Tombs in ‘Beowulf’

Archaeodeath

IMG_20160413_125314 The audience gathers for my lunchtime lecture

This last week I gave the first of three Grosvenor Lunchtime Lectures organised by the Department of History and Archaeology. My talk was titled “Tombs in Beowulf”. I began by discussing the many material dimensions to the poem – halls, feasting and martial material culture, and burial mounds. I then introduced the challenge and problems of reading history and archaeology from the poem.

DSC01054 West Kennet long barrow: part of the ‘material world’ of the poem ‘Beowulf’?

I suggested that the poem did indeed shed light on an historical ‘reality’ but only in the broadest of terms. It reveals the widespread deployment of dimensions of mortuary practices of the 5th-10th centuries in Britain and Scandinavia, including furnished graves, ship-burial, cremation practices and burial mounds. I also emphasised how the poem’s fascination with imagined pasts is also revealed in the archaeological record, namely the widespread interest…

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