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A re-assessment of pagan Anglo-Saxon burials and burial rites in Wiltshire: Not available

Porter, J. A. F (1977) A re-assessment of pagan Anglo-Saxon burials and burial rites in Wiltshire: Not available. Masters thesis, Durham University.



Much valuable work has been done in the past in the field pf pagan Anglo-Saxon burials in the county of Wiltshire. However, new material is constantly being added to the corpus and many of the earlier publications and theories are now in need of re-assessment in the light of new discoveries both in the county and elsewhere. The material contained in this thesis includes sites found as of spring, 1976, including the unpublished sites at Blackpatch and Swallowcliffe Down. Unfortunately, there was no readily available information for the recent sites, there was no readily available information for the most recent sites, such as Collingbourne Ducis, and these are touched upon without being studied in detail. Past work in the field of cemetery and burial analysis has laid much of its emphasis upon the study of grave goods, their derivations, affinities, and chronology, often to the neglect of the burials themselves. This thesis attempts to place the grave goods in a role of secondary importance and to analyse the burials, themselves, and the information they may contain as to the life styles, community organisation and religious practices of the pagan Anglo-Saxons of Wiltshire, as its primary function. Some sixty-three sites of varying historical and archaeological value, were studied: cemeteries, single burials, primary and secondary barrow burials, and chance finds. Many of these were very poorly excavated and published and several have been noted as being of dubious date. However, each burial and burial place was investigated using fairly strict methods. Burials were catagorized by age, sex, orientation, position, location within groups and cemeteries, physical abnormalities, type of grave, and wealth. The sites were analysed as to overall orientation (s), position (s), sex and age ratios, position layout, geological and geographical position, grave shapes and types, and comparative wealth. This method allowed for convenient comparative study of any two ( or more ) sites in the group. It was discovered that several other fields on interest might also benefit from this work, most notable, settlement, affinity, and migration studies. Burial sites appear to relate directly to the geology and geography of their areas. Although these studies fall outside the chief goals of this thesis, it does include some work on possible migration routes, land usage, settlement ( as concerns burial sites ), possible tribal affinities within the group, and the development of land divisions (parishes). The study of pagan Anglo-Saxon burial rites is, to a large extent a neglected one, possible due to a lack of verifiable information and comparative material. Whilst any conclusions reached must remain hypothetical, there is much information concerning them to be gleaned through intensive examination of burials, burial modes and abnormalities and, in some cases, grave goods. Abnormalities such as burnt grain found in children’s graves and purposely broken weapons may shed light upon the religious beliefs of these people and upon their attitudes towards death and the dead. The internal organisation of burial places may serve to indicate social and community structure. Several of the larger cemeteries point towards a strong emphasis upon the family (headed by the male), each of which may have had its own burial plot within a larger communal cemetery. This is evident in the way in which the cemetery has been laid out and allowed to develop. Appendix III contains sites which may be eliminated from the corpus as being of inconclusive date, whilst Appendix IV is new rough chronology, for the Wiltshire sites. These may be of some value to others wishing to pursue the subject. In summation, the material found within this thesis has been organised and analysed with most of the emphasis placed upon the burials and burial rites themselves and how they may be used to compile information pertaining to the religious and sociological structures of pagan Anglo-Saxon communities, their tribal affinities, migration routes, settlement patterns, and, even, their physiognomies.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1977
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 16:18

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