Going to pieces at the funeral: Completeness and complexity in early Bronze Age jet 'necklace' assemblages

Catherine Frieman*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    This article explores how the ways in which we as archaeologists view material culture - as being constituted of many parts or attributes, as complete, as dynamic, as unchanging - can affect the ways we interpret it. In doing so, it addresses the inherent conflict of object classification: while individual objects vary in significant and observable ways, to be included in broader research agendas they must be approximated to normative and idealized types, effectively effacing the actions of the individuals who made and used them. This conflict is explored through the study of beaded ornaments of jet and jet-like material found in Early Bronze Age burials across Britain. Although each bead assemblage comprises a variety of bead forms, types and materials, archaeologists and curators continue to treat them as singular, whole objects. I argue that tacking back and forth between the scale of the whole assemblage and that of the individual part allows us to make use of the variety of singular objects and make sense of their broader similarities to create a more nuanced and highly novel model of the social context in which they were worn, circulated and deposited.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)334-355
    Number of pages22
    JournalJournal of Social Archaeology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


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