Nivien Speith

Skeletal evidence of the social persona: Life, death and society in early-medieval Alamannic communities

Internal Supervisors: Ian Armit and Jo Buckberry
External Supervisor: Christopher Knüsel, University of Exeter
Funding: AHRC

This PhD project aims to present an integrated approach to the concepts of social organisation and “social identities” in Alamannic populations (early 5th to late 7th c. AD) of southwest Germany.

Archaeological and historical research for this period and its populations focussed so far primarily on either the military character of the Alamanni or on issues of ethnicity, while the actual functioning of these societies in their respective environment, especially regarding the interesting mix of cultural influences in these communities, remains subject to solely archaeological interpretation, with many interrelations unrecognised or largely speculative.

In order to address the current desideratum to define the Alamanni in their lifeways, this project will assess and discuss the outcomes of an interdisciplinary approach using biological and archaeological data gathered from selected cemeteries in Baden-Wuerttemberg, allowing for the factor of different habitations and locations influencing the interactions of a community.

A key theme of this research is the investigation of indicators for ”biological“ and social status, by direct association of bioanthropological with archaeological data, as well as by evaluation of present interpretations made from material culture in the light of bioanthropological analysis as a paramount focus. The construction of ”osteobiographies“ for selected communities and individuals will be interpreted in terms of social status and the perception of certain social parameters, exploring the interrelations between factors such as sex and gender, age, ethnicity, status and activity for the entirety of a society.

Concurrent association with funerary archaeological data may considerably enhance our picture of Alamannic societies and help to comprehend Alamannic social organisation as a multilayered phenomenon, emphasizing the importance of a biocultural approach to these populations.


Last Updated:15 February 2010