Date of Award

Spring 4-29-2022

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


History and American Studies

Department Chair or Program Director

Claudine Ferrell

First Advisor

Bruce O'Brien

Major or Concentration



The fifth to seventh centuries CE, or the Migration Period, marked the development of Anglo-Saxon culture and society in England. The early Anglo-Saxons are known largely through their material culture and mortuary practices, left behind in medieval cemeteries that twist their way across the English landscape. The remains of early Anglo-Saxons tell rich and interesting histories about past peoples, but within the broader landscapes of these cemeteries are deviant burials. These are burials that are specifically typified as ones that ‘deviate’ from the norm, usually indicating that the inhumed individual was punished in death for actions committed in life. These graves and burials are often elusive in their meaning, and scholars in mortuary studies have only just begun to dig deeper into the sociocultural implications of these burials, as well as into the identities of these unusual dead. In particular, interpretations of evidence have proposed that some of these burials belong to Anglo-Saxon cunning women (or folk) and witches, which this paper will review, drawing conclusions about how viable these interpretations are. An additional key aspect will be to discern the possibilities (and limitations) of analyzing abstract concepts like magical belief and paganism from archaeological remains.