I started off in archaeology interested in the early part of the Early Middle Ages in lowland Britain: the early Anglo-Saxon period (5th-early 7th centuries AD). In particular, my MA thesis explored the location of 5th-7th-century early medieval cemeteries in relation to prehistoric and Roman monuments. My doctoral thesis investigated early Anglo-Saxon cremation practice of the 5th to early 7th centuries AD. Vikings were as good as current affairs back then. I’ve stuck with this period and these interests ever since, particularly explore cremation practices. Yet I’ve also explored the mortuary archaeology of other periods and regions of the Middle Ages and modern world.
Still, at an early stage I become fascinated with the Viking Age through reading and teaching, and by listening to talks by (among others) Neil Price, who edited one of my first book chapters for his The Archaeology of Shamanism book in 2001, and many of my peers who were interested in later centuries, including Sarah Semple, Andrew Reynolds and Victoria Thompson. Hence, I quickly acquired interests in the mortuary archaeology and archaeologies of memory applied to the Viking Age Ireland, Britain and Scandinavia.
Writing on the Viking Age began with my Death and Memory in Early Medieval Britain monograph in 2006. Here, I discussed aspects of the archaeology of death and memory extending from the 5th/6th centuries through to the 10th/11th centuries. I included, for example, a discussion of barrow-burials on the Isle of Man and later Anglo-Saxon/Anglo-Scandinavian furnished burials and churchyard mortuary practices.
There was also a Scandinavian component. I was invited to co-direct excavations in Sweden in 2005 and 2006 with Dr Martin Rundkvist. This led to three co-authored articles about the boat-grave cemetery at Skamby we dug. Most recently, I have penned a fourth single article about the temporality of the Skamby boat-grave.
My interest in Viking Age death and burial also developed through co-editing Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History volume 14 with Sarah Semple. This collection was based on the proceedings of a conference I organised in Exeter. There were some really exciting chapters on Viking Age burial including chapters by Dawn Hadley, Martin Rundkvist and Stephen Harrison that inspired me to read and learn more.
Then, moving to live and work in North Wales and North West England respectively, I have had the opportunity to visit more early medieval stone monuments, as well as start work on the collaborative project – Project Eliseg. This is very much an ‘Insular’ monument, but dating to the early 9th century, it might be regarded as ‘Viking Age’.
Furthermore, I’ve continued to explore southern and central Scandinavia through publications, conferences and funded research trips. Hence, I’ve maintained and enhanced my interests in stone sculpture, rune-stones and mortuary practice in the Viking Age. The Past in its Place project has allowed me to pursue the relationship between myth, legend and mortuary commemoration in the Viking Age.
To date, these influences, ideas and research projects haves led to a series of book chapters and journal articles on Viking Age mortuary and commemorative practice. Also, I’ve co-edited a book on early medieval stone monuments: much of its contents focus on the Viking Age.
Most recently, building on an EAA conference session, I guest edited an issue of the European Journal of Archaeology, investigating mortuary citations across the Viking world.
Watch this space for future outputs!
You can read most of these on my Academia.edu site. Here is a list of my Viking articles.
Williams, H. (guest ed.) 2016. Mortuary citations: Death and Memory in the Viking World: Special issue of the European Journal of Archaeology 19(3)
Williams, H. 2016. Citations in stone: the material world of hogbacks, European Journal of Archaeology 19(3) 497-518. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14619571.2016.1186910 http://hdl.handle.net/10034/619046
Williams, H., Kirton, J. and Gondek, M. (eds) 2015. Early Medieval Stone Monuments: Materiality, Biography, Landscape. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer. http://www.boydellandbrewer.com/store/viewItem.asp?idProduct=14947
Williams, H., Kirton, J. and Gondek, M. 2015. Introduction: stones in substance, space and time, in. H. Williams, J. Kirton and M. Gondek (eds) Early Medieval Stone Monuments: Materiality, Biography, Landscape. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, pp. 1-34. http://www.boydellandbrewer.com/store/viewItem.asp?idProduct=14947 http://hdl.handle.net/10034/594442
Williams, H. 2015. Hogbacks: the materiality of solid spaces, in H. Williams, J. Kirton and M. Gondek (eds) Early Medieval Stone Monuments: Materiality, Biography, Landscape. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, pp. 241-68 http://www.boydellandbrewer.com/store/viewItem.asp?idProduct=14947 http://hdl.handle.net/10034/594430
Williams, H. 2014. Memory through monuments: movement and temporality in Skamby’s boat graves, in H. Alexandersson, A. Andreeff, and A. Bünz (eds) Med hjärta och hjärna. En vänbok till professor Elisabeth Arwill-Nordbladh, GOTARC Series A, Gothenburg Archaeological Studies, vol. 5, Göteborg: Göteborgs Universitet, Institutionen för historiska studier, pp. 397-414. http://hdl.handle.net/10034/337528
Williams, H. 2013. Death, memory and material culture: catalytic commemoration and the cremated dead, in S. Tarlow and L. Nilsson Stutz (eds) The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 195-208. http://hdl.handle.net/10034/336963
Williams, H., Rundkvist, M. & Danielsson, A. 2010. The landscape of a Swedish boat-grave cemetery, Landscapes 11(1): 1-24. http://hdl.handle.net/10034/311915
Rundkvist, M. & Williams, H. 2008. A Viking boat grave with gaming pieces excavated at Skamby, Östergötland, Sweden, Medieval Archaeology 52: 69-102.
Rundkvist, M., Stilborg, O. and Williams H. 2007. Copper alloy casting at Skamby in Kuddby parish, Östergötland, Fornvännen 102, 279-281.
Semple, S. and Williams, H. (eds) 2007. Early Medieval Mortuary Practices: Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology & History 14. Oxford: Oxford University Committee for Archaeology. 400 pages. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Anglo-Saxon-Studies-Archaeology-History-Perspectives/dp/0947816151
Williams, H. 2006. Death & Memory in Early Medieval Britain, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 268 pages (paperback reprint, 2010). http://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/archaeology/medieval-archaeology/death-and-memory-early-medieval-britain