February 2, 2021

3.1 Archaeology of Early Medieval Europe: Grave Goods, Identities and Personhood.

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Dr. Emma Brownlee, Girton College, Cambridge.




Emma Brownlee. (2020) 'The Dead and their Possessions: The Declining Agency of the Cadaver in Early Medieval Europe', European Journal of Archaeology 23 (3) 2020, 406–427.

Brownlee, E. Connectivity and Funerary Change in Early Medieval Europe. Antiquity: a quarterly review of archaeology https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.51984.
Between the sixth and eighth centuries AD, the practice of furnished burial was widely abandoned in
favour of a much more standardized, unfurnished rite. This article examines that transition by considering
the personhood and agency of the corpse, the different ways bonds of possession can form between
people and objects, and what happens to those bonds at death. By analysing changing grave good use
across western Europe, combined with an in-depth analysis of the Alamannic cemetery of Pleidelsheim,
and historical evidence for perceptions of the corpse, the author argues that the change in grave good use
marks a fundamental change in the perception of corpses.
Keywords: early medieval, personhood, cadaver, funerary practices, grave goods, possession.
Dr. Michèle Hayeur Smith, Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Brown University.
Kevin Philbrook Smith, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Brown University.
Prof. Karin M. Frei, National Museum of Denmark.

MICHÈLE HAYEUR SMITH, KEVIN P SMITH & KARIN M FREI (2019). ‘Tangled up in Blue’: The Death, Dress and Identity of an Early Viking-Age Female Settler from Ketilsstaðir, Iceland, Medieval Archaeology, 63:1, 95-127, 

IN 1938, a woman’s burial was uncovered by road builders at Ketilsstaðir in north-eastern Iceland.
Recently, her physical remains and associated funerary goods were re-examined by an international, interdisciplinary
team and formed the basis for an exhibition at the National Museum of Iceland in 2015.
This paper focuses on the items of dress that accompanied the woman in order to gain insights into the
ways her cultural identity was expressed at the time of her death. Here we explore the roles played by
material culture in signaling her identity, and the technologies and trade networks through which she was
connected, visually, to Scandinavia, the British Isles, and the Viking world at large.



This is a podcast about new and innovative research in archaeology.

Each episode I talk with pioneering and influential archaeologists about their journal papers, books and research projects.

Season 1 is all about the latest research into the Archaeology of the Roman West.

Season 2 is on Innovative Research in Australia.

Season 3 is on Early Medieval Europe.

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Medieval Europe, Osteoarchaeology, Mesoamerica, Pacific Archaeology, Prehistoric Burials, Post-Medieval, Scientific Techniques, South-east Asia, Bronze Age Monuments. You tell me!

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