acceptance of the historical truth of the written sources. Following the recent suggestion by Ronald Hutton (2010) that we will likely never fully understand the Anglo-Saxon conversion, this thesis explores the many attempts that have been made to explain the conversion and its implications. This in-depth study of the past of the subject calls into question not only received ideas about the Conversion passed down through generations of scholars, but also the theoretical and methodological lenses through which it is studied today.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:27 Nov 2012 11:50

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