Buried: an alternative history of the first millennium in Britain

Review by E O’Brien.

In Buried, Alice Roberts, derives information relating not only to the death of individuals but to the lives lived by those individuals from examination of their bones. Topics explored include infant mortality in the Roman world; decapitation; necrophobia; description of (and possible places of origin for) grave goods, including the decorated buckets at Breamore; the Staffordshire Hoard, brooches, and weapons; and the disappearance of grave goods with the emergence of burial in churchyards. The author is enthusiastic about ‘archaeogenetics’, the emerging use on human bone of a combination of aDNA, isotopic analysis, and genomes, to determine the origins of populations. This new amalgamation of disciplines is already starting to produce results helping to resolve questions relating to the issue of continuity of native populations versus immigration in the Roman period, the Anglo-Saxon period of the 5th-7th centuries, and the Viking period. The discussion on the current use of the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ is apposite. While this reviewer would agree with many, but not all, of the author’s philosophies, the book will certainly provide its readers with ample food for thought.

Buried: an alternative history of the first millennium in Britain, Alice Roberts, Simon and Schuster UK, £20, ISBN 978-1398510036.