by Ruth Ann Maher
British Archaeological Reports International Series (2529) (July 2013)
The purpose of this Viking-Age Icelandic study is to look beyond the catalogues of data already in the record and put the information in its social context. This study shows that the internal and external aspects of any grave reveal not only information about the deceased, but also about his or her family, society and, most importantly, the ideological realms of the people burying the dead, which was, relatively recently, not considered accessible from material remains. In so doing, the catalogues of internal data were anthropologically interpreted with the help of external information to provide an image of the society, showing differences based on age and gender and the role cosmology played in burial placement. In addition, this study shows that using Geographical Information Systems does not limit research to statements of quantity. GIS can be used to explore a range of subjects including qualitative analysis and cognitive choices. This is achieved by integrating Cognitive, Landscape and Mortuary theory; and Gender and Age approaches to the burial sites of pre-Christian Viking period Iceland. The approach of this study, therefore, is to analyse the internal grave structures and artefact inclusions and the external surroundings to draw out the meanings, symbols and behaviours behind those materials that define the culture.