Pamela J. Cross

Horses of Men and Gods: the horse and its role in funerary ritual in 1st millennium AD Britain.

Supervisors: Julie Bond, Tim Taylor (external) and Ian Armit
Funding: AHRC Collaborative Grant. Grant partners: National Trust, Sutton Hoo Society, Bernard Cornwell (Author) & Museum of London (LARCC). Additional support from SYNTHESYS and the Hungarian Natural History Museum.

The aim of this project is to better understand the use and structure of horse ritual and horse burials in 1st millennium AD Britain. The research will include identification of sites and depositional types. This data will be archived in a database which will be publically accessible at the end of the project. From analyses of this data, some of the different practices over time and geography can be assessed and provide information about the place of the horse in British/English culture. Osteological evaluation of skeletal remains from a selection of sites, will provide information about the physical horse during this period. Combining these sources of data with literature sources (archaeology, linguistics, folklore studies and history) and a comparison with horses and depositional practices in Europe, will contribute to our understanding not only of the horse during this period but also of a number of cultural aspects, including trade, war, social organisation and religious/ritual practices. Also, it may offer new insights into the development of Anglo-Saxon identity during this volatile but poorly documented era.

The project is planned to conclude in 2014, the year of the horse, with a joint exhibition involving the project partners and possibly others, such as local schools and other museums. Aspects of the project have been presented at the European Association of Archaeologists 2009 and 2010 conferences, International Council of ArchaeoZoology 2010 conference, Association of Social Anthropologists 2011 conference, and Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project 2011 public lectures (Aug. 1). The following publications are available:

CROSS, P. J. 2011. - Horse Burial in First Millennium AD Britain: Issues of Deposition. European Journal of Archaeology 14(1-2): 190-209.

CROSS, P. J. 2012. - The ritual of horse burial - Sutton Hoo and beyond. Saxon 55(July): 8-10.

CROSS, P. J. (in press). - Transforming the Dead: Human-Horse Burial Tableaus in Iron Age & Early Medieval Europe. Anthropozoologica x(x): x.

CROSS, P. J. (in press). - Who's Buried with Who? The Horse in Human Burials in Northwest Europe: Status Symbol, Companion, Transport or Divinity?, Understanding humans understanding horses: constructed and co-created cultures. Collected Papers from the Association of Social Anthropologists 2011 conference in Lampeter, Wales. x-x.


Last Updated:19 March 2013