Monday, March 30, 2015

The purpose of grave goods and the person behind grave 44.

The archeological report I'm using as my source gives information on the person burred
in each grave. It turns out that the person in grave 44 was a juvenile, a teenage girl between the ages of 12-14.

Photo of Grave 44
However, if you examine the necklace that I recreated, it seems to be a pretty big necklace for such a young girl. I have a slight frame, and when I put it on it seems much heavier than I would be comfortable wearing.

My point in saying this is that it seems a bit odd for a young girl to be wearing a necklace that big. This leads me to question what the grave goods placed in a burial really indicate. Were they actual possessions of the deceased, or were they offerings from loved ones? Did the necklace belong to the young girl, or was the necklace owned by someone else and gifted to the girl at her burial? And, if the necklace was not her necklace, why was this very large elaborate necklace given to her. What about her was so special? Was it her age (just on the cusp of adulthood--the idea of so much promise/potential wasted)? Or was it her status (was she the daughter of someone of significance)?

Clearly some research is needed. I will need to go back and read more of the analysis in the archeological report to learn more about the person behind grave 44, but, it also might help to do more research on Anglo-Saxon burial practice. What do academics and archeologists think the grave goods represented?

I have found a few sources I can mine for information on this topic. I looked at these sources earlier for information about beads, but I think I need to go back to them to learn more about Anglo-Saxon society and burial customs. This will help me to better understand the meaning and significance behind the beads found in this grave.
--The Spindle and the Spear: a critical inquiry into the construction and meaning of gender in the early Anglo-Saxon burial rite (book)

--Negotiating gender, family and status in Anglo-Saxon burial practices, c. 600-950 (article)
--The use of grave goods in Conversion Period England (book)

I also found a few other sources just now which could shed light on this issue
--From the Cradle to the Grave: age organization and the early anglo-saxon burial rite : According to the abstract this article discusses the idea that "real function of this system was to signal the position of members of the primary descent group within the households that made up the settlements of the early English."
--Grave Goods in Early Medieval Burials: messages and meanings : suggests numerous other motives and meanings behind grave goods, including "gift giving"

I have a lot of reading to do!