Archaeological approaches to time have often forgotten the dimension within which people experienced each other and helped to construct each other’s identities. Duncan Sayer is engaged in research to understand the archaeology of relationships by asking who buried the dead. By investigating concepts like; social time, life course, and gender we can begin to understand the organisation of society and see how children, slaves and the social elite fitted together in a series of overlapping social circumstances that made up the early medieval housed family and community.
Cemetery organisation is a particularly important area for this research as early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries were used by the local community as a tool to remember their dead and tell stories about their past. By combining a detailed knowledge of early Saxon material culture and skeletal information such as trauma, and non-metric traits, it is possible to investigate the organisation of these cemeteries and how they changed over time in considerable detail.
Oakington Anglo-Saxon cemetery is part of this research as the previously excavated bodies show signs of particularly interesting inherited characteristics so material and biological relationships may be investigated side by side.
Sayer D & Williams H (eds) (2009) Mortuary Practice and Social Identities in the Middle Ages. Exeter, The Exeter University Press.
Sayer D (2009) Laws, funerals and cemetery organisation: the seventh-century Kentish family. In D Sayer & H Williams (eds) Mortuary Practice and Social Identities in the Middle Ages. Exeter, The Exeter University Press: 141-166.
Williams H & Sayer D (2009) Hall of Mirrors: Death & Identity in Medieval Archaeology. In D Sayer & H Williams (eds) Mortuary Practice and Social Identities in the Middle Ages. Exeter, The Exeter University Press: 1-22
Sayer D (2010) Death and the family: developing a generational chronology. Journal of Social Archaeology 10(1): 59-91.