Out of the cradle and into the grave: The children of Anglo-Saxon Great Chesterford, Essex

Christine M. Cave, Marc Oxenham

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This paper seeks to shine a light on the lived experience of Anglo-Saxon children, especially the infants. Unlike most Anglo-Saxon sites, Great Chesterford appears to be the final resting place of the whole community, providing an opportunity to examine usually invisible children. As children are buried by adults, inferences can be made about their attitudes to the dead child, as well as community concepts of children and childhood. Where and how they are buried not only reflect adult points of view, but also provide a glimpse, albeit through the distorted lens of the grave, of the life of that child. We found that although some were buried with exceptional treatment, in general children were supplied with fewer, less expensive grave goods than adults; some were buried in ways that marked them as unusual. Nonetheless, most usual adult grave goods are represented in juvenile graves. While the funeral tableau provides an aid to remembering the dead, the burying of artefacts also functions as an aid to forgetfulness. Therefore, we conclude that the unwillingness or inability to commit scarce resources to a dead child’s grave is not necessarily a sign that their deaths were without meaning or that the child was not missed
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAcross the Generations: The Old and the Young in Past Societies
EditorsG. Lillehammer, E. Murphy
PublisherOxbow Books
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-78570-713-1
ISBN (Print)978-1-78570-712-4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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