chapter  2
‘Death Makes the Man’? Burial Rite and the Construction of Masculinities in the Early Middle Ages
ByD.M. Hadley and J.M. Moore
Pages 18

Given the relative paucity of documentary sources in the early medieval period, much attention has been paid to the excavation of cemeteries and the nature of burial rite as a means of understanding and explaining social organization, ethnic identity, religious belief, political affiliations and so on. Many studies have, however, maintained a marked reluctance to deal with gender relations and find similarities, as much as differences, in the burial rites associated with males and females difficult to incorporate in their analyses of early medieval society. If the issue is addressed, stereotype is likely to dictate the approach taken. A more considered approach is clearly required: there are good reasons to suggest that burial was a major medium for the display of social status, of which gender was an important aspect. This chapter examines and challenges existing assumptions and biases in the interpretation of the construction of gender in early medieval cemeteries, and in particular rejects the fixed binary oppositions normally employed in discussions of male and female identity. There are undoubtedly common characteristics in the elaboration of male graves and in the signification of masculinity in early medieval cemeteries, but these patterns are not universal and do change over time. This suggests that masculinity was not constructed in a fixed and unchanging manner.