Somehow against all the odds, and despite the pandemic creating all manner of challenges for us, the superbly talented and indefatigable Femke Lippok (Leiden University) and I are continuing work on our publication project to bring together the first-ever book on early medieval cremation practices: Cremation in the Early Middle Ages.

Not only is this an original archaeological publication project, we are compiling the bulk of the book in a distinctive fashion: via structured interviews. Each interview-chapter will be supported by fact-boxes introducing key sites and finds from different regions. We plan for the book to be introduced and concluded with co-authored chapters by Femke and myself.

Cremation in the Early Middle Ages will draw together the latest research and thinking on early medieval cremation practices and aims to be of interest to students and scholars of medieval archaeology and history, but also global research in the archaeology, bioarchaeology and anthropology of mortuary practices, and death studies more broadly.

Previously, I reported on our first three interviews with Rica Annaert, Dr Egge Knol and Dr Raimund Masanz. Having thus surveying early medieval cremation practices in Belgium, the northern Netherlands and south-west Germany, our fourth interview took us to consider the 5th/6th-century cremation practices of eastern England. We met up with Dr Gareth Perry of the Department of Archaeology, University of York. Gareth is an expert on pottery use in early medieval Europe. You can read his doctoral thesis here, and one of his original and important publications are online here.

Most recently, Gareth has published an important reconsideration of the significance and function of early Anglo-Saxon cremation cemeteries in the East Midlands in the journal World Archaeology, focusing on North Lincolnshire. This article uses a detailed multi-strand methodology to investigate the cinerary urns from the Elsham and Cleatham cemeteries, shedding fresh light on the idea that large cremation cemeteries operated as ‘central places’ within the landscape.

We had a great time discussing with Gareth the theories, methods and data he has deployed in his research. We reviewed both his principal findings and his views on the potential directions future research might take. Gareth was keen to emphasise the important insights material culture specialists can provide in understanding the artefacts, technologies and landscape contexts of early medieval cremation practices. We’re delighted yet again to have experts willing to contribute to our book and thank Gareth profusely for his many insights.

We have three more interviews lined up in coming weeks and plans for more: I’ll use the Archaeodeath blog to keep you updated!