This year’s Dalrymple lectures begin tonight! More details can be found here: http://www.gla.ac.uk/departments/archaeology/newslinks/dalrymplelectures/
The series of lectures is entitled: Medieval Lives: Archaeology and the Life Course and will be delivered by Professor Roberta Gilchrist (University of Reading) over the 14th-17th March, 2011 at Sir Charles Wilson Building, University of Glasgow (at the junction of Gibson Street and Kelvin Way).
The 4 lectures include:
1. The Medieval Life Course: Age and the Body
Monday 14th March, 6.30pm
The first lecture introduces the concept of ‘the life course’ and explores its application to understanding the experience of ageing in medieval England. Rather than focus on successive stages of the biological lifecycle in isolation (such as childhood and old age), the model of the life course examines the experience of the human life as a continuum. It emphasizes the materiality of the body and the connections between phases in life, and it helps to clarify medieval ideas about life and death. Christian belief in the afterlife was premised on the material continuity of the body from conception, through life, to death, decay and resurrection. Medieval theories of the body are briefly introduced and the archaeological evidence for clothing is used to consider age as a key aspect of medieval social identity. Additional insight into the personal experience of ageing is drawn from osteological analyses of skeletons excavated from medieval cemeteries.
2. Growing Up and Growing Old: the Medieval Household
Tuesday 15th March, 6.30pm
The household was established on marriage and was associated culturally with the attainment of adulthood. Marriage was celebrated as a pivotal life course ritual and it was elaborated through material culture which created the domesticity of the home. This lecture considers the material practices of the home and family which defined the extended medieval life course, beginning with conception and birth. The material practices of motherhood were central to the home and domestic devotion focused especially on fertility and the protection of newborns. Archaeology provides evidence for a distinctive material culture of children, confirming the substantial social investment that was made in medieval childhood as a formative stage of life. At the opposite end of the age-spectrum, special provision was made for ‘retired’ peasants who agreed to share their croft with young couples who wished to establish a home.
3. The Quick and the Dead: the Journey to the Afterlife (Wed 16 March, 6.30pm)
Wednesday 16th March, 6.30pm
Medieval belief in purgatory fostered the sense that death was not the end of life, but rather a distinct transitional stage in the cycle of the medieval life course. The dead were understood to continue to exist in a parallel plane, as an ‘age-group’ that continued to influence the living. But the transition to the afterlife was surrounded by enormous anxiety, expressed in the widespread belief in ghosts, ghouls and the dancing dead. This lecture examines the archaeology of the church and cemetery as a venue for interaction between the living and the dead. Beliefs about the afterlife were expressed through the representation of the dead on tombs and conventions for burial of the dead. Archaeological evidence reveals that the idea of the Christian life course had a profound impact on burial practice: certain age groups were given special treatment in death and grave goods were sometimes placed with the dead in effort to assist the body in resurrection.
4. Heirlooms and Ancient Objects: Connecting the Lives of Medieval People and Things
Thursday 17th March, 7.30pm
The final lecture in the series draws together the biographies of medieval people and things. Archaeological evidence is considered for the ‘curation’ of heirlooms in the home and the use of ancient objects as Christian grave goods. What did old things mean to medieval people – why did they keep them, and how did they use them? It is argued that heirlooms and antiquities were both considered to be special objects, but that the two categories were invested with a different agency by medieval people. Antiquities were objects recovered from the earth and perceived to be natural objects; they were not prized for any temporal association but for their connection to the occult power of nature. In contrast, heirlooms were biographical objects that were closely connected with life course rituals surrounding birth and marriage. In essence, heirlooms are the sinews which bind generations and forge the materiality of family memory.