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Summary justice or the King's will? The first case of formal facial mutilation from Anglo-Saxon England

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 2020

Garrard Cole*
Affiliation:
Institute of Archaeology, University College London, UK
Peter W. Ditchfield
Affiliation:
Research Laboratory for Archaeology, School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, UK
Katharina Dulias
Affiliation:
Department of Biological and Geographical Sciences, University of Huddersfield, UK Department of Archaeology, University of York, UK
Ceiridwen J. Edwards
Affiliation:
Research Laboratory for Archaeology, School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, UK Department of Biological and Geographical Sciences, University of Huddersfield, UK
Andrew Reynolds
Affiliation:
Institute of Archaeology, University College London, UK
Tony Waldron
Affiliation:
Institute of Archaeology, University College London, UK
*
*Author for correspondence: ✉ tcrngco@ucl.ac.uk

Abstract

Intentional facial disfigurement is documented in archaeological contexts around the world. Here, the authors present the first archaeological evidence for intentional facial mutilation from Anglo-Saxon England—comprising the removal of the nose, upper lip and possible scalping—inflicted upon a young adult female. The injuries are consistent with documented punishments for female offenders. Although such mutilations do not appear in the written record until the tenth century AD, the instance reported here suggests that the practice may have emerged a century earlier. This case is examined in the context of a wider consideration of the motivations and significance of facial disfigurement in past societies.

Type
Research Article
Information
Antiquity , Volume 94 , Issue 377 , October 2020 , pp. 1263 - 1277
Copyright
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2020

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