The emotive agency of infants and children in early Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemeteries

Author(s): Duncan Sayer

Year: 2016


Infant and child graves have often received ambiguous interpretation when found in archaeological context. In 2012 a child’s grave was excavated in the sixth century cemetery at Oakington Cambridgeshire. Sometime after deposition its feet were truncated by a large adult grave, however, the child’s bones were repositioned on its legs, an action which impels continuing agency influencing the gravediggers long after the child had died and been buried. Child mortality was high in many past societies, but the loss of a child was not ambiguous and nor would it have been without difficulty for small communities. The construction of a grave, its relative position within the cemetery and its post depositional biography can be used to consider how infant and child burials were integrated into the fabric and routine of early Anglo-Saxon community and reinforced localized societal narratives. This paper will use case studies from the UK to explore how individual communities developed different depositional methods and will explore single and multiple infant burials designed to evoke a response in the funerary. It will also explore the internal construction of mortuary space to look at the grouping of infants and children as well as their relative dispersal.

Cite this Record

The emotive agency of infants and children in early Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemeteries. Duncan Sayer. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403762)


Agency Children Emotion

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;