Book Review

Burial in Medieval Ireland 900-1500 by Susan Leigh Fry. 1999 Four Courts Press, Dublin. 227pages. ISBN 1-85182-309-3 IR£35


Fry's work on all aspects of burial in Medieval Ireland should have been the book that we were all thirsting to buy - a honey pot of interdisciplinary research which the osteoarchaeologist could dip into. However although it contains a vast amount of information it still reads very much like the MLitt thesis from Trinity College Dublin which it was based upon.

The strength of the book lies in it's collection of historical and annalistic references divided neatly into sections such as Burial Ritual, Burial Artefacts and Social Stratification in Burial. However the work is that of a historian and scant and sometimes misleading information has been gleaned to pad out the archaeological and physical evidence from the burial record. Also the time period chosen for the study is somewhat arbitrary. The period 900-1500AD start too late and ends abruptly with little to suggest the reasons for their choice either on historical or archaeological grounds.

Although there is an abundance of textual evidence from the Irish Gaelic Sources, Fry does not seem to come to terms with the dual nature of Hiberno-Norse and Irish traditions in the pre-1170 era of her study or the Anglo-Norman and native traditions in the post 1170 period. Therefore there is frequently a tendency to jump from one social and cultural group to the other, much to the detriment of the overall study.

Overall this book does contain a great deal of information but is difficult to follow and even more difficult to extract. Fine if one has the time and patience. V.M.B.