Early Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries:Older and Newer Perspectives
with Professor John Hines (University of Cardiff)
at Sutton Hoo, on Saturday, 18th April, 2015.



09.50 – 10.15:                Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:                Why do we pay so much attention to the Anglo-Saxon dead? – Cemeteries are a dominant element of Early Anglo-Saxon archaeology: they are readily recognizable when uncovered, and have been the subject of targeted archaeological study for more than 250 years now. This talk will review the history of scholarship on Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries from the age of the antiquaries to the present day, discussing the questions of who the ‘Anglo-Saxons’ may have been, when or what the ‘Early’ Anglo-Saxon Period was, and reviewing the development of ideas about this material and the most recent advances in its study.

11.15 – 11.40:                Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:                Early Anglo-Saxon grave goods. – One reason why the Early Anglo-Saxon burials continue to attract so much attention is because they are ‘furnished’ with ‘grave goods’: to a large extent (but not exclusively) this means that the dead were buried fully clothed, in garments and with dress-accessories apparently worn when alive. This talk will survey the rich artefactual inventory of Early Anglo-Saxon graves and what we can learn from it. It will discuss ideas about the cultural origins and grouping of distinct forms of artefact, and the evidence for how the inventory represented in the graves changed over time. It will also introduce some of the detailed evidence the material provides for the technological capacities of this population.

12.40 – 14.00:                Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:                 Anglo-Saxon people and society. – This talk will focus upon the study of the people who were buried. It will review the evidence of osteology and how it has been correlated with the evidence of the artefacts and the interpretation of grave-form and cemetery layout. Social distinctions and social relations in terms of gender, age-set and rank will be examined and compared. With specific reference to ‘princely burials’ such as those at Sutton Hoo and more recently found at Prittlewell, the evidence of a growth in hierarchy will be discussed.

14.50 – 15.10:               Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:                Pagans vs. Christians? – The final talk will introduce and evaluate the continuing controversy over the interpretation of Early Anglo-Saxon burial practice, and changes that are evident over time and from region to region, in terms of religious belief and/or practice. With this it will contain an introduction to the evidence we have for pre-Christian traditional religious allegiances in Early Anglo-Saxon England and for the process of the conversion to Christianity. This can be concluded with a consideration of the wider psychological implications of funerary practice.

c.16.00:                            Thanks and Close

About Professor John Hines
John Hines has been a Professor in Archaeology at Cardiff University since 1999. His career in Archaeology began as a field archaeologist in the 1970s, excavating (and drawing) in England, particularly along the routes of the planned M3 and M25 motorways, and in Norway. He eventually took a degree in English Language and Literature, however, and taught in the Department of English in Cardiff from 1983 to 1997. A primary area of research interest is in how the evidence of language history, literature and material culture can be integrated. His DPhil thesis was on the archaeological evidence for the links between England and Scandinavia in the centuries before the Viking Period and he has continued to publish widely in Early Anglo-Saxon archaeology, especially on the burial evidence, on artefacts, on early social groupings, and on chronology. As one of the principal investigators of a multidisciplinary research team, he recently brought a major new project that has produced a new chronological framework for Early Anglo-Saxon England to publication.

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

  • J. Arnold, An Archaeology of the Early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, 2nd ed. (London, 1997).
  • O. H. Carver, Sutton Hoo: Burial Ground of Kings? (London, 1998)
  • O. H. Carver, Sutton Hoo: A Seventh-century Princely Burial Ground and its Context (London, 2005).
  • Crawford, Childhood in Anglo-Saxon England (Stroud, 1999).
  • M. Geake, The Use of Grave Goods in Conversion-period England, c.600–c.850 (BAR, Oxford, 1997).
  • Hamerow, D. A. Hinton and S. Crawford (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology (Oxford, 2011) – See especially:
  • M. Hills, ‘Overview: Anglo-Saxon identity’ (3–12)
  • Esmonde Cleary, ‘The ending(s) of Roman Britain’ (13–29)
  • Brugmann, ‘Migration and endogenous change’ (30–45)
  • Hedges, ‘Anglo-Saxon migration and the molecular evidence’ (79–90)
  • M. Dickinson, ‘Overview: mortuary ritual’ (221–37)
  • Williams, ‘Mortuary practices in Early Anglo-Saxon England’ (238–65)
  • Webster, ‘Style: influences, chronology, and meaning’ (460–500)
  • Stoodley, ‘Childhood to old age’ (641–66)
  • D. Hull and T. C. O’Connell ‘Diet: recent evidence from analytical chemical techniques’ (667–87)
  • Lucy, ‘Gender and gender roles’ (668–703)
  • Blair, ‘Overview: the archaeology of religion’ (727–41)
  • Semple, ‘Sacred spaces and places in pre-Christian and Conversion Period Anglo-Saxon England’ (742–63)
  • Pluskowski, ‘The archaeology of paganism’ (764–78)
  • Scull, ‘Social transactions, gift exchange, and power in the archaeology of the fifth to seventh centuries’ (848–64)
  • Härke, ‘Warrior graves? The background of the Anglo-Saxon weapon burial rite’. Past and Present 126 (1990), 22–43.
  • M. Hills et al., The Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Spong Hill, North Elmham, 9 vols. (East Anglian Archaeology, Gressenhall, 1977–2013).
  • Hines and A. Bayliss (eds.), Anglo-Saxon Graves and Grave Goods of the 6th and 7th Centuries AD: A Chronological Framework (Leeds, 2013).
  • A. Hinton, Archaeology, Economy and Society: England from the Fifth to the Fifteenth Century (London, 1990), esp. 1–41.
  • A. Hinton, Gold & Gilt, Pots & Pins: Possessions and People in Medieval Britain (Oxford, 2005), esp. 1–107.
  • Lucy, The Anglo-Saxon Way of Death (Stroud, 2000).
  • Lucy and A. Reynolds (eds.), Burial in Early Medieval England and Wales (London, 2002).
  • Lucy, J. Tipper and A. Dickens, The Anglo-Saxon Settlement and Cemetery at Bloodmoor Hill, Carlton Colville, Suffolk (East Anglian Archaeol. 131, Cambridge, 2009).
  • Malim and J. Hines, The Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Edix Hill (Barrington A), Cambridgeshire (York, 1998).
  • Penn and B. Brugmann, Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Inhumation Burial: Morning Thorpe, Spong Hill, Bergh Apton and Westgarth Gardens (East Anglian Archaeology 119, (Gressenhall, 2007).
  • J. Scull, Early Medieval (Late 5th–Early 8th Centuries AD) Cemeteries at Boss Hall and Buttermarket, Ipswich, Suffolk (Soc. Medieval Archaeol. Mon. 27, Leeds, 2009)
  • G. Welch, Anglo-Saxon England (London, 1992).