The exotic and impressive grave goods from burials of the ‘Wessex Culture’ in Early Bronze Age Britain are well known and have inspired influential social and economic hypotheses, invoking the former existence of chiefs, warriors and merchants and high-ranking pastoralists. Alternative theories have sought to explain how display of such objects was related to religious and ritual activity rather than to economic status, and that groups of artefacts found in certain graves may have belonged to religious specialists. This volume is the result of a major research project that aimed to investigate Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age grave goods in relation to their possible use as special dress accessories or as equipment employed within ritual activities and ceremonies. Many items of adornment can be shown to have formed elements of elaborate costumes, probably worn by individuals, both male and female, who held important ritual roles within society. Furthermore, the analysis has shown that various categories of object long interpreted as mundane types of tool were in fact items of bodily adornment or implements used in ritual contexts, or in the special embellishment of the human body.
Although never intended to form a complete catalogue of all the relevant artefacts from England the volume provides an extensive, and intensively illustrated, overview of a large proportion of the grave goods from English burial sites.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Methodology
Chapter 3. Items of equipment I: daggers, pommels and belt fittings (with contributions by Stuart Needham, Peter Bray and Sonia O’Connor)
Chapter 4. Items of equipment II: stone, bone, copper alloy and miscellaneous objects (with a contribution from Stuart Needham)
Chapter 5. Items of personal adornment I: jet and jet-like materials, amber, bone and copper alloy (with contributions from Alison Sheridan and Stuart Needham)
Chapter 6. Items of personal adornment II: gold and the regalia from bush barrow (by Stuart Needham, John Hunter and Ann Woodward)
Chapter 7. Items of personal adornment III: disc bead and spacer plate necklaces (by Alison Sheridan, John Hunter and Ann Woodward)
Chapter 8. Items of personal adornment IV: composite necklaces (with contributions by Alison Sheridan)
Chapter 9. Chronology
Chapter 10. Object life stories (with David Bukach)
Chapter 11. Object function (with David Bukach)
Chapter 12. Regional variation
Chapter 13. Conclusions
Reviews & Quotes
"“Yet the enduring value of this work lies ahead, as inspiration for new research and new questions, and, surely, for a major exhibition that would finally bring the story to a wide public.”"
"If this is a retirement swan song (duet, rather), what a hymn sheet, what tunes! We will be humming them for decades."
"Surely the main lasting results are the very substantial stores of data on sourcing, manufacture, typology, function and usewear which will serve as an invaluable resource for all scholars of the periods now and in years to come. "
Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
"[...] a monumental new book by Ann Woodward FSA and John Hunter FSA, with major contributions from Stuart Needham FSA and Alison Sheridan FSA among others. Ritual in Early Bronze Age Grave Goods (Oxbow April 2015) is an outcome of a long research project investigating Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age artefacts (once ascribed to a ‘Wessex Culture’) in relation to their possible uses as dress accessories or equipment employed in rituals and ceremonies. Detailed discussions accompany an extensive, and intensively illustrated, overview of a large proportion of the grave goods from English burial sites."
SALON - The Society of Antiquaries Online Newslett
"...it is full of wonderful colour plates that one may want to ponder. It could form a model for similar studies of Irish material and should be required reading for any researchers considering the Irish Chalcolithic or early Bronze Age."
Ros Ó Maoldúin
Journal of Irish Archaeology - Reviewer 2