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The Early Anglo-Saxon tradition of burying the dead in their finery has bequeathed some of Britain’s most spectacular archaeology, from the regal splendour of Sutton Hoo to cemeteries laden with individuals wearing jewellery or weapons. But how did this practice die out? For many years it was believed to have gradually faded away, with little interference from the Christian Church. Now a major project has redated Early England and rewritten the story. Instead of experiencing a drawn-out decline, furnished burial appears to have been abruptly stamped out by a single Archbishop of Canterbury.
faded away, with little interference from the Christian Church. Now a major
Fascinating insights into religious activity have also been provided by a Roman shrine discovered in Rutland. Inside, discarded animal parts were left decaying on the floor alongside scattered treasures and a curse tablet. The ruined shrine became a tomb in the Anglo-Saxon period, when a shallow grave was dug within its walls.
Another case of works for the living ending up as receptacles for the dead has been encountered in Herefordshire. Here, two monumental Neolithic halls were put to the torch and recycled as burial mounds. As well as the remains allowing a unique glimpse of the halls’ appearance, their funerary role hints at how a founding Neolithic community was venerated by their descendants.
Finally, Alan Sorrell’s much-loved archaeological artistry is being showcased in a new exhibition. We explore the work of a selfproclaimed ‘artist, and not an archaeologist’, while Alan’s daughter reveals how a moment of boredom led to a heritage revolution.
Our contributors this month
REDATING EARLY ENGLAND ALEX BAYLISS Alex has routinely applied Bayesian statistics to build archaeological chronologies for 20 years. She is Head of Scientific Dating at English Heritage and Professor of Archaeological Science at the University of Stirling.
REDATING EARLY ENGLAND JOHN HINES John is Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University. He specialises in the archaeology, literature, and languages of Medieval northern Europe, with a particular interest in the integrated study of these subjects.
ENSHRINED BY CONSERVATION JIM BROWN Jim graduated from Cardiff University and worked with the British Institute in East Africa before joining Northamptonshire Archaeology in 2000. He is now a Senior Project Officer leading infrastructure and Medieval urban projects.
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