Austin Prosser Johnson Mason F'11
Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2011
Listening to the Early Medieval Dead: Religious Practices in Britain, 400–1000 C.E.
The basic narrative of the Anglo-Saxon conversion has in many ways remained the same for 1300 years. Written evidence from before the Norman Conquest is scarce, and historians have studied the same handful of texts for centuries. Scholars of Britain’s early religious history rarely examine the massive amount of evidence excavated from conversion-era cemeteries. By relying primarily on material culture and only secondarily on textual evidence, this dissertation argues that the Christianization of England was a much more complex process than the rapid conversion depicted in the written sources. If we use cemetery evidence creatively, and listen carefully to the early medieval dead, we can witness religious practices that appear nowhere in our texts, and use them to rewrite the religious history of Britain.