Burial practices in early Christian Norway. An osteoarchaeological study into differences and similarities between four burial assemblages
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The main topics of this thesis are the burial practices carried out at the time of early Christianity in Norway and how the burial practices relate to the burial regulations given in the provincial laws (Gulating, Frostating, Eidsivating, Borgarting). The study is based on the data collected from the examination of the skeletal material from four different graveyards and the data collected from the archaeological records from the different sites (St. Mary’s church in Bergen, Public Library site in Trondheim, Hamar cathedral and the St. Peter’s church in Tønsberg). Questions regarding sexual segregation and social stratification of the graveyards have been the main interest of this research, but other features which could have influenced the place of burial have also been touched upon: age, family relations, foreigners.
It has been shown that the sexes were not treated equally on three of the four graveyards: there was no evidence suggesting that the sexes were ever segregated on the graveyard for the St. Mary’s church in Bergen. It has also become apparent that the separation of the sexes was adapted to the individual graveyard and did not necessarily follow the north-south division prescribed in the Eidsivating law and a pattern which has been shown on many graveyards in Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Greenland.
It has been argued that pathological conditions, especially degenerative changes to the joints and vertebrae, can be good indicators of social differences. Based on the distribution of these pathological conditions, strong evidence has been presented in favour of the graveyards having been socially stratified. It seems very likely that an individual’s social status decided a person’s placement on the graveyard at the Public Library site in Trondheim and for the St. Peter’s church in Tønsberg.