The brilliance of comitatus: aesthetics and society in early Anglo-Saxon England
By Kendra Mary Ann Adema
MA Thesis, Trent University, 2000
Abstract: In this thesis, key items of Anglo-Saxon material culture are examined in order to demonstrate the relationship between socio-cultural and aesthetic values in early Anglo-Saxon England. The theoretical framework employed herein is one in which the anthropology of experience is joined with symbolic and aesthetic anthropology. This approach is primarily contextual — involving a re-examination of archaeological data from 5th to 7th century Kentish burials. Evidence from historical and literary sources is employed to interpret the role played by these same artefacts in reinforcing both the ethos and the aesthetic of the comitatus social relationship.
This study begins with the premise that there exists no simple dichotomy between persons and things; instead, objects contribute to shaping our habitus. The positioning of burial goods within Anglo-Saxon graves is revelatory of their actual role in the creation of individual and group identity within early Anglo-Saxon society.
In this study, the life of these objects, the ways in which they moved through Anglo-Saxon society, were used, interacted with, and thought of, is examined to determine how aesthetic values were constructed and articulated within the comitatus relationship and how the interconnected roles of the waepned, the “weaponed” or warrior, and the webbe, the “weaver”, became lived metaphors within this society.