An Introduction to the Archaeology of Early Anglo-Saxon England, AD450-650
Paul Blinkhorn on his bike with Time Team at West Langton, Leicestershire, 27th July 2010 (Sam Newton)
with Paul Blinkhorn
in The Old Court, Sutton Hoo (map)
|10.00||Coffee on arrival|
|10.15||The Roman - Saxon Transition: invasion or integration? How does the archaeological evidence compare with the traditional story of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes? The earliest historical record of the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons is by the Celtic monk Gildas, who was writing a century or so after the events he described. He told a tale of a British population abandoned by their Roman overlords facing onslaughts by savage bands of first Scots and Picts, and then Saxons, who slaughtered the populations of the towns and destroyed everything in their path. This section of the day will look at the archaeological evidence we have for this period, particularly that from the Roman towns and villas, and examine how the picture painted by this evidence stands up to that portrayed by the writers of the period.
Further Reading: Ken Dark, Civitas to Kingdom
|11.45||Everyday Life: settlement, costume, food and drink and crafts. In terms of everyday life, the Anglo-Saxon period was, in terms of written history, truly a Dark Age. Over 100 years of excavations of Anglo-Saxon settlements has however produced a wealth of evidence concerning how the people of England lived in the two centuries following the Roman withdrawal from Britain. This section will summarize the archaeological evidence of the physical nature of the settlements, and how the people who lived in them went about their daily lives.
Further Reading: Martin Welch, Anglo-Saxon England
|14:00||Death and Burial: Anglo-Saxon ways of death, and what they tell us about the living. Perhaps the best material remains we have of the Early Anglo-Saxons is their cemeteries, hundreds of which have been excavated since the early years of the 19th century. For most of the period under consideration, they were pagans, and many of the burials of the period contain grave goods, ranging from simple iron knives to vast caches of high-status bejewelled gold objects. This section will discuss how these burials have allowed us access to aspects of Anglo-Saxon society such as the roles and status of the sexes, everyday life, belief systems, identity, trade and social stratification.
Further Reading: Sam Lucy, The Anglo-Saxon Way of Death
|15:15||Religion: Anglo-Saxon religious practice to the arrival of Christianity. The religious beliefs of the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons are largely lost to history, and the only scant written records we have date to the Christian era, when writers such as Bede were reluctant to record such ‘sinful practices'. Despite this, names of some of the pagan gods are preserved in the days of the week and place-names, and the latter also offers clues as to how and where the people of the period worshipped their gods. Coupled with the evidence from excavation, this section will examine what we know about this area of early Anglo-Saxon life, and also the arrival of Christianity and the conversion of the people of England to the new religion.
Further Reading: David Wilson Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Paul was born and raised in Merseyside. He went on his first dig aged 14 while on holiday with his parents in Yorkshire, and later studied Archaeological Sciences at Bradford University. After university, he spent 2 years digging at various sites in Spain, England and Ireland, and has since spent around 25 years as an archaeologist specializing in the study of Anglo-Saxon and medieval pottery, but also taking part in and running excavations and landscape projects in Britain and Italy. He is currently a visiting lecturer in Medieval Pottery at Cambridge, and teaches the Anglo-Saxon Archaeology module for the Archaeology Certificate course at the University of Leicester.
He has appeared as a guest expert on Channel 4's archaeology series Time Team since 1998, and also presented an archaeological magazine programme 'PastFinders' for Meridian Television in 2002. More recently (2010) he has appeared on Michael Wood’s BBC series ‘The Story of England’. His interests outside archaeology include art, music, football, beer, rugby league and motorbikes.
Ken Dark, Civitas to Kingdom
Martin Welch, Anglo-Saxon England
Sam Lucy, The Anglo-Saxon Way of Death
David Wilson Anglo-Saxon Paganism
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