Merovingian Mortuary Archaeology and the Making of the Early Middle Ages

Merovingian Mortuary Archaeology and the Making of the Early Middle Ages

Merovingian Mortuary Archaeology and the Making of the Early Middle Ages

Merovingian Mortuary Archaeology and the Making of the Early Middle Ages

Synopsis

A history of the discovery and interpretation of medieval burials in Gaul (what would eventually become France).

Excerpt

Many of the analytical shortcomings of mortuary studies have stemmed from the intrinsically interdisciplinary nature of the evidence. Because scholars have had to utilize materials from fields other than their own to support their findings, they have not always been aware of the limitations of the sources. Just as art historians and archaeologists have often linked their finds confidently to particular historical events or individuals, historians have frequently used what they have trusted to be straightforward archaeological examples as a means of visualizing human interactions documented in the written sources. the discussion below of some of the most common pitfalls of the collaborative use of historical descriptions and archaeological evidence will illustrate some of the consequences of borrowing uncritically across disciplines in the study of Merovingian mortuary practices. Following a general outline of the central features of the deposition of grave goods, a critique of some of the best-documented archaeological sites in early medieval Gaul will highlight not only the diversity of cemeterial practice but also the controversies associated with the interpretation of grave goods.

Early medieval grave artifacts thought to have belonged to royalty have long attracted the attention of specialists in the disciplines of early medieval history, art history, and archaeology. Not only have rich finds linked to historical figures generated great interest among academics and curators, but they have also stirred the curiosity of a more general audience. Promoting the material's appeal, however, has meant focusing on lavish rather than representative examples of artifactual remains. These exceptional pieces have been the object of multiple inquiries and the subject of influential exhibitions; much of the resulting research has been highly reliable, although some has been less than methodologically sound. in many in-

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