An Archaeology of the Early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

By C. J. Arnold | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

Mighty kinfolk

IDENTITY AND STATUS

A man's status in English society has always depended primarily on his own consciousness; for the English are not a methodical or logical nation-they perceive and accept facts without anxiously inquiring into their reasons or meanings. Whatever is apt to raise a man's self-consciousness-be it birth, rank, wealth, intellect, daring or achievements-will add to his stature; but it has to be translated into the truest expression of one s sub-conscious self-evaluation: uncontending ease, the unbought grace of life.

(Namier 1930:15)

Archaeologists' attempts to explore social identity through archaeological evidence may seem crude in comparison with the depths of investigation of modern sociologists and anthropologists. This is in part because the very nature of the evidence limits the questions that can be asked. However, the sophistication of the theory and the methods used is increasing and holds great promise.

The subject of the social organisation of human communities began to be studied in detail by archaeologists from the beginning of the 1970s. Much of that early research was carried out using prehistoric data, but the rich data from the early Anglo-Saxon period has encouraged wide-ranging investigation at both a theoretical and a practical level. This has grown considerably in its sophistication aided by the availability of high quality, accessible data, and the increasing use of computers to manipulate that data. Historians of the Anglo-Saxon period have also tackled the subject and, given that among the principal sources are the earliest law-codes and regnal lists, have been predominantly concerned with the origins of institutions. For the archaeologist, interest has been in the social organisation of society at all levels, the expression of individual identity, how individuals may have formed a hierarchy, the structure of communities and the formation of the kingdoms.

The social structure of early Anglo-Saxon England is a subject that was originally confined to historians and social anthropologists. They depended on limited amounts of written evidence, particularly the laws and the charters,

-176-

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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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