Rites of Passage

Principal investigator: Heather Holt
Level: PhD level research

Rites of Passage: Funerary Commemoration and Cultural Change in Early Mediaeval Southern Britain, c. AD 430-600
(Full-time doctoral research at University of Cardiff, starting Oct 2019 and completing by mid-2022, with option of a further year to write up findings)
My aim is to explore funerary evidence for fifth- and sixth-century cultural developments in two regions of southern Britain, selected for their apparently contrasting trajectories: a western zone, encompassing communities in modern-day Somerset, and on both sides of the Bristol Channel; and an eastern zone, comprising a significant part of modern-day Wiltshire, and one Hampshire site.
In order to achieve this aim I will:
• Undertake a detailed analysis of the archaeological evidence from selected burial sites in the two chosen regions through the in-depth study of around twelve cemeteries, ideally six from each region.
• Contextualise this analysis through an investigation of wider funerary practice across each of the chosen regions and beyond, and through a consideration of settlement, environmental and landscape evidence for each zone.
• Undertake a critical assessment of the historical evidence for the period c.430-600, drawing on recent historiography.
• Assess the significance of the findings for the wider debate about cultural change during this transitional period.

Questions to be addressed by the research
• What does detailed analysis of each cemetery reveal about funerary practice and broader cultural influences within each burying community?
• How far are funerary practices suggestive of shared or overlapping cultural traditions and development within each case study region in the fifth and sixth centuries AD?
• How distinct are the contrasts between the two selected regions in terms of their mortuary practices and wider cultural connections?
• Are there any elements of commonality across both areas? If so, how can these best be interpreted?
• What do any changes over time indicate about potential parallels and contrasts in the cultural trajectories of the two regions?
• What are the wider implications of this study for issues of cultural change in southern Britain in this period?

Relevance of PAS website: Many of the burials I will be researching, particularly those in the eastern zone, were accompanied by grave goods. I will seek to identify the typology of the artefacts involved, and to evaluate how representative individual artefacts are for their locality at the time. The PAS database offers a key resource for this aspect of my research.

Referee: John Hines

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  • Created: About one month ago
  • Created by: Sam Moorhead

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