Grave goods: objects and death in later prehistoric Britain

Anwen Cooper, Duncan Garrow, Catriona Gibson, Melanie Giles, Neil Wilkin, 2020

Data copyright © Duncan Garrow unless otherwise stated

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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https://doi.org/10.5284/1052206
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Anwen Cooper, Duncan Garrow, Catriona Gibson, Melanie Giles, Neil Wilkin (2020) Grave goods: objects and death in later prehistoric Britain [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1052206

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Introduction

Mold cape detail
Mold cape (detail).
Image © The Trustees of the British Museum.

The Grave Goods project focused on material culture in graves and other formal mortuary contexts in Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age Britain, c. 4000 BC to AD 43. Britain is internationally renowned for the high quality and exquisite crafting of its later prehistoric grave goods. Objects from burials have long been central to how archaeologists have interpreted society at that time. Interred with both inhumations and cremations, they provide some of the most durable and well-preserved insights into personal identity and the prehistoric life-course, yet they also speak of the care shown to the dead by the living, and of people’s relationships with ‘things’. Objects matter. This project sought to transform current understandings of mortuary practice and material culture in later prehistoric Britain.

The Grave Goods project conducted its analysis at a series of different scales, ranging from macro-scale patterning across Britain, to regional explorations of continuity and change, to site-specific histories of practice, to micro-scale analysis of specific graves and the individual objects (and people) within them. Our main dataset consisted of a database of all material culture found in formal mortuary contexts during the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age within six key case study regions across England, Scotland and Wales: Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly; Dorset; Kent; East Yorkshire; Gwynedd and Anglesey; Orkney and the Outer Hebrides.

The project was a research collaboration between Duncan Garrow (University of Reading), Melanie Giles (University of Manchester) and Neil Wilkin (British Museum), and project researchers Anwen Cooper (Manchester) and Catriona Gibson (Reading). We also worked closely with Historic Environment Record officers in England, Scotland and Wales.