An Archaeology of the Early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

By C. J. Arnold | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

A history of early Anglo-Saxon archaeology

'Wrapped round with darkness'

Judith, translated by R. Hamer

The purpose of this book is to explore the development of English society during the 200 years AD 500-700 following the migrations of Germanic settlers to the British Isles. The aim is to bridge the gap between the work of specialists whose significance to a general understanding may seem obscure, and generalised accounts that may seem remote from the data. To achieve this we shall be drawing upon the products of archaeologists' research mostly carried out during the present century. The desire to understand the development of early Anglo-Saxon society as a specific contribution to the more general study of past human behaviour has only emerged in recent years.

Each chapter examines a particular aspect of early Anglo-Saxon society. Such a division is purely a literary convenience and the reader must see each of the topics as intertwined and forming a complex whole. The kingdoms provide the ideal framework for the study of early Anglo-Saxon society as they were developing during the period under consideration. Within that evolving framework there is both complexity and variety, for change involves redundancy as well as novelty, and each region was subject to different pressures stemming from its past and its neighbours.

The archaeological evidence comes from two main contexts: settlements and cemeteries, although earlier archaeologists concentrated on the latter, and especially the artefacts derived from them. The emphasis here is not on a description of the evidence but on its interpretation. To achieve this the data require varying degrees of manipulation if we are to understand the society whose everyday activities constitute the origins of the archaeological record. We will see how the development of Anglo-Saxon archaeology, in which the number of practitioners has always been relatively small, has engendered a conservative approach to the period not suited to answering the fundamental questions relating to human social evolution. In more recent years there have been signs of a change in emphasis. This is reflected in those chapters of this book that deal with the agriculture of the farms and the homes in which

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An Archaeology of the Early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures ix
  • Tables xiii
  • Preface to the First Edition xv
  • Preface to the Revised Second Edition xvi
  • Introduction xvii
  • Chapter 1 - A History of Early Anglo-Saxon Archaeology 1
  • Chapter 2 - Migration Theory 19
  • Chapter 3 - Farm and Field 33
  • Chapter 4 - Elusive Craftspeople 67
  • Chapter 5 - Exchange 101
  • Chapter 6 - The Topography of Belief 149
  • Chapter 7 - Mighty Kinfolk 176
  • Chapter 8 - Kingdoms 211
  • Bibliography 231
  • Index 251
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