Mapping Death

Burial in Late Iron Age and Early Medieval Ireland

Elizabeth O'Brien

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ISBN: 978-1-84682-859-1
November 2020. 320pp; colour ills

“Dr O’Brien has a résumé which speaks to a wealth of knowledge about death and burial in both Britain and Ireland … This publication is underpinned by a well-researched bibliography, which includes an extensive collection of up-to-date archaeological reports and datasets that are augmented by the inclusion of historical references to burial practices identified in medieval texts. With reference to the potential difficulty of using such texts, O’Brien successfully utilises these sources to provide a comprehensive overview of early burial practices across diverse perspectives and times ... O’Brien’s work is an important piece of research and presents a detailed catalogue of burial and grave types from the Iron Age to the early medieval period. The text is clearly informed and supported by her painstaking curatorial work on the Mapping Death database ... The book is likely to appeal to those with a working knowledge of archaeological research but is also suitable for those interested in learning more about the evolution of burial practices within the Irish context. Indeed, the author’s hope that it will ‘provide a platform for potential future research’ will undoubtedly be realised. This is a book which readers will draw from the shelves to refresh their knowledge of the subject time and time again. It provides a comprehensive guide to death and burial in Ireland, and enough exciting subject-matter that it is likely to be punctuated by readers with Post-its and highlighted segments from start to finish.” Gary Dempsey, Journal of Irish Archaeology, Vol. XXX (2021)

“This excellent book brings together a lifetime’s work on the part of Betty O’Brien, who has produced a comprehensive account of the burial customs of the Irish between the Late Iron Age and the early Middle Ages ... The period covered in the book runs from a world characterized by cremation burial c.400 BC to the (largely) Christianized, but pre-Viking, world of c.800 AD and thus encapsulates a series of major social, political, and cultural shifts, many of which provide the basis for wider topical discussions ... Several significant points—from among many—emerge from this study … Overall, the book is well written and well informed. It succeeds in bringing the finer points of relevant textual sources to bear on the archaeological material … this book will provide a starting point for further work, and O’Brien is to be thanked for her broad-brush analysis.” Andrew Reynolds, Speculum 98/3 (July 2023)