Courteous Knights and Cruel Avengers

A consideration of the changing social context of medieval warfare from the perspective of human remains

Authored by: Christopher Knüsel

The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Human Conflict

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  December  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415842198
eBook ISBN: 9781315883366
Adobe ISBN: 9781134677979


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Medieval society was highly socially regimented. Religiously symbolic ceremonies (and often payments and gifts) accompanied the rites of passage of birth, coming-of-age, marriage and especially death, when rights, land and privileges embedded in inherited titles governed funerary rites that perpetuated the established social order. Potentates and their adherents were tied to one another through oaths of fealty (i.e. fidelity), marriage and kinship. Violent encounters were mediated through an elaborate network of social (i.e. feudal) obligation that could generate large numbers of hostile combatants. The use of arms in warfare formed a component of masculine identity, especially of the medieval aristocrat and monarch; his upbringing and training, his demeanour and appearance, his politics, the type of weapons he carried, the horse he rode and the clothes he wore all alluded to this pre-eminent martial occupation upon which dynastic success was predicated.

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