Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
History and American Studies
Department Chair or Program Director
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.
Melvin, Samantha, "Unearthing the Witch: Reckoning with Gender, Magic, and the Unusual Dead within Anglo-Saxon Deviant Burials" (2022). Student Research Submissions. 449.