As one of the most insightful and prolifically publishing academics of the Early Middle Ages, archaeologists Dr Leszek Gardeła was the ninth interviewee for the forthcoming book Cremation in the Early Middle Ages.
Reviewing and evaluating the latest research on cremation practices from across North West Europe during the 5th-11th centuries AD, Femke Lippok (of the Rural Riches project at Leiden University) and I have so far interviewed:
Each interview explores new theories, methods and data. Together the chapters will provide a rich collections for scholars and students of death, burial and commemoration in the Early Middle Ages through the lens of fire-related rituals and corporeal transformations.
Interviewing Leszek was a welcome departure in at least two ways. First, while his work has tackled cremation burials in multiple regards, it hasn’t previously been a focus of his interests. Second, Leszek has generously agreed to be interviewed twice!
In this interview we explored the archaeological evidence for Western Slavic cremation practices. We explored approaches that challenge simplistic and normative readings of the burial data and we identified multiple themes of wider relevance. These included the challenges of interpreting old excavation data, the need to question culture-historic paradigms, and to consider the social and cosmological significance of early medieval death rituals involving cremation and the disposal of ashes. As with all other regions we’ve discussed, once again our conversation with Leszek revealed the necessity of considering cremation relationally, operating alongside other mortuary disposal methods. Through Leszek’s interview, we addressed this for the centuries leading up to the Viking Age, as well as the need to question narratives that regard odd and variant Viking-period Polish and other central European burial data in regards to ‘Norse’ influence.
We thank Dr Gardeła for sharing his perspectives and we look forward to interviewing him again regarding his work on Viking-period western Norway in due course!