By Andrew Reynolds
Papers from the Institute of Archaeology, Vol 7 (1996)
Introduction: By reference to two well-known sites where human sacrifice has been suggested, some problems of interpretation of Early Anglo-Saxon burial practices and pre-burial rites from archaeological evidence are considered.
It is twenty years since Dr Tania Dickinson published her detailed account of the high-status or ‘princely’ artefacts and associated burials from Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire. The recent discover of the two groups of unusual buriaks from Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, and research into Early Anglo-Saxon burial customs and religion, have accentuated the need to examine afresh the more gruesome rituals of period.
In the light of such renewed interest, particularly in human sacrifice, some reconsideration is desirable with regard to the relationship between ‘unusual’ burials from the Early Anglo-Saxon burial sites at Sutton Hoo and the find at Cuddesdon, especially at the latter site provides the most frequently cited English parallel in discussions of the possibility of human sacrifice at the former.
In this paper the characteristics of both side are compared and contrasted and the evidence which has been used in their interpretation is reviewed.