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Title: Charcoal burial in early medieval England
Author: Holloway, James Edward
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2009
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Until relatively recently, archaeologists and historians have tended to ignore the burial practice of the late Anglo-Saxon period (c. AD 800-1100) in favour of other aspects of the archaeology of this period, or of the burial practice of earlier periods, assuming that burial in this period is uniform and well-understood. In fact, the late Anglo-Saxon period shows a great deal of diversity in burial practice. One of these diverse forms of burial is so-called “charcoal burial”, in which the body or coffin is laid on or under a layer of wood charcoal. This thesis examines the possible symbolic associations of charcoal burial, as well as how those associations might have been used to convey issues of status, identity, group membership or religious belief. Data presented includes the historical context of sites with charcoal burials, as well as their chronology, distribution and demographic characteristics. The manufacture and use of charcoal in the late Anglo-Saxon period is also studied, as are examples of similar burial rites from outside England. In addition to archaeological data, textual sources provide information on the symbolic context in which this burial rite occurred, suggesting that charcoal burial was one of a number of types of burial associated with ideas of cleanliness and protection, serving to define a space for the body against the “filthy” and possibly threatening earth. This rite was selected for the burials of specific, usually high-status individuals, rather than being associated with any specific segment of the population. Its application appears to have varied from site to site, representing a flexible, creative burial practice capable of producing a range of symbolic associations for funerals.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral