In 410 C.E., the Roman Empire withdrew its administration and armies from England. Increasingly over the course of the 5th century, Germanic and Northern European tribal groups began to migrate into England. 

Due to the changes in population and political structures, high levels of archaeological diversity and transformation characterize this period from the mid-5th to the early 7th centuries C.E. This diversity can be attributed varied cultural, social, economic and political interactions between the post-Roman Britons and incoming Northern European immigrants. There was a shift to furnished inhumation and cremation burials in the mid-5th century across England in areas where migrants were more prevalent. The archaeological remains of both cremation and inhumation practices are found in varying frequencies throughout England and often co-occur within the same cemetery.

There are a number of issues facing studies of early Anglo-Saxon England burial practices. First, there are numerous cemeteries that have been excavated, but there is no simple way to locate collections and few have been digitized for online access. Second, re-use of cemetery collections is more common among digitized and known collections, causing a bias and restrictions in sampling. Finally, if a map of Anglo-Saxon cemeteries is desired for a specific project, it must be re-created by the researcher since no spatial data is freely available.

The project began as part Katy Meyers’ broader Ph.D. research, which focuses on the relationship between cremation and inhumation burials in early Anglo-Saxon England. Meyers realized that she would need a large general map inclusive of different types of cemeteries in this period and region, including inhumation only, cremation only, and mixed-cemeteries with both forms of burial. With this in mind, she set out to not only create a digital map with all early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, but also wanted to make it open access so that others could download the data and use it to make their own makes freely.

The project is known as ieldran, which means ancestor in Old English. It is an online geospatial database of all excavated cemeteries from England that date from the mid-5thto early 7th centuries. The project has a map-based interface that displays excavated cemeteries from this period with information on the burials present, references to books and journals, location of museum collections, and links to other relevant digital material. Data for the project was collected by collaborator Matt Austin as part of his Masters thesis.

There are four primary features that make up ieldran. First, the map-based interface allows users to find sites and related information within specific locations by zooming and pulling the map. This framework, known as Bootleaf, is a mash-up of Twitter Botostrap and Leaflet Maps created by Bryan McBride. Second, each site has information about the burials included, citations and references, information on the museum, and links to other related resources. Third, as the user moves around the map, the URL changes allowing specific views to be shared and referenced. This feature is provided by the plugin Leaflet Hash, created by Michael Evans. Finally, the site in the future will allow for users to download the primary geoJSON data for each cemetery layer in the program so that we can reduce redundant data creation.


Posted on

October 4, 2018

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