This article mentions certain aspects of the dynamic relationship between Anglo-Saxon archaeology and concentrates on the question of whether formal education has kept pace with these new developments. Anglo-Saxon archaeology has a low profile on the curriculum, compared to the Romans or modern history. It is suggested that, as far as the higher education sector is concerned, Anglo-Saxon archaeology has only low prominence. The impact on the public of PPG16 is both direct, via the influence it might have on the planning process of any given project, and indirect, via new modes of dissemination. Archaeologists have an important role to play in current debates to which Anglo-Saxon archaeology is directly relevant. The previous government had an interest in archaeology and it accepted responsibility for continuing the Portable Antiquities Scheme after Heritage Lottery funding ended in March 2006.
This article provides an overview of Anglo-Saxon crafts and refers to some of the issues involved. Lacking the screw thread, the Anglo-Saxon craftsmen would have made extensive use of wedges to secure clamps and vices while working. An important and widely traded product of the Stamford kilns were crucibles made of clean, white-firing clay that was heat-resistant. The basic methods used to work non-ferrous metals differ from those used to work iron. Amongst the finds from Tattershall Thorpe was a mass of copper-alloy off-cuts, probably intended for the melting pot, and six garnets: two cut to shape, three irregular, and a chip. The making of glass from the raw materials, suitable sand, lime, and soda or potash, requires a lot of heat and it is necessary to reach a temperature of around 1,700°C. The pottery industry does not seem to have benefited from the Anglo-Saxon take-over.
This article addresses how and when the small, rectilinear or irregular fields of Roman Britain were transformed into the open and common fields of medieval England. Furthermore, the sparse and often unsatisfactory physical indicators of continuities and discontinuities in the layout and management of arable fields during the Anglo-Saxon centuries are explored. Mid Saxon agricultural innovation seems to have included an increase in the area under cultivation, and the introduction of new crops, new technologies, and new approaches to maintaining the fertility of the soil, within the familiar structures of infield-outfield cultivation which remained the basis of arable management. The two general types of mid Saxon field layouts are explained: enclosed and unenclosed. The data suggests that the process of the transformation of ancient into medieval fields may have been more attenuated than previously supposed.
This article discusses that there are many pitfalls in evaluating the significance and reliability of molecular data that are mainly due to the uncontrolled context in which past biological events took place. Three methods addressed include: the analysis of archaeological human bone chemistry as evidence of dietary geography; the molecular analysis of archaeological human bone for genetic information as evidence of population relatedness; and the molecular statistics of living human genomes as evidence of past geographic dispersal. Ancient DNA (aDNA) studies, especially on humans, have a very chequered record, yielding results which are comparatively meagre for the effort involved, and furthermore are extremely difficult to corroborate. In contrast to aDNA studies, however, which are wholly dependent on the survival of original DNA, modern DNA studies can expect to increase in scope and power, benefiting from the extraordinary increase in molecular genetic knowledge driven by biomedical research.
Despite the great progress made in the fifty years since Radford described the study of timber buildings as ‘one of the most intractable problems in the whole range of early medieval studies’, key issues remain unresolved regarding their origins, construction, and function, and consideration of the relationship between buildings and the social life of Anglo-Saxon communities has scarcely begun. Apart from churches and a handful of high-status late Saxon buildings, timber construction — mostly using oak — continued to dominate during the mid and late Saxon periods. Convincing examples of halls, kitchens, bakehouses, barns, granaries and latrines have all been identified in Anglo-Saxon buildings. If most Grubenhäuser possessed suspended floors and could have been as substantial as earthfast buildings, then this has enormous implications for the interpretations of Anglo-Saxon settlements. The distinction between earthfast timber buildings and Grubenhäuser may yet prove to have been less rigid than archaeologists have tended to assume.
Julian D. Richards
This article explores the circumstances that led to Scandinavian invaders being assimilated into Anglo-Saxon England and ensured that it was the Anglo-Saxons, not the Vikings, who came to be regarded as the ancestral English. The Scandinavian settlers who arrived in England did not have a common identity. The Scandinavian elite were quick to form local alliances which cross-cut ethnic divides and did not promote any sense of Scandinavian unity. There was no single hybrid Anglo-Scandinavian identity, but a range of strategies, dependent upon context. It is clear that Scandinavians and Anglo-Saxons actively used material culture in the process of cultural assimilation, with rapid integration. It is also shown that there was no single experience of settlement or interaction, and whilst it is helpful to talk about an ‘Anglo-Scandinavian identity’ this was not derived from a simple combination of Anglo-Saxon culture on the one hand and Scandinavian on the other.
This article outlines the source material for an archaeological study of Anglo-Saxon animal husbandry, namely the excavated remains of the livestock themselves. Furthermore, the regional and diachronic variation in relative abundance is reviewed, and then addresses what is known regarding the morphology and appearance of Anglo-Saxon livestock. The three main livestock taxa (cattle, sheep, pigs) dominate the zooarchaeological assemblages. Mortality profiles are proxy evidence of husbandry regimes, reflecting the need for, and value placed upon, the diverse resources yielded by farm livestock. The impression that is acquired of animal husbandry through the Anglo-Saxon centuries is that mixed farming was carried on throughout eastern England, generally quite successfully, with minor local adaptations. There is little indication that pastoral systems were under particular stress, and clear evidence that cattle and sheep, though certainly slaughtered for meat, were not primarily raised for that purpose.
Animals formed an essential part of urban life in England from Medieval times onwards, economically, socially, and ecologically. As livestock, they provided meat and other carcass resources, traction power, wool, and dairy produce. The close integration of livestock with everyday urban life is reflected in the ubiquity of butchered cattle, and sheep and pig bones, and the sight, sound, and smell of livestock would have been everyday experiences. Horses are probably under-represented in the animal bone record, given their likely importance as pack and riding animals. Poultry and, later, rabbits were important as livestock that poorer households could raise and trade. Other animals provided companionship, although the differentiation of companion animals is not unproblematic. The commensal scavengers such as crows and rodents were a central element of the urban scene, becoming stigmatized as ‘vermin’ at least by the sixteenth century.
Cultural anthropology and archaeology are allied through common interests in materials, landscapes, and bodies. Both also link into broader forms of cultural theory which are described in this article. The article concentrates on four areas key to contemporary anthropology which might prove to be useful if pursued further by Anglo-Saxonists. These include two broad orientations — relational thought and practice theory — and the two topic areas of materiality and identity. Relational thought stresses change, mutability, and instability. Furthermore, ideas around the material culture of the Anglo-Saxons form a fertile and fast-developing area of debate and these are briefly summarized. Ideas of materiality have an ultimate root in work such as that of Bourdieu, but focusing more fully than he did on the material requirements objects have of the human body. The Roman world offered a set of cultural resources people could draw on to reformulate their identities both before and after incorporation into the Empire.
This article describes how the archaeology of early Anglo-Saxon religion can contribute to the understanding of variety within a pre-Christian world-view where many elements were shared by societies across the North Sea and Baltic. Evidence for paganism in Old English place-names has been traditionally used to reconstruct the topography of belief in early Anglo-Saxon England. The symbolic use of animals is one of the most visible aspects of early Anglo-Saxon religion. There has been increasing interest in the mutability of Anglo-Saxon paganisms in response to religious systems within Britain. As with the earlier Anglo-Saxon migration, religion was intimately associated with identity. Early Anglo-Saxon religion can be understood on many levels, with variation arising as a result of local responses to changing social and political situations; however, for archaeologists the most visible indicators of Anglo-Saxon spirituality are in the symbolic roles played by animals.