The Anglo-Saxon worldview was dominated by a fatalistic see of life. Fate, wyrd, dictated that would live and die, and, in a civilization full that blood fueds and also wars, death was much more than just a reality of life; it to be a method of life. From elegies such as "The Wanderer" and also "The Seafarer" we understand that the Anglo-Saxons deep mourned the happen of friends and also family. They wrote tributes to loved ones, lamenting your losses, and also they design the last resting locations of the dead in kind. Whether the gone were honored in cremation or burial, it is in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries the we deserve to learn the most about their culture. S. Chadwick Hawkes write that:

… abandoned homes rarely yield much more than structure foundations and also the type of objects human being threw away. Their cemeteries on the various other hand, save the things treasured by the Anglo-Saxons, their mortal remains and also the precious possessions which lock sought to take v them after ~ death. (24)

Through the research of Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, us have acquired a far-reaching amount of information around what the Anglo-Saxons to be like. We have found jewelry, tools, weapons, and also other item that offer an insight into not only the daily life the the people, but additionally the afterlife that they expected. While the initial excavations of Anglo-Saxon cemeteries were not held to rigid scientific standards, leading to the loss of lot scientific data, there have still been major breakthroughs that, as is the way with this sorts that things, provide only as countless answers as they conjure up brand-new questions.

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Many Anglo-Saxon gravesites were disturbed before scientists ever reached them. Robbers throughout history have plunder barrows because that their rich stores the treasure. In Anglo-Saxon times this to be common, and also it is parallelled in the story of the dragon"s horde in Beowulf. The taboo against disturbing the resting locations of the dead is virtually universal, and it was absolutely a frightening and potentially risky affair to rob graves. Once scientists started exploring Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, in the eighteenth century, their motives were not so far removed indigenous the grave robbers the yore. The emphasis was on collecting the grave products from the different burial sites, and, together Hawkes notes, "skeletons were often disregarded and the historic value that the cemetery as a whole was greatly ignored" (24). Because of the ruthlessness the this practice, numerous scientists began focusing on scientific historical excavation that settlements, but those excavations revealed just deteriorated foundations and also the objects that people threw away. Attention was again swayed back to the cemeteries, but now through an eye turned less toward collection the prizes of the Anglo-Saxons, and much more toward the anthropological and archaeological information that might be gathered through closely evaluating skeletons, interment positions, dig proximities, and also the favor (24). The Anglo-Saxons disposed of your dead either through cremation, depositing the ashes the the deceased in very ornate urns, or inhumation, normally in the type of barrows. Since of the inherent an obstacle in aging, sexing, or identify cremations, most of the studies emphasis on the inhumed stays of individuals.

Barrows space an ancient type of interment in the brothers Isles. The exercise dates back thousands of years to the times of the most old human inhabitation of the land. The Anglo-Saxons developed barrows to honor your dead nobles. The size of a barrow is proportional to the prestige of the individual hidden there. The is challenging to uncover the specific social standing of inhumed bodies, however the idea that barrows were booked for the elite of the Anglo-Saxon society is sustained by two facts: not everybody was offered a barrow burial, and also in barrows there space usually several individuals interred. Anglo-Saxon literature supports this assumption. Beowulf wants to have actually a large barrow constructed in his honor, and he makes this wish together he lays on his death bed. Oftentimes there is an initial funeral in a barrow. There is a main grave, and around this grave there may be several bodies that were hidden at roughly the exact same time. It deserve to be speculated that these extr skeletons might be those that wives or servants the the noble for whom the barrow was built, yet this cannot be showed for certain. Researchers have additionally found the in huge barrows are secondary burials of cremation urns. Lock presume the the urns belong to family members of the deceased and that in this method the barrows may have served together plots for less illustrious family members members (Grinsell, 92-3). Depending on the social standing of the deceased, barrows selection from small bumps come large, complicated discs. The most impressive barrows are vast man-made hills, surrounding by a ditch and possibly a absent wall. Less vital individuals may have actually only a small bump ~ above the ground, almost indistinguishable ~ a millenium.

A typical Anglo-Saxon cemetery of attention is Finglesham, in eastern Kent. The site was offered from ca. 500 to ca. 700, and also was virtually certainly founded by the aristocracy. Finglesham is obtained from the old english, Pengels-ham, which equates to Prince"s residence or Prince"s Manor. The large barrow that the cemetery has been numbered 204, and from the sheer size of the mound that is apparent that the was rather wealthy. The website was discovered in 1928 by workers who were chalk quarrying. Thirty-one tombs were found between 1928 and also 1929, and another 215 graves were excavated "more scientifically" between 1959 and 1967 (Hawkes, 24). The starting male, located in grave 204, is supposed to have passed away at the period of 25 about the year 525. That is interred in a large, iron-bound coffin, and amongst other treasures uncovered in his dig is a green, glass nippers goblet. The was discovered with both domestic and also imported weapons, shields, jewelry, and tools, exhibiting the cosmopolitan nature that Anglo-Saxon society. Bordering his burial site room the tombs of what room assumed come be family members members and also consorts. Every of this skeletons were found surrounded by items of comparable extravagence come the starting male. The is assumed that over half of the population that was buried in Finglesham died by age 25, but the presumption is complicated by the challenges in ageing or sexing skeletons. Follow to Jeremy Huggett, from the university of Glasgow, it is complicated to sex a skeleton the is under 25, and also it is challenging to period a skeleton the is over 25. Until recently, sex was established by the sex relationships scientists attracted according to grave goods discovered with the skeleton. This has actually been shown faulty due to the fact that sometimes men were buried with brooches, a helpful item come an Anglo-Saxon there is no zippers, however one which numerous scientists attribute to females. Skeletal evidence has also shown that females were occasionally buried with weapons, back the thinking behind the coupling that a woman skeleton with a "male" weapon perplexes researcher (Huggett).

If Finglesham is an example of a typical Anglo-Saxon cemetery, Sutton Hoo is an instance of the exceptional ability the Anglo-Saxons had in creating monuments. The site is dominated by a large ship burial, among the couple of of the kind found in the brothers Isles. The website is the tomb of a seventh-century king, discovered in 1939. Exavation the the website lasted till the late 1960s, and still every one of the questions researchers have around the cemetery have actually not been answered. James Cambell explains the distinct royal grave:

A ship had actually been dragged from the river Deben as much as the peak of a 100-foot-high bluff, and laid in a trench. A gabled hut had actually been constructed amidships come accommodate a very large coffin and an astonishing arsenal of treasures and gear. The trench had then to be filled in and a mound elevated over that to was standing boldly top top the skyline. (32)

Cambell walk on to note that the site had not to be disturbed until its discovery by modern-day scientists. Prizes included personal ornaments inlaid through gold and also garnets, weapons, the famed "Sutton-Hoo helmet," silverware, kitchen and also cooking equipment, coins, and a "ceremonial whetstone" (32). The items source from assorted locations, as far away as the suburbs of Europe, Alexandria, and Byzantium. The selection of treasures and their cosmopolitan nature show the level to i beg your pardon the Anglo-Saxons communicated with mainland cultures.

The concern remains, however, of just who is buried at Sutton Hoo. Some scientists want to say the it is the tomb of Redwald, a powerful Anglo-Saxon king who passed away in the 620s. There space 37 coins of Merovingian origin, the latest dating from the 620s, that indicate the time frame is right for the assertion of the website as Redwald"s grave. Scholar also point to 2 silver spoons that were discovered in the treasure. One is engraved through PAULOS, and also the other SAULOS. Some scientists say these were given to Redwald upon his baptism into Christianity, and also that the mixture of pagan and also Christian elements in the interment site supports this. Indeed, the ship interment is generally associated with pagan cultures. Yet others insurance claim that the interment of a delivery points come the influence of the Swedes ~ above the Anglo-Saxons, and go for this reason far as to say the it is a sweden individual who climbed to strength in the brother Isles. Quiet others allude to the beginning of the coins and also say that it must have been one individual through close ties to Gaul, maybe a king from the area. Regardless, the is a truly fascinating treasure that rewards speculation with only more unanswerable inquiries (Cambell, 33).

In only the last hundred years of clinical examination the Anglo-Saxon funeral sites, scientists have found a wide range of expertise equalled only by the riches of treasure castle have also gleaned from assorted barrows and graves. When these discoveries have greatly led to new questions that defy answer, the evidence that researchers have actually gathered have provided a particular amount of view to other cultural artifacts from the Anglo-Saxon period. Scholars room using the empirical evidence of archaologists and anthropologists to provide new definition to old texts. Through the research of Anglo-Saxon grave sites we end up being close to the objects the human being held dear, and also through the combination of your various creates of an innovative output, it is in it in production items or texts, we end up being closer to your civilization.

Works Cited and Consulted

Campbell, James, ed. The Anglo-Saxons. USA: Penguin Books, 1991.

Campbell, James. "Sutton Hoo." Campbell 32-3.

Hawkes, S. Chadwick. "Finglesham. A Cemetery in east Kent." Campbell 24-5.

Grisnell, Leslie V. Barrow, Pyramid and also Tomb. London: Thames and also Hudson, 1972.

Huggett, Jeremy. "Sexing and Ageing early Anglo-Saxon Burials." Online. Internet. 16 might 1999.

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Jack, George. Beowulf: A student Edition. Brand-new York: Oxford University press Inc., 1997.


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