Grave Goods: Objects and Death in Later Prehistoric Britain [Hardback]

Anwen Cooper (Author); Duncan Garrow (Author); Catriona Gibson (Author); Melanie Giles (Author); Neil Wilkin (Author)

ISBN: 9781789257472 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2021 | Language: English 320p, H240 x W170 (mm) B/w and colour

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Grave Goods


Britain is internationally renowned for the high quality and exquisite crafting of its later prehistoric grave goods (c. 4000 BC to AD 43). Many of prehistoric Britain's most impressive artefacts have come from graves. Interred with both inhumations and cremations, they provide some of the most durable and well-preserved insights into personal identity and the prehistoric life-course, yet they also speak of the care shown to the dead by the living, and of people’s relationships with 'things'. Objects matter.

This book's title is an intentional play on words. These are objects in burials; but they are also goods, material culture, that must be taken seriously. Within it, we outline the results of the first long-term, large-scale investigation into grave goods during this period, which enables a new level of understanding of mortuary practice and material culture throughout this major period of technological innovation and social transformation. Analysis is structured at a series of different scales, ranging from macro-scale patterning across Britain, to regional explorations of continuity and change, to site-specific histories of practice, to micro-scale analysis of specific graves and the individual objects (and people) within them. We bring these different scales of analysis together in the first ever book focusing specifically on objects and death in later prehistoric Britain.

Focusing on six key case study regions, the book innovatively synthesises antiquarian reports, research projects and developer funded excavations. At the same time, it also engages with, and develops, a number of recent theoretical trends within archaeology, including personhood, object biography and materiality, ensuring that it will be of relevance right across the discipline. Its subject matter will also resonate with those working in anthropology, sociology, museology and other areas where death, burial and the role of material culture in people’s lives are key contemporary issues.

Table of Contents

List of figures
List of tables
1. Introduction
2. From ‘appurtenances of affectionate superstition’ to ‘vibrant assemblages’: an historiography of grave goods
3. Grave goods: the big picture
4. What goes in a grave? Situating prehistoric grave goods in relation to the wider materials of life
5. Small things, strong gestures: understated objects in prehistoric graves
6. Performing pots: the most common grave good of all
7. Material mobility: grave goods, place and geographical meaning
8. Time’s arrows: the complex temporalities of burial objects
9. Discussion: grave choices in a material world
Appendix: objects recorded within the Grave Goods database

Reviews & Quotes

"[T]his is a well-researched and presented book and discussions of the whys and wherefores of grave goods throughout later prehistory are discussed in a generally open-minded way."
Alex Gibson
Archaeologia Cambrensis - Cambrian Archaeological Association (20/12/2022)

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