Treatment of the "special" dead in the early middle ages: Anglo-Saxon and Slavic perspectives

Kaznakov, Vladimir (2013) Treatment of the "special" dead in the early middle ages: Anglo-Saxon and Slavic perspectives. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This work deals with "special" burials among the Anglo-Saxon and Slavs in the early medieval period. The individuals in these graves are frequently labelled as "deviant", "criminals", as "socially other". This dissertation aims to focus more on the possible danger which "special" individuals represented for their communities after their death and on the possibility that the “special” burials were those of potential revenants or vampires. The introduction begins with a brief sketch of the evolution of approaches to burial by archaeologists and historians writing in English. It goes on to argue that “deviant burial” is not a self-explanatory category, but can be applied to a variety of very different inhumations. It suggests it might be better termed “special’ burial or the burial of the “special’ dead and formed part of regular inhumation practice; and it argues that the best way to understand these practices is an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural framework. In particular, it discusses the possible insights offered by the development of the cognitive study of religion and belief, with particular reference to death and burial practices and introduces a “theoretical alternative model” for accessing how the deceased was treated from corpse to the grave. Chapter 1 examines Anglo-Saxon "special" burials, focusing on selected cemeteries where we can observe multiple occurrences of "special" burials or the employment of several "special" practices in one locality. These will first be analyzed with regard to the location of deposition and secondly compared within the wider framework of Anglo-Saxon "special" burial practices. Comparison with "special" funerary rites recorded elsewhere in the world by anthropologists will lead to the proposal of an alternative approach to some of recent and current interpretations of these practices. Chapter 2 focuses on Slavic archaeological material represented by the "special" graves excavated in Slovakia and the Czech Republic: both burials from cemeteries and also a group of individuals deposited in a range of objects found during excavation of Slavic settlements - in grain silos, wells or pits. As with Anglo-Saxon graves, the Slavic "special" burials are analyzed from the point of view of location and then in more global context of Slavic society. The possible interpretations of these findings are discussed. Chapter 3 focuses on the primary sources and their descriptions of "pagan" funerary rituals. It charts shifts in ideas and attitudes towards "special" funeral practices ranging from descriptions of these "pagan" practices, through efforts to delimit and penalize them in the law codes, to narratives of revenant sightings and descriptions of how to recognize and destroy them. This chapter will indicate some of the theories and new approaches proposed in the thesis. The concluding chapter brings these strands together. In particular, it discusses the possible insights offered by the development of the cognitive study of religion and belief, with particular reference to death and burial practices. It examines the changing patterns of religion - from traditional or "pagan" to Christianity – and the ways in which this change influenced both "special" burial practices and perceptions of vampires and revenants, with particular reference to the Christian doctrine of Purgatory. This chapter concludes with a discussion of the theories proposed on the basis of the material collected in this work and reference to corresponding interpretative shifts in present day archaeology and history.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: "Special" dead, revenants, theoretical analytic model: from corpse to grave, early medieval period, Anglo-Saxons, Slavs.
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Funder's Name: UNSPECIFIED
Supervisor's Name: Dunn, Dr. Marilyn
Date of Award: 2013
Depositing User: Mr. Vladimir Kaznakov
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-4368
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2013 07:57
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2016 09:47
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/4368

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