Update: 29th June. The Call for Papers for the issue of Archaeological Review from Cambridge I'm editing together with Alison Klevnas is out. You can find a copy in MS Word format here, or in HTML here. Working on the second edit of my article on the European context of charcoal burials -- should be out later this year; watch this space. I'll be talking more specifically about the English examples at the International Medieval Congress in 2006. You can read a brief description of the session on the IMC website.
I'm James Holloway, a 27-year-old PhD student in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge. I started out studying History as an undergraduate, worked for a few years in the United States, and then moved to archaeology through an MA course at the University of Durham. Now I'm back at Cambridge working on my PhD; my supervisor is Catherine Hills.
I'm treasurer of the Archaeological Review from Cambridge in my copious free time.
This page is intended to present a brief overview of my interests and current research. Check back occasionally for updates on the progress of my PhD or follow the links below for a (slightly) more detailed explanation of my work.
My PhD thesis is on "Charcoal burial": a minority burial rite in early medieval Britain.
As the title suggests, this covers later Anglo-Saxon graves in which the body is placed upon or covered by a layer of charcoal. This is one of a number of rites in early medieval Britain that deviate from what we think of as the "normal" Christian burial rite. At the moment, I am working on data collection, amassing and organizing a database of sites which contain charcoal burials. These will be analyzed in order to identify geographic, chronological and demographic trends which might increase our understanding of this enigmatic burial rite and, by extension, the ways in which funeral rites and the dead body were used to construct identities in early medieval Britain. Additionally, I'll be examining what the textual evidence tells us about diversity in early medieval burial practice. Although examples of charcoal burial from outside the UK will not be included in the database, I will be using them for comparative study.
My MA thesis, Charcoal burials in early medieval Northern England, analysed charcoal burials within a limited sample area. This project generated a lot of important lessons for my PhD thesis, including database elements which I will be using for the final version (and some I won't).
For general questions about charcoal burials, check out the FAQ.
If you think you know of a charcoal burial site I don't know about, visit the sites page
For a visual distribution of charcoal burial sites, look at the preliminary map.
I'm supervising for two courses this term: the A2 "Death and Burial" module and A25, Anglo-Saxon England. If I'm supervising you, you can find some details about supervisions here.