The Worm

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The Warrior went up: the greatest of corpse fires coiled to the sky, roared before the mounds. There were melting heads and bursting wounds, as the blood sprang out from weapon-bitten bodies. Blazing fire, most insatiable of spirits, swallowed the remains of the victims of both nations. Their valour was no more.

Beowulf

King Without A Face

” At the same time we see, for the first time in Germanic-speaking Britain, large, very wealthy burials, often in chambers or under mounds. This represent a more complex social hierarchy emerging out of a relatively flat colonial or pioneering community and, I would argue, this is also what we see happening in Uppland at the same time. Pioneer societies tend to emphasize communality and collaboration in the face of the unfamiliar, and potentially hostile, environments and natives. As communities become more entrenched and secure, with regard to their relationship with the environment and their new neighbours, so too do economic and social distinctions begin to emerge. Such distinctions, however, are not immediately secure and require constant reinforcement if they are to be maintained. It is this light that we need to consider Sutton Hoo and Sweden. The rich burials found in both areas are not evidence of an established hierarchy, but of the struggle to establish one when display of wealth and power, and public performance are all important. The new hierarchy is particularly vulnerable when its leaders die and merit is measured against heredity in the search for a successor. The choreographers of mortuary rites were those who had the most to gain and the most to lose in these situations. The mounds in the grave fields at Sutton Hoo and Vendel were not the monuments of the most powerful monarchies of their age, but of those whose heirs felt that they were the most vulnerable.”

Reference

Alex Woolf, Sutton Hoo and Sweden Revisited