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Title: In the shadow of the Church : burial practices in the Wessex heartlands c.600-1100 AD
Author: Cherryson, Annia
ISNI:       0000 0004 2668 3663
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2005
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This thesis examines the impact of the introduction of Christianity and the ensuing consolidation of the position of the Anglo-Saxon church on burial practices between c. 600-1100AD in the Wessex heartlands. At the core of this study is a survey of the burial evidence in the counties of Berkshire, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire (below the Thames), Somerset and Wiltshire. This data is then used to examine the influence of the Church on the treatment of the body, grave type and grave variations, and on the commemoration of the dead. This study also examines the evidence for the development of churchyard burial. Finally, the impact of the re-emergence of urban centres on burial is investigated through the use of two cases studies focusing on early medieval Southampton and Winchester. This study demonstrates that the initial impact of the Church on burial practices was limited and that most of the changes seen in mortuary behaviour in the seventh and even eighth century should be seen predominately as the result of other factors. In contrast, by the late Saxon period, the Church appears to have had a major influence over burial practices and it had become inextricably linked with burial and commemoration. In particular, the Church had a profound impact on burial location, with the development of churchyard burial, although the transition to churchyard burial was not as rapid as once thought with burial outside churchyards persisting into the tenth century within the study area. The later Saxon period also saw the Church increasing its control over the ceremonial and ideological aspects of burial. The Church provided funerary services such as prayers and masses prior to and during burial, the dead were interred in ground consecrated by the Church and commemorated in masses and prayers conducted by the Church. This is particularly apparent in the archaeological evidence for the commemoration of the dead both in the Christian iconography seen on funerary sculpture and in the inscriptions many bear with their references to Christian beliefs in the afterlife seen on funerary sculpture in late Saxon Wessex. The Church's impact on other aspects of the funerary process, such as the grave elaboration and the treatment of the body, was more subtle and indirect, and at times inadvertent. Finally, while the primary focus of this study is the relationship between the Anglo-Saxon Church and mortuary behaviour, this work has generated a number of secondary findings. The case studies on burial in Southampton and Winchester with their multiple cemeteries and scattered isolated burials provide a graphic illustration of the complexity of burial in early medieval urban centres. The studies also demonstrate that the density and distribution of occupation within urban centres is correlated with cemetery number and location. In addition, the data generated by the survey of burial evidence in this study have allowed the chronological and geographical distribution of funerary practices within the study area to be examined. This research also confirms the findings of a number of other studies that gender and, to a lesser extent, age cease to be major factors in determining funerary provision, although social identity does continue to be signalled and to determine the nature of grave elaboration associated with many late Saxon burials.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available