Bailey K. Young

title.none: Grainger and Hawkes, Anglo-Saxon Cemetery (Bailey K. Young)

identifier.other: baj9928.0411.005 04.11.05

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Bailey K. Young, Eastern Illinois University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Grainger, Guy and Sonia Chadwick Hawkes. The Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Worthy Park, Kingsworthy near Winchester, Hampshire. Series: Oxford School of Archaeology, vol. 59. Oxford: Oxford School of Archaeology, 2003. Pp. xii, 222. $40.00 0-947816-60-7. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.11.05

Grainger, Guy and Sonia Chadwick Hawkes. The Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Worthy Park, Kingsworthy near Winchester, Hampshire. Series: Oxford School of Archaeology, vol. 59. Oxford: Oxford School of Archaeology, 2003. Pp. xii, 222. $40.00 0-947816-60-7. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Bailey K. Young
Eastern Illinois University

The American army, as the occupying power of the Worthy Park estate during WW II, was inadvertently responsible for the discovery of this Anglo-Saxon cemetery located just three miles north of Winchester. The first graves were found in 1944 when a trench was cut to lay in a water pipe to Nissen huts set up south of the entrance drive. Members of the local Hampshire Field Club were able to excavate five of them, and after the war alerted the authorities when the site seemed menaced by development. Sonia Chadwick Hawkes, then in the early stages of a distinguished career that culminated as professor at the Institute of Archaeology at Oxford, directed two seasons of rescue excavations in 1961-62, uncovering 94 inhumation graves and 46 cremations within a fairly limited area (900 square meters). So why, as the author herself puts it squarely in her undated preface, has it taken so very long to publish? Her explanations offered here, and amplified in her first chapter, need to be taken in conjunction with the remarks of the team which actually brought this monograph into print. An unsigned editorial note (the editors, we learn from a brief separate preface by Helena Hammerow, are Edward Biddulph and Anne Dodd of Oxford Archaeology) states that at the time of Mrs. Hawkes' death in 1999 the report was in various stages of completion; indeed, some chapters of it are not published here at all. They have this to say about what is here published: "as it stood the report was incompatible with the style and presentation of more recent publications of Anglo-Saxon cemeteries. The organization and content was uneven, while the report on human remains (Chapter 3) contained interpretations that would today seem both idiosyncratic and outdated." Nevertheless, in the interest of making the basic data available, "it was decided to publish the report as a product of its time with no substantial re-writing or alteration." Back in the 1960's, Sonia Hawkes writes, "No provision for post-excavation research or funding was built into the original budget; there was no inducement, financial or otherwise (except personal satisfaction and sense of duty) for the excavator to expedite the publication, and very little means for her to do so." Nevertheless much had been done towards it by 1967, the finds conserved and drawn, the catalogue in progress, but the real delaying factor (besides the author's growing teaching commitments) was getting a report on the human skeletons. These had been conserved and their measurements taken by a specialist technician (B. Denston), but there were then few scholars competent to do the report. One of these, Don Brothwell, agreed to take it on, but then moved to a new post taking some of skeletal material with him, and never did furnish what was wanted (he did not co-operate in this volume). Mrs. Hawkes "sought advice elsewhere": Calvin Wells, another well-known physical anthropologist, worked on the material up to his death in 1978, and even co-authored with her short articles on particular cases. In the 1980s the publication project picked up speed when she got a paid research assistant, Guy Grainger, to take charge of it. The final impetus into print came from the availability, at long last, of adequate funds: so determined was Sonia Hawkes to publish that she left money in her estate for this, and a grant from English Heritage did the rest.

So what do we have here? The guts of the book (what the editors call the "basic data") is Chapter 2, the illustrated inventory of burials and finds (140 pages). The quality of the drawings is good, and these are supplemented by 10 black-and-white photographic plates, depicting artifacts and selected skeletons shown in place. This inventory is "largely the work of a paid research assistant, Guy Grainger, though it has of course been checked very thoroughly by the author," as her preface puts it. Grainger added a short chapter about structural features associated with the graves; two other short chapters of specialist technical analysis (textiles, metal objects) follow. The last chapter is a brief gazetteer of fifth-to-seventh century Anglo- Saxon sites for Hampshire: eighty-eight for the mainland and thirteen more for the Isle of Wight. Background to the Worthy Park site itself, and of the excavations and their methods, is given in Chapter One, entitled simply "Introduction." Those interested in the history of archaeology will find this an interesting read, as Mrs. Hawkes offers a vivid description of problems such as untouchable trees and dangerous bees confronting an ad hoc team (part-volunteer, part paid) in the days before the professional archaeology for which Britain is now well-known had come into place. There is a clear defensive note in passages like: "Ideally layer 3 should have been trowelled down with great care to prevent damage to the cremation urns, but since we knew there were inhumations beneath, we had neither the time nor the resources to work so slowly, and we therefore removed it by pick and shovel." She insists, however, that "considering all the odds stacked against us our excavations were the best that could have been achieved at that time." The greatest problem, she laments, was the incompleteness of the excavation, which "leaves us with a very great many uncertainties, for example about the size of the community and about the chronology of the cemetery." Without the resources, or the necessary permission, to dig under the paved drive, disturb the trees and the bee-hives (removed by development just a few years later, when it was too late for archaeology) they were able to excavate only the accessible inhumation graves and to recover as best they could the fragments of smashed cremation urns (mostly smashed by ploughing before the archaeologists arrived) above them. After two campaigns, the Ministry of Works, the "paymaster," invoked the official theory of the day that it was enough to get a "representative sample" of any site, and cut off funds. "Had the decision been otherwise, it would have been possible to establish the limits of the site on the north, east, and south sides." The other great problem was the lack of a specialist assistant for recording the skeletons, and this then became, as we saw above, the long struggle to get the bones studied and a publishable report on them.

And so we come to Chapter 3, "The Inhumations and Cremations," which is largely the result of Mrs. Hawkes "fulfilling dialogue" in the 1970's with Dr. Calvin Wells. Indeed, they published selected cases in specialist journals at the time, such such as Burial 78, a teenage girl with an exotosis on her right femur ("exotoses are abnormal projections from a bone and are usually due to injury" [171]) which they interpret as evidence of rape. The fact that this girl was also buried in a prone position, instead of the overwhelmingly usual supine, they suggest is another hint of her victimization. This is the only particular case where the editors (who adopted a "light touch" policy) raise an explicit objection in the form of a footnote quoting a 1988 article on the rape of Anglo-Saxon women, which provides other explanations, "not necessarily sinister" for the muscular tearing seen here, "rough riding on a horse" for example. But Chapter 3 affords a number of examples of what was stigmatized in the editorial note as "idiosyncratic and outdated" interpretations. Burial 57, "a miserable little man with a load of pathology" bore on his frontal bone a lesion which suggests to them a shallow wound from a sharp weapon: "It does not suggest the high drama of a sword slash: more likely a sleazy brawl with carver, cleaver, or garden hoe." There is the man with widespread arthritis (Burial 70) with an "parry fracture" in his lower left arm, guessed to derive from trying to ward off a cudgel blow: "it is tempting to think he was of low or slave status, an overworked drudge who was sometimes beaten by his master."

Then there is the evidence of sinusitis of the maxillary Atrium observed in half a dozen cases and inferred to have been more frequent: they develop an argument that the observed bone changes the sinusitis must have been chronic ("the cavity more or less permanently full of pus") and conjure up from this "a droplet infection being passed on from one to another as they huddled closely together around their fires in the damp chill of a winter's night. We need no great imagination to picture the coughing and spluttering produced by the smoke and the snorting, hawking, snuffling and spitting consequent on a sinus full of pus. The air must have been putrid with the stench of halitosis." Now this is the second longest chapter in the book: 25 pages, the work of five authors, presenting an abundance of quantified data in tabular form (34 tables) with subsections on sex and age, stature, skeletal morphology and muscle development, besides the pathology with the examples quoted above. (All of them are taken from the subsection "Other Pathology" signed by Wells alone; I am presuming that his voice blends here in dialogue with Mrs. Hawkes, as her preface suggests, and does not engage the other chapter authors.) Warned that the editors mistrust such interpretations as "idiosyncratic and out-of-date" how is the non- specialist reader to regard the bulk of the matter delivered here? And so we come to the fundamental problem of this volume: interpretation, or rather, its absence.

When the decision to publish was made, in 2001, a number of chapters "had not been finalized." Some were specialist reports, but they also included chapters on cemetery organization and the grave-goods, fundamental to the general analysis of any cemetery. These chapters were written (by Guy Grainger) and are said to be available for consultation in the site archive housed in Winchester Museum, so their absence here is all the more striking. The only elements of interpretation, then, are those sketched by Sonia Hawkes in Chapter 1, and or added as embellishments to the discussion of bone pathology in Chapter 3. It is clear from the former that Worthy Park is quite an important site, so near the important center of Winchester, associating cremations with inhumations, with a rich range of material for the Early Saxon Period. Although the failure to extend the excavation to the already hypothesized limits in the 1960s must be deeply regretted (one wonders if all further research at the site is out of the question now), surely the material that was so carefully excavated and conserved can be usefully discussed in the light of some forty years of increasingly professional Anglo-Saxon excavation and research. Perhaps this is planned, though no hint is offered here. Similarly, how implausible are the maligned inferences made by Hawkes and Wells in Chapter 3? If one grants that the young girl in Grave 78 might have torn a muscle doing some rough riding, does this rule out rape as another possibility? Hawkes and Wells want to "read" the bones in the interest of social history. Is it this very ambition that is now deemed out of line in keeping with an ideal of objectivity that eschews not only dramatic license, but any attempt to grasp the human reality of the times that departs from the most neutral and least controversial presentation of data? To end with another example: discussing the incidence of arthritic lesions (167) Wells/Hawkes point to four male (40,57,70,73) and one female (20) burials as particularly striking examples. They comment: "The general impression created by these five people is that they were continuously carrying out hard physical labour, probably were the victims of assault, and suffered from chronic ill-health, with a large scatter of pathological lesions. In short, they may have been the exploited slaves of the group." If one checks the grave inventory, one learns that all of these graves were intact and unfurnished, except for one man with a blue glass bead which he might have held in his hand (Grave 40). In a cemetery abounding in grave- goods (though in some cases very simple ones such as an iron buckle or a knife), is it so very implausible to suggest that their quasi- absence in this group of five, combined with the lesions read as evidence of physical abuse, [suggests that these individuals] might have been exploited slaves? Does anyone doubt that there was a class of slaves, or dependants of low-status, in Anglo-Saxon communities, and that trying to identify their remains is a valid and useful historical task? Sonia Hawkes was a major figure in the passage of Anglo-Saxon archaeology from an enthusiasm shared by unpaid local amateurs and isolated university scholars, rescuing sites as best they could in the face of the kind of odds described in the case of Worthy Park, to the paid-and-trained professional teams who have come to dominate excavation in the last quarter-century. It is very much to Mrs. Hawkes' credit that she took up the task begun by Hampshire Club, and that she persevered all those years in her determination to get her excavation into the public record with all the imperfections which she acknowledges, even to the extent of providing funds for this posthumous publication. Her archaeological heirs deserve our thanks for their efforts; it would be to their further credit to furnish the analyses and propose the interpretations, with whatever criticisms are deemed just, to place this important site in context.