In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Medieval Archaeology in Britain, Fifth to Eleventh Centuries

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals

Medieval Studies Medieval Archaeology in Britain, Fifth to Eleventh Centuries
David A. Hinton
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0053


The extent and effects of population movements dominate the study of the 5th and 6th centuries, and the Viking raids and settlement renew the theme of migration for the 9th to 11th. The ways the end of Roman administration led to social and economic change, the degree to which the empire’s cultural impact continued, how religious practices varied, and the nature of exchange mechanisms are dominant issues (The European Perspective). As in much of Europe, the early part of the period is protohistoric, with little or no direct documentary evidence. Its archaeology is the study of bodies (Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries), buildings (Rural Settlement, Agriculture, and Food), and artifacts (Artifacts); of farming systems, settlements, and settlement patterns (Rural Settlement, Agriculture, and Food); of social distinctions; of long-distance and regional networks and the reemergence of towns and coinage (Towns, Trade, and Transport); and of burial customs and other expressions of belief (Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries; Other Manifestations of Religions and Identities). It focuses now on how people achieved their sense of cultural identity through belonging to family, tribe, region, kingdom, and nation-state and in their gender, place in a hierarchy, dependency upon others for service or protection, and control of exploitation of resources.

General Overviews

A few publishing houses produce books on archaeology aimed at a general audience, as the subject continues to have public interest—as the queues outside Birmingham Museum to see the newly discovered 7th-century Staffordshire Hoard in October 2009 testified. Some of the most popular books are spin-offs from television programs, as archaeology can be given wide appeal. The Oxford University Press series Medieval History and Archaeology 2003– is an outlet for more academic syntheses. Excavation reports are the staple of archaeological research, and many professional fieldwork units such as Wessex Archaeology produce their own monographs. An important monograph series published by the Society for Medieval Archaeology includes excavation reports, conference proceedings, and syntheses; various other societies have series that are not constrained in their period interests but occasionally include work on medieval archaeology; and British Archaeological Reports has increasingly become the outlet for theses. The Society for Medieval Archaeology website has links into a number of more specialized ones. Reenactment is popular, and groups with websites that can be useful sources of information include Regia Anglorum.

  • British Archaeological Reports.

    Founded by three enthusiasts who had joined together to carry out excavation at a Roman villa site in Oxfordshire and who realized that there were no reasonably priced outlets for much valuable academic research. There are now two series, British (in blue covers) and international (red). Printing standards have improved since the early years.

  • Medieval History and Archaeology. 2003–. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Publication series from the Oxford University Press, edited by John Blair and Helena Hamerow in the early 21st century. The series brings together archaeologists and historians; early medieval titles include those by Andrew Reynolds and Helena Hamerow.

  • Regia Anglorum.

    Reenactment has become a popular hobby, and various groups hold meetings and give displays. Fighting, cooking, jewelry making, and weaving are favorite activities. The website of this group is a useful source of practical ideas and advice.

  • Society for Medieval Archaeology.

    As well as an annual journal, this society produces an occasional monograph series, with thirty volumes issued in the early 21st century. Content is not confined to the early Middle Ages, but several are either on or include the Anglo-Saxon period, notably Reflections: 50 Years of Medieval Archaeology, 1957–2007, edited by Roberta Gilchrist and Andrew Reynolds (Leeds, UK: Maney, 2009), from which several papers are cited in this bibliography. Overall, it gives a good idea of how the discipline has developed in Britain and overseas since the society was founded in the mid-20th century. The society’s website offers access to its newsletter, details of forthcoming conferences, and the like.

  • Staffordshire Hoard.

    Worldwide interest was sparked when it was announced in September 2009 that a metal-detector user had discovered a collection of gold, silver, and gilt copper-alloy objects, some set with red garnets, others embossed with intricate designs reminiscent of the Sutton Hoo helmet and the Book of Durrow, both dating from the 7th century. The hoard is extraordinary for its quantity but also because every identifiable object is from a weapon except for two crosses and a Christian inscription. The website, which has many excellent photographs, is maintained by the Portable Antiquities Scheme, based at the British Museum.

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