The ANGLO-SAXON SETTLEMENT OF BRITAIN describes the process which
changed the language and culture of most of what became
The available evidence includes the scanty contemporary and near-contemporary written record, and archaeological and genetic information. The few literary sources tell of hostility between incomers and natives. They describe violence, destruction, massacre and the flight of the Romano-British population. Also, it has long been supposed that the influence of Celtic languages on Old English was slight. These points have suggested a very large-scale invasion by various Germanic peoples. In this view, held by the majority of historians until the mid to late twentieth century, much of England was cleared of its prior inhabitants. If this 'traditional' viewpoint were to be correct, the genes of the later English people would have been overwhelmingly inherited from Germanic migrants.
Another view, probably the most widely held today, is that the
migrants were relatively few, centred on a warrior elite. They then
dominated a process of acculturation to Germanic language and material
culture. Consistent with this theory, archaeologists find that
settlement patterns and land-use show no clear break with the
Romano-British past, though there are marked changes in material
culture. This view predicts that the ancestry of the people of
Anglo-Saxon and modern
There are also two less well-supported theories, held by a minority
of scholars, both originating from population genetics studies. First,
Stephen Oppenheimer has argued that Germanic peoples, language and
culture existed in eastern regions of Britain, even in pre-Roman
times. This idea has been very actively challenged by a number of
linguists. Second, that the early settlers may have arrived in
considerable numbers but represented a minority relative to the
natives. If these incomers established themselves as a social elite ,
this could have allowed them enhanced reproductive success (the
Apartheid Theory'). In this case, the genes of later
* 1 Background
* 2 Historical evidence
* 2.1 Early sources * 2.2 Gildas\' _De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae_ * 2.3 Bede\'s _Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum_ * 2.4 Tribal Hideage * 2.5 _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_
* 3 Archaeological evidence
* 3.1 Understanding the Roman legacy * 3.2 Settler evidence * 3.3 Tribal characteristics * 3.4 Reuse of earlier monuments * 3.5 Landscape archaeology * 3.6 Distribution of settlements * 3.7 Cemetery evidence
* 4 Molecular evidence
* 4.1 Y-chromosome evidence * 4.2 Ancient DNA, rare mutations and whole genome sequencing * 4.3 Isotope analysis
* 5 Linguistic evidence
* 5.1 Contact and transfer * 5.2 Celtic hypothesis * 5.3 Place names * 5.4 Elite personal names
* 6 Migration and acculturation theories
* 6.1 Estimating continental migrants\' numbers * 6.2 "Saxon" political ascendancy in Britain * 6.3 \'Romano-Brittonic\' peoples\' fate in the south-east
* 7 Reasons behind the success of the Anglo-Saxon settlement
* 7.1 Anglo-Saxon political formation * 7.2 Rural freedoms and kinship groups * 7.3 Material culture * 7.4 Culture of belief * 7.5 Language and literature
* 8 See also * 9 Notes * 10 Citations
* 11 References
* 11.1 General * 11.2 Archaeology * 11.3 History
By 400, the Roman provinces in Britain (all the territory to the
south of Hadrian\'s Wall ) were a peripheral part of the Roman Empire,
occasionally lost to rebellion or invasion, but until then always
eventually recovered. That cycle of loss and recapture collapsed over
the next decade. Eventually around 410, although Roman power remained
a force to be reckoned with for a further three generations across
The history of this period has traditionally been a narrative of decline and fall. However, evidence from Verulamium suggests that urban-type rebuilding, featuring piped water, was continuing late on in the 5th century, if not beyond. At Silchester , there are signs of sub-Roman occupation down to around 500, and at Wroxeter new Roman baths have been identiﬁed as Roman-type.
The writing of Patrick and
Surveying the historical sources for signs of the Anglo-Saxon settlement, and the people, assumes that the words Angles, Saxons or Anglo-Saxon have the same meaning in all the sources. Assigning ethnic labels such as "Anglo-Saxon" is fraught with difficulties and the term itself only began to be used in the 8th century to distinguish "Germanic" groups in Britain from those on the continent (Old Saxony in present-day Northern Germany).
Chronica Gallica of 452 records for the year 441: "The British
provinces, which to this time had suffered various defeats and
misfortunes, are reduced to Saxon rule." The Chronicle was written
some distance from Britain. There is uncertainty about precise dates
for fifth-century events especially before 446. This, however, does
not undermine the position of the Gallic Chronicles as a very
important contemporary source, which suggests that
Procopius states that Britain was settled by three races: the Angiloi, Frisones, and Britons, each ruled by its own king. Each race was so prolific that it sent large numbers of individuals every year to the Franks, who planted them in unpopulated regions of its territory. Writing in the mid-sixth century, he also states that after the overthrow of Constantine III in 411, "the Romans never succeeded in recovering Britain, but it remained from that time under tyrants."
GILDAS\' _DE EXCIDIO ET CONQUESTU BRITANNIAE_
The sequence of events in
* After an appeal to Aëtius (the
Groans of the Britons ) the
Britons were gripped by famine while suffering attacks from the Picts
Gildas' remarks reflected his continuing concern regarding the
vulnerability of his countrymen and their disregard and in-fighting:
for example, "it was always true of this people (as it is now) that it
was weak in beating off the weapons of the enemy but strong in putting
up with civil war and the burden of sin." However, after the War of
the Saxon Federates, if there were acts of genocide, mass exodus or
BEDE\'S _HISTORIA ECCLESIASTICA GENTIS ANGLORUM_
_ Folio 3v from the Petersburg Bede. The SAINT PETERSBURG BEDE (Saint Petersburg, National Library of Russia , lat. Q. v. I. 18), a near-contemporary version of the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum _
The concept of Bretwalda originates in Bede's comment on who held the Imperium of Britain. From this concept, historians have inferred a formal institution of overlordship south of the Humber. Whether such an institution existed is uncertain, but Simon Keynes argues that the idea is not an invented concept. The Bretwalda concept is taken as evidence for a presence of a number of early Anglo-Saxon elite families. Whether the majority were early settlers, descendant from settlers, or especially after the exploration stage, were Roman-British leaders who adopted Anglo-Saxon culture is unclear, but the balance of opinion is that most were migrants. Notable gaps include: no-one from the East or West Midlands is represented in the list of Bretwaldas, and there is some uncertainty about the dates of these leaders.
Bede's view of Britons is partly responsible for the picture of them
as the downtrodden subjects of Anglo-Saxon oppression. This has been
used by linguists and archaeologists who have produced genocidal,
slavery and bloody invasion settlement theories. Bede's derogatory
depiction of the Britons is influenced by what he had read in Gildas,
which had also sought to understand God's will. For Gildas, the Saxons
represented God's scourge, and he saw the horrors of the Saxon as
God's retribution for the sins of his people.
The Tribal Hideage is a list of 35 tribes that was compiled in
It includes a number of independent kingdoms and other smaller
territories and assigns a number of hides to each one. A hide was an
amount of land sufficient to support a household. The list of tribes
is headed by
The individual units in the list developed from the settlement areas of tribal groups, some of which are as little as 300 hides. The names are difficult to locate: places like _East wixna_ and _Sweord ora_. What it reveals is that micro-identity of tribe and family is important from the start. The list is evidence for more complex settlement than the single political entity of the other historical sources.
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle _ is an historical record of events in
The earliest events described in the _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_ were transcribed centuries after they had occurred. Barbara Yorke , Patrick Sims-Williams and David Dumville among others have highlighted how a number of features of the _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_ for the 5th and early 6th centuries clearly contradict the idea that they contain a reliable year-by-year record. Stuart Laycock has suggested that there may be information from the early period that can be used on the basis that: the obvious glosses and fictions should be rejected (such as the information about Porta and Portsmouth); the kernel behind some entries might contain a truth (such as the sequence of the events associated with Ælle of Sussex ); and whilst the dates are uncertain, Laycock believes some of the 6th century events may describe real situations. However presenting evidence for the Anglo-Saxon settlement from a chronicle such as the _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_ is uncertain and relies heavily on the present view of which entries are acceptable truth. As Dumville points out about the _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_: "medieval historiography has assumptions different from our own, particularly in terms of distinctions between fiction and non-fiction".
An Anglo-Frisian funerary urn excavated from the Snape ship burial in East Anglia. Item is located in Aldeburgh Moot Hall Museum
Archaeologists seeking to understand evidence for migration and/or acculturation must first get to grips with early Anglo-Saxon archaeology as an "Archaeology of Identity". Guarding against considering one aspect of archaeology in isolation, this concept ensures that different topics are considered together, that previously were considered separately, such as: gender, age, ethnicity, religion and status.
The task of interpretation has been hampered by the lack of works of archaeological synthesis for the Anglo-Saxon period in general, and the early period in particular. This is changing, with new works of synthesis and chronology, in particular the work of Catherine Hills and Sam Lucy on the evidence of Spong Hill, which has opened up the possible synthesis with continental material culture and, most interestingly, has moved the chronology for the settlement earlier than AD 450, with a significant number of items now in phases before this historically set date.
UNDERSTANDING THE ROMAN LEGACY
Archaeological evidence for the emergence of both a native British identity and the appearance of a Germanic culture in Britain in the 5th and 6th centuries must consider first the period at the end of Roman rule. The collapse of Roman material culture some time in the early 5th century left a gap in the archaeological record that was quite rapidly filled by the intrusive Anglo-Saxon material culture, while the native culture became archaeologically close to invisible—although recent hoards and metal-detector finds show that coin use and imports did not stop abruptly at AD 410.
The archaeology of the Roman military systems within Britain is well known but is not well understood: for example, whether the "Saxon Shore" was defensive or to facilitate the passage of goods. Andrew Pearson suggests that the "Saxon Shore Forts" and other coastal installations played a more significant economic and logistical role than is often appreciated, and that the tradition of Saxon and other continental piracy, based on the name of these forts, is probably a myth.
The archaeology of late Roman (and sub-Roman) Britain has been mainly
focused on the elite rather than the peasant and slave: their villas,
houses, mosaics, furniture, fittings and silver plate. This group had
a strict code on how their wealth was to be displayed, and this
provides a wealth of material culture, from which "Britons" are
identified. There was a large gap between richest and poorest; the
trappings of the latter have been the focus of less archaeological
study. However the archaeology of the peasant from the 4th and 5th
centuries is dominated by "ladder" field systems or enclosures,
associated with extended families, and in the South and East of
Romano-British or Anglo-Saxon belt fittings in the Quoit Brooch Style from the Mucking Anglo-Saxon cemetery , early 5th century, using a mainly Roman style for very early Anglo-Saxon clients
Confirmation of the use of Anglo-Saxons as _foederati _ or federate troops has been seen as coming from burials of Anglo-Saxons wearing military equipment of a type issued to late Roman forces, which have been found both in late Roman contexts, such as the Roman cemeteries of Winchester and Colchester, and in purely 'Anglo-Saxon' rural cemeteries like Mucking (Essex), though this was at a settlement used by the Romano-British. The distribution of the earliest Anglo-Saxon sites and place names in close proximity to Roman settlements and roads has been interpreted as showing that initial Anglo-Saxon settlements were being controlled by the Romano-British.
Catherine Hills suggests it is not necessary to see all the early settlers as federate troops, and that this interpretation has been used rather too readily by some archaeologists. A variety of relationships could have existed between Romano-British and incoming Anglo-Saxons. The broader archaeological picture suggests that no one model will explain all the Anglo-Saxon settlements in Britain and that there was considerable regional variation. Settlement density varied within southern and eastern England. Norfolk has more large Anglo-Saxon cemeteries than the neighbouring East Anglian county of Suffolk; eastern Yorkshire (the nucleus of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Deira ) far more than the rest of Northumbria. The settlers were not all of the same type. Some were indeed warriors who were buried equipped with their weapons, but we should not assume that all of these were invited guests who were to guard Romano-British communities. Possibly some, like the later Viking settlers , may have begun as piratical raiders who later seized land and made permanent settlements. Other settlers seem to have been much humbler people who had few if any weapons and suffered from malnutrition. These were characterised by Sonia Chadwick Hawkes as Germanic 'boat people', refugees from crowded settlements on the North Sea which deteriorating climatic conditions would have made untenable.
Frankish glass 'claw beaker' 5th-6th century, excavated in
Catherine Hills points out that it is too easy to consider
Anglo-Saxon archaeology solely as a study of ethnology and to fail to
consider that identity is "less related to an overall Anglo-Saxon
ethnicity and more to membership of family or tribe, Christian or
pagan, elite or peasant". "Anglo-Saxons" or "Britons" were no more
homogeneous than nationalities are today, and they would have
exhibited diverse characteristics: male/female, old/young, rich/poor,
Part of a well-furnished pagan period mixed inhumation and cremation cemetery was excavated at Alwalton near Peterborough. Twenty-eight urned and two unurned cremations dating from between the 5th and 6th centuries, and 34 inhumations, dating from between the late 5th and early 7th centuries, were uncovered. Both cremations and inhumations were provided with pyre or grave goods, and some of the burials were richly furnished. The excavation found evidence for a mixture of practices and symbolic clothing; these reflected local differences that appeared to be associated with tribal or family loyalty. This use of clothing in particular was very symbolic, and distinct differences within groups in the cemetery could be found.
REUSE OF EARLIER MONUMENTS
The evidence for monument reuse in the early Anglo-Saxon period reveals a number of significant aspects of the practice. Ancient monuments were one of the most important factors determining the placing of the dead in the early Anglo-Saxon landscape. Anglo-Saxon secondary activity on prehistoric and Roman sites was traditionally explained in practical terms. These explanations, in the view of Howard Williams, failed to account for the numbers and types of monuments and graves (from villas to barrows) reused.
Anglo-Saxon barrow burials started in the late 6th century and continued into the early 8th century. Prehistoric barrows, in particular, have been seen as physical expressions of land claims and links to the ancestors, and John Shephard has extended this interpretation to Anglo-Saxon tumuli. Eva Thäte has emphasised the continental origins of monument reuse in post-Roman England, Howard Williams has suggested that the main purpose of this custom was to give sense to a landscape that the immigrants did not find empty.
In the 7th and 8th centuries, monument reuse became so widespread that it strongly suggests the deliberate location of burials of the elite next to visible monuments of the pre-Saxon past, but with 'ordinary' burial grounds of this phase also frequently being located next to prehistoric barrows. The relative increase of this kind of spatial association from the 5th/6th centuries to the 7th/8th centuries is conspicuous. Williams' analysis of two well-documented samples shows an increase from 32% to 50% of Anglo-Saxon burial sites in the Upper Thames region, and from 47% to 71% of Anglo-Saxon cemeteries excavated since 1945. Härke suggests that one of the contexts for the increasing reuse of monuments may be "the adoption by the natives of the material culture of the dominant immigrants".
Anglo-Saxons did not settle in an abandoned landscape on which
they imposed new types of settlement and farming, as was once
believed. By the late 4th century the English rural landscape was
largely cleared, generally occupied by dispersed farms and hamlets,
each surrounded by its own fields but often sharing other resources in
common (called "infield-outfield cultivation"). Such fields, whether
of prehistoric or Roman origin, fall into two very general types,
found both separately and together: irregular layouts, in which one
field after another had been added to an arable hub over many
centuries; and regular rectilinear layouts, often roughly following
the local topography, that had resulted from the large-scale division
of considerable areas of land. Such stability was reversed within a
few decades of the 5th century, as early "Anglo-Saxon" farmers,
affected both by the collapse of
Evidence across southern and central
Susan Oosthuizen has taken this further and establishes evidence that aspects of the "collective organisation of arable cultivation appear to find an echo in fields of pre-historic and Roman Britain". In particular: the open field systems, shared between a number of cultivators, but cropped individually; the link between arable holdings and rights to common pasture land; in structures of governance and the duty to pay some of the surplus to the local overlord, whether in rent or duty. Together these reveal that kinship ties and social relations were continuous across the 5th and 6th centuries, with no evidence of the uniformity or destruction, imposed by lords, the savage action of invaders or system collapse. This has implications on how later developments are considered, such as the developments in the 7th and 8th centuries.
Landscape studies draw upon a variety of topographical, archaeological and written sources. There are major problems in trying to relate Anglo-Saxon charter boundaries to those of Roman estates for which there are no written records, and by the end of the Anglo-Saxon period there had been major changes to the organisation of the landscape which can obscure earlier arrangements. Interpretation is also hindered by uncertainty about late Roman administrative arrangements. Nevertheless, studies carried out throughout the country, in "British" as well as "Anglo-Saxon" areas, have found examples of continuity of territorial boundaries where, for instance, Roman villa estate boundaries seem to have been identical with those of medieval estates, as delineated in early charters, though settlement sites within the defined territory might shift. What we see in these examples is probably continuity of the estate or territory as a unit of administration rather than one of exploitation. Although the upper level of Roman administration based on towns seems to have disappeared during the 5th century, a subsidiary system based on subdivisions of the countryside may have continued.
The basis of the internal organisation of both the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and those of their Celtic neighbours was a large rural territory which contained a number of subsidiary settlements dependent upon a central residence which the Anglo-Saxons called a _villa_ in Latin and a _tūn_ in Old English. These developments suggest that the basic infrastructure of the early Anglo-Saxon local administration (or the settlement of early kings or earls) was inherited from late Roman or Sub-Roman Britain .
DISTRIBUTION OF SETTLEMENTS
There are a number of difficulties in recognising early Anglo-Saxon settlements as migrant settlers. This in part is because most early rural Anglo-Saxon sites have yielded few finds other than pottery and bone. The use of aerial photography does not yield easily identifiable settlements, partly due to the dispersed nature of many of these settlements.
The distribution of known settlements also remains elusive with few settlements found in the West Midlands or North-West. Even in Kent, an area of rich early Anglo-Saxon archaeology, the number of excavated settlements is fewer than expected. However, in contrast the counties of Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire are relative rich in early settlements. These have revealed a tendency for early Anglo-Saxon settlements to be on the light soils associated with river terraces.
Many of the inland settlements are on rivers that had been major
navigation routes during the Roman era. These sites, such as
Dorchester on Thames on the upper Thames , were readily accessible by
the shallow-draught, clinker-built boats used by the Anglo-Saxons. The
same is true of the settlements along the rivers Ouse , Trent , Witham
, Nene and along the marshy lower Thames. Less well-known due to a
dearth of physical evidence but attested by surviving place names,
there were Jutish settlements on the
Isle of Wight
A number of Anglo-Saxon settlements are located near or at Roman-era towns, but the question of simultaneous town occupation by the Romano-Britons and a nearby Anglo-Saxon settlement (i.e., suggesting a relationship) is not confirmed. At Roman Caistor-by-Norwich , for example, recent analysis suggests that the cemetery post-dates the town's virtual abandonment.
Early cemeteries of possible Settler origin
The earliest cemeteries that can be classified as Anglo-Saxon are
found in widely separate regions and are dated to the early 5th
century. The exception is in
Up to the year 2000, roughly 10,000 early 'Anglo-Saxon' cremations and inhumations had been found, exhibiting a large degree of diversity in styles and types of mortuary ritual. This is consistent with evidence for many micro cultures and local practice. Cemetery evidence is still dominated by the material culture: finds of clothes, jewellery, weapons, pots and personal items; but physical and molecular evidence from skeletons, bones and teeth are increasingly important.
Considering the early cemeteries of Kent, most relevant finds come
from furnished graves with distinctive links to the Continent.
However, there are some unique items, these include pots and urns and
especially brooches, an important element of female dress that
functioned as a fastener, rather like a modern safety pin. The style
of brooches (called Quoits ), is unique to southern
Women's fashions (_tracht _, native costumes not thought to have been
trade goods), have been used to distinguish and identify settlers,
supplemented by other finds that can be related to specific regions of
the Continent. A large number of Frankish artifacts have been found in
Kent, and these are largely interpreted to be a reflection of trade
and commerce rather than early migration. Yorke (_
The presence of artifacts that are identifiably North Germanic along
the coastal areas between the
The process of mixing and assimilation of immigrant and native
populations is virtually impossible to elucidate with material
culture, but the skeletal evidence may shed some light on it. The
7th/8th-century average stature of male individuals in Anglo-Saxon
cemeteries dropped by 15 mm (⅝ in) compared with the 5th/6th-century
average. This development is most marked in
At Stretton-on-Fosse II (Warwickshire), located on the western fringes of the early Anglo-Saxon settlement area, the proportion of male adults with weapons is 82%, well above the average in southern England. Cemetery II, the Anglo-Saxon burial site, is immediately adjacent to two Romano-British cemeteries, Stretton-on-Fosse I and III, the latter only 60 metres away from Anglo-Saxon burials. Continuity of the native female population at this site has been inferred from the continuity of textile techniques (unusual in the transition from the Romano-British to the Anglo-Saxon periods), and by the continuity of epigenetic traits from the Roman to the Anglo-Saxon burials. At the same time, the skeletal evidence demonstrates the appearance in the post-Roman period of a new physical type of males who are more slender and taller than the men in the adjacent Romano-British cemeteries. Taken together, the observations suggest the influx of a group of males, probably most or all of them Germanic, who took control of the local community and married native women. It is not easy to confirm such cases of 'warband' settlement in the absence of detailed skeletal, and other complementary, information, but assuming that such cases are indicated by very high proportions of weapon burials, this type of settlement was much less frequent than the kin group model.
Nick Higham outlines the main questions:
"It is fairly clear that most Anglo-Saxon cemeteries are unrepresentative of the whole population, and particularly the whole age range. This was, therefore, a community which made decisions about the disposal of the dead based upon various factors, but at those we can barely guess. Was the inclusion of some but not all individuals subject to political control, or cultural screening? Was this a mark of ethnicity or did it represent a particular kinship, real or constructed, or the adherents of a particular cult? Was it status specific, with the rural proletariat – who would have been the vast majority of the population – perhaps excluded? So are many of these cemeteries associated with specific, high-status households and weighted particularly towards adult members? We do not know, but the commitment of particular parts of the community to an imported and in some senses 'Germanic', cremation ritual does seem to have been considerable, and is something which requires explanation."
Various forms of molecular evidence have been employed to provide evidence for the Anglo-Saxon settlement.
The inheritance of DNA is a complex process that varies between male and female individuals; consequently this allows the study of separate female and male lineages using mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome DNA respectively. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA for short) and Y-chromosome DNA differ from the DNA of diploid nuclear chromosomes in that they are not formed from the combination of both parents' genes. Rather, males inherit the Y-chromosome directly from their fathers, and both sexes inherit mtDNA directly from their mothers. Consequently, they preserve a genetic record from individual to individual that is altered only through mutation. _ Map of Y-chromosome distribution from data derived from "Y chromosome evidence for Anglo-Saxon mass migration" by Weale et al._ (2002)
An examination of Y-chromosome variation, sampled in an east–west
Research published in 2003 on Y-chromosome marker variation, taken
from a larger sample population and from more sites throughout
Britain, came to a different conclusion. This study suggested that in
most of England, continental (North German and Danish) paternal
genetic input varied between 20% and 40%, with
Historical evidence suggests that following the Anglo-Saxon transition, people of indigenous ethnicity were at an economic and legal disadvantage compared to those having Anglo-Saxon ethnicity. This has led to the development of the "apartheid-like social structure" theory to explain this high contribution to the modern gene pool, where the proportion of settlers would be smaller.
This view has been challenged by JE Pattison, who suggested that the Y-chromosome evidence could still support the idea of a small settlement of people without the apartheid-like structures. In addition, there is no reliable method for dating the influx of genetic material into Britain from the Continent; and the genetic similarities between people on either side of the North Sea may reflect a cumulative process of population movement, possibly beginning well before the historically attested formation of the Anglo-Saxons or the invasions of the Vikings.
Stephen Oppenheimer reviewed the Weale and Capelli studies and
suggested that correlations of gene frequency mean nothing without a
knowledge of the genetic prehistory of the regions in question. His
criticism of these studies is that they generated models based on the
historical evidence of
ANCIENT DNA, RARE MUTATIONS AND WHOLE GENOME SEQUENCING
In 2016, through the investigation of burials using ancient DNA
techniques, researchers found evidence of intermarriage in the
earliest phase of Anglo-Saxon settlement. By studying rare mutations
and employing whole genome sequencing, it was claimed that the
continental and insular origins of the ancient remains could be
discriminated, and it was calculated that 25–40% of the ancestry of
modern Britons is attributable to continental 'Anglo-Saxon' origins.
The breakdown of the estimates given in this work into the modern
populations of Britain is both interesting and surprising. Whilst the
population of eastern
Isotope analysis has begun to be employed to help answer the uncertainties regarding Anglo-Saxon migration; this can indicate whether a buried individual had always lived in the area he was buried in. However, the number of studies is small. Strontium data in a 5th–7th-century cemetery in West Heslerston implied the presence of two groups: one of "local" and one of "nonlocal" origin. Although the study suggested that they could not define the limits of local variation and identify immigrants with confidence, they could give a useful account of the issues. Oxygen and strontium isotope data in an early Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Wally Corner, Berinsfield in the Upper Thames Valley, Oxfordshire, found only 5.3% of the sample originating from continental Europe, supporting the hypothesis of acculturation. Furthermore, they found that there was no change in this pattern over time, except amongst some females.
Another isotopic method has been employed to investigate whether protein sources in human diets in the early Anglo-Saxon varied with geographic location, or with respect to age or sex. This would provide evidence for social advantage. The results suggest that protein sources varied little according to geographic location and that terrestrial foods dominated at all locations.
The emergence of
Old English , a West Germanic language, as a major
insular language has traditionally been regarded as evidence of the
settlement of substantial numbers of incomers from the Germanic areas
of the North Sea littoral, although no records survive of Old English
dialects before the 7th century.
CONTACT AND TRANSFER
The standard wisdom on contact and transfer when languages are in close contact has traditionally been that the language with more status influences that with less: that is, borrowing is from the superstrate into the substrate, as is attested by Latin and French borrowings into English. A review of the changes in the Brythonic language during this period is given by Kenneth Jackson. Studies of Old English, P- and Q-Celtic and Latin have looked for contact between the Britons, the Gaels, and the Anglo-Saxons. The general consensus has been that Old English has little evidence of linguistic contact.
Richard Coates re-evaluated this evidence and examined examples of other language contacts for parallel situations. The only characteristic Coates considers as evidence is "borrowed words" from one language to another; this is considered a prerequisite of language contact evidence, and, following Thomason and Kaufman, represents the lowest, least intense, degree of contact. Coates concludes that there was "near-zero" borrowing and therefore a lack of contact evidence. This would suggest that in certain parts of Lowland Britain there were few Brythonic speakers after the Anglo-Saxon settlement, and that "this state might in principle have been achieved by emigration, annihilation or enslavement, for each of which there is evidence in English historic sources, though much hinges, of course, on whether these sources are viewed as credible witnesses".
However, Thomason and Kaufman have shown that a distinction needs to be drawn between different contact scenarios; "borrowing scenarios" differ from "shift scenarios". Borrowing presupposes language maintenance between the respective languages or dialects in contact. If two or more languages or dialects are maintained within one and the same society, and one of them carries more prestige than the other and consequently may be more widely used than the other, then linguists speak of 'diglossia'. In other words, borrowing is the "lowest least intense degree of contact", but takes place between the languages of adjacent population groups or where a language operates as a global language, such as English today. Shift scenarios, on the other hand, involve the death or end of the source language and the restructuring into a target language. These two contact scenarios (borrowing and shift) seem to be subject to different patterns of feature transfer between languages. The different types of shift scenarios depend on the social prestige of the people involved and the power relationships between the social groups; these determine the direction of the shift.
Table 1: A number of shift features selected as representative by Richard Coates, Gary Miller and Raymond Hickey FEATURES COATES MILLER HICKEY
Two functionally distinct 'to be' verbs ✔ ✔ ✔
Northern subject rule ✔ ✔ ✔
Development of reflexives ✔ ✔
Rise of progressive
Loss of external possessor
Rise of the periphrastic "do"
Negative comparative particle ✔
Rise of pronoun -en ✔
Merger of /kw-/, /hw-/ and /χw-/ ✔
Rise of "it" clefts
Rise of sentential answers and tagging
Preservation of θ and ð
Loss of front rounded vowels
Building on these ideas, scholarly opinion that Brythonic had a significant effect on the development of English, has increased; this is known as the "Celtic hypothesis". Supporters of the Celtic hypothesis criticise the view taken in many textbooks that because there are only a few loanwords from Celtic there was no other influence. Suggesting that if contact persists over a longer period and forms the language learning environment for many generations, then the substrate language can have a gradual and imperceptible influence on the superstrate language, often leading to grammatical change. This scenario may well have been the source of syntactic features in English, which the latter has in common with Celtic. It is especially likely if a section of the population shifted language and transferred features from their original language in the process.
Old English displays a very distinct and substantial vowel shift between c.450 and c. 700 AD away from its ancestor, pre-settlement 'North Sea Germanic', which is not paralleled in its continental cousins, such as Frisian. This shift is not explicable by the application of accepted sound laws, and has been attributed to the effects of contact with a substrate language. The most convincing hypothesis for the causes of this vowel shift is the adoption of Old English by a population of non- Anglo-Saxons during this period.
In 5th- and 6th-century Britain, supposing an elite dominance situation, a shift scenario may have taken place between the language of relatively small military elite, i.e. the social group in power (the superstrate), and the language of the majority population (the substrate). The members of the evolving elite were originally speakers of prestigious varieties of Germanic (Frisian, Saxon, Anglian, Jutish, Frankish), while the bulk of the population is likely to have consisted of low-prestige speakers of Late British and/or British Latin in the Lowlands and Late British in the Uplands. These seem to have shifted to the evolving Old English dialects over quite some time (5th to 9th century). The shift pattern is likely to have been uneven and variously conditioned, with some areas, such as the south-east, shifting much earlier than the north and south-west, with pockets in remoter areas preserving their British cultural and linguistic identity longer than elsewhere. Thomas Toon suggests that the population of Lowland Britain may have been bilingual in Brythonic and Latin, and that such a multilingual society might adapt to the use of a third language in such a "shift scenario" more readily than a monoglot population. It is the almost universal opinion of Germanic philologists that the dialect distinctions within Old English arose in Britain, and do not reflect continental dialect differences, but reflect possible shifts in language.
Similarly, there has been a change in the way place names are
regarded and the clues about their linguistic history. Traditionally,
it was just assumed that names were either of Germanic or Latin
origin. However, as Coates suggests, there are Brythonic names widely
Coates also mentions a number of common place name words which have a direct link to Brythonic: _cumb, torr, crag, ced, binn, bannoc, gafeluc, dunn, broc, assen,_ and many others. Two of these words became fully lexicalized, joined the English collection of names and terms and were used as place-name generics: _cumb_ and _torr_. The other words are words that do not appear outside place names. Coates suspects that the English took over monomorphemic Brittonic words for landscape features as if they were proper names or the Brythonic word remained, as changing the place name when the language started to change didn't make any sense.
Some modern place names of apparent Germanic form may conceal Celtic
or Latin origins. For example, the city of
Surviving inscriptions on stones provide another source of
information on the settlements of Britons and the Anglo-Saxons. Celtic
inscribed stones from this period occur in western
ELITE PERSONAL NAMES
While many studies admit that a substantial survival of native
British people from lower social strata is probable, with these people
becoming anglicised over time due to the action of "elite dominance"
mechanisms, there is also evidence for the survival of British elites
and their anglicisation. An Anglo-Saxon elite could be formed in two
ways: from an incoming chieftain and his war band from northern
The incidence of British Celtic personal names in the royal
genealogies of a number of "Anglo-Saxon" dynasties is very suggestive
of the latter process. The
Bede, in his major work, charts the careers of four upper-class
brothers in the English Church, he refers to them as being
Northumbrian , and therefore "English". However, the names of Saint
A good case can be made for southern Britain (especially Wessex, Kent, Essex and parts of Southern East Anglia), at least, having been taken over by dynasties having some Germanic ancestry or connections, but also having origins in, or intermarrying with, native British elites.
MIGRATION AND ACCULTURATION THEORIES
Possible routes of Anglo-Saxon migration in the 5th/6th centuries
Various scholars have used a synthesis of evidence to present models to suggest an answer to the questions that surround the Anglo-Saxon settlement. These questions include: How many migrants were there? When did the "Saxons" gain political ascendency? What happened to the 'Romano-Brittonic' peoples in the south-east of Britain? The Anglo-Saxons were a mix of invaders, migrants and acculturated indigenous people. The ratios and relationships between these formative elements at the time of the Anglo-Saxon settlement are the subject of enquiry. The traditional interpretation of the settlement of Britain has been subject to profound reappraisal, with scholars embracing the evidence for both migration and acculturation. Heinrich Härke explains the nature of this agreement:
"It is now widely accepted that the Anglo-Saxons were not just transplanted Germanic invaders and settlers from the Continent, but the outcome of insular interactions and changes. But we are still lacking explicit models that suggest how this ethnogenetic process might have worked in concrete terms".
ESTIMATING CONTINENTAL MIGRANTS\' NUMBERS
Knowing the number of migrants who came from the continent provides a
context from which scholars can build an interpretation framework and
understanding of the events of the 5th and 6th centuries. Robert
Hedges in discussing this point observes that "archaeological evidence
only addresses these issues indirectly" The traditional methodology
used by archaeology to estimate the number of migrants starts with a
figure for the population in Britain in the 3rd and 4th centuries.
This is usually estimated at between 2 and 4 million. From this
figure it is estimated that the population of Southern and Eastern
The number of migrants therefore depends on the variable of population increase, if the population rose by 1 per cent per year (which is slightly less than the present world population) this would suggest a population of 30,000 migrants. However, if the population rose by 2 percent per year (which is similar to India in the last 20 years) this would suggest a population of 5,000 migrants.
This number is confirmed by the archaeological evidence. The excavations at Spong Hill, for example, revealed over 2,000 cremations and inhumations in what is a very large early cemetery. However, when the period of use is taken into account (over 200 years) and its size, it is presumed to be a major cemetery for the entire area and not just one village, it does point to a smaller rather than large number of original immigrants of 20,000.
Heinrich Härke concluded that "most of the biological and cultural evidence points to a minority immigration on the scale of 10 to 20% of the native population. The immigration itself was not a single ‘invasion’, but rather a series of intrusions and immigrations over a considerable period, differing from region to region, and changing over time even within regions. The total immigrant population may have numbered somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 over about a century, but the geographical variations in numbers, and in social and ethnic composition, should have led to a variety of settlement processes."
Generally, the problems associated with seeking estimates for the population before AD 1089 were set out by Mark Thomas, Michael Stumpf and Heinrich Härke. They suggest that "Incidental reports of numbers of immigrants are notoriously unreliable, and absolute numbers of immigrants before the Norman period can only be calculated as a proportion of the estimated overall population."
However, there is a discrepancy between, on the one hand, archaeological and some historical ideas about the scale of the Anglo-Saxon immigration, and on the other, estimates of the genetic contribution of the Anglo-Saxon immigrants to the modern English gene pool (see "Molecular evidence" above ). Mark Thomas, Michael Stumpf and Heinrich Härke created a statistical study of the two groups: those who held the "Migrant" Y chromosome and those that didn't. They examined the effect of differential reproductive success between those groups, coupled with limited intermarriage between the groups, on the spread of the genetic variant to discover whether the levels of migration needed to meet a 50% contribution to the modern gene pool. What they found is the genetic pool can rise from less than 5% to more than 50% in as little as 200 years with the addition of a slight increase in reproduction advantage of 1.8 (meaning a ratio 51.8 to 50) and restricting the amount of female (migrant genes) and male (indigenous genes) inter-breeding to at most 10%.
"SAXON" POLITICAL ASCENDANCY IN BRITAIN
Areas which are the most probable areas for Settler communities
A re-evaluation of the traditional picture of decay and dissolution
The representation of long-lasting British triumphs against the Saxons appears in large parts of the Chronicles, but stem ultimately from Gildas's brief and frustratingly elusive reference to a British victory at Mons Badonicus – Mount Badon (see historical evidence above ). Nick Higham suggests, that the war between Britons and Saxons seems to have ended in some sort of compromise, which conceded a very considerable sphere of influence within Britain to the incomers. According to Higham; The most developed vision of a ‘big’ sub-Roman Britain, with control over its own political and military destiny for well over a century, is that of Kenneth Dark, who has argued that Britain should not be divided during the fifth, and even the bulk of the sixth, century into ‘British’ and ‘Anglo-Saxon’ cultural and/or political provinces, but should be thought of as a generally ‘British’ whole. His thesis, in brief, is to postulate not just survival but continuing cultural, political and military power for the sub-Roman elite, both in the far west (where this view is comparatively uncontroversial) but also in the east, where it has to be imagined alongside incoming settlements. He postulates the sub-Roman community to have been the dominant force in insular affairs right up to c.570.
Kenneth Dark's argument for continuing British military and political
power in the east rests on the very uneven distribution of Anglo-Saxon
cemeteries and the proposition that large gaps in that distribution
necessarily represent strong British polities which excluded
Anglo-Saxon settlers by force.
\'ROMANO-BRITTONIC\' PEOPLES\' FATE IN THE SOUTH-EAST
The most extreme estimation for the size of the Anglo-Saxon settlement suggests that some 80% of the resident population of Britain were not Anglo-Saxon. Given that, explanation has been sought to account for the change in culture of the Britons to one where by the 8th Century the majority of people in southern Britain saw themselves as heirs to the Anglo-Saxon culture. Whilst the developments were rather complicated, there are two competing theories.
One theory, first set out by Edward Augustus Freeman , suggests that the Anglo Saxons and the Britons were competing cultures, and that through invasion, extermination, slavery, and forced resettlement the Anglo-Saxons defeated the Britons and consequently their culture and language prevailed. This view has influenced much of the linguistic, scholarly and popular perceptions of the process of anglicisation in Britain. It remains the starting point and 'default position', to which other hypotheses are compared in modern reviews of the evidence. Widespread extermination and displacement of the native peoples of Britain is still considered a viable possibility by certain scholars. Our best contemporary source, Gildas, certainly suggests that just such a change of populations did take place. However, Freeman's ideas did not go unchallenged, even as they were being propounded. In particular, the essayist Grant Allen believed in a strong Celtic contribution to Englishness.
Another theory has challenged this view and started to examine evidence that the majority of Anglo Saxons were Brittonic in origin. The major evidence comes firstly from the figures, taking a fairly high Anglo-Saxon figure (200,000) and a low Brittonic one (800,000), Britons are likely to have outnumbered Anglo-Saxons by at least four to one. The interpretation of such figures is that while "culturally, the later Anglo-Saxons and English did emerge as remarkably un-British, ... their genetic, biological make-up is none the less likely to have been substantially, indeed predominantly, British".
Two processes leading to Anglo-Saxonisation have been proposed. One is similar to culture changes observed in Russia, North Africa and parts of the Islamic world; where a politically and socially powerful minority culture becomes, over a rather short period, adopted by a settled majority. A process usually termed 'elite dominance'.
The second process is explained through incentives, such as the
Wergild outlined in the law code of Ine of
Whatever the case, a continuity of 'sub-Roman' Britons cannot be
doubted, as evidenced, for example, by the sheer number of burials
which already date to the late 5th and early 6th centuries - otherwise
impossible to maintain by even the largest 'migration' estimates. In
addition to the 'highland Tyrants' in the west, the case has been made
by persistence of a 'native', post-Roman, polity of sorts _south_ of
the Thames during much of the fifth century- evidenced by the
oppositional deposition of
Quoit Brooch Style artefacts in inhumation
burials south of the Thames versus 'Scandinavian' artefacts (such as
'square headed brooches') within predominantly cremation burial
settings dominate _north_ of the Thames (i.e. in "Anglian" areas).
However, a take-over by continental migrants cannot be denied, as
evidenced by an abrupt end of Quoit Broch style artefacts and
inundation of exotic artefacts of a "Jutish' character in the final
decade or two of the fifth century. Thus Ken Dark's notion of a long
chronology of a surviving, even dominant "sub-Roman" Britain finds
little support. Moreover, Halsall argues that 'Britons' are scarcely
if at all visible in the archaeological record of lowland
REASONS BEHIND THE SUCCESS OF THE ANGLO-SAXON SETTLEMENT
The reasons for the success of Anglo-Saxon settlements remains uncertain. Helena Hamerow has made an observation that in Anglo-Saxon society "local and extended kin groups remained ... the essential unit of production throughout the Anglo-Saxon period". "Local and extended kin groups" is one of a number of possible reasons for success; along with societal advantages, freedom and the relationship to an elite, that allowed the Anglo-Saxons' culture and language to flourish in the fifth and sixth centuries.
ANGLO-SAXON POLITICAL FORMATION
Nick Higham is convinced that the success of the Anglo-Saxon elite in gaining an early compromise shortly after the Battle of Badon is a key to the success of the culture. This produced a political ascendancy across the south and east of Britain, which in turn required some structure to be successful.
The Bretwalda concept is taken as evidence for a presence of a number of early Anglo-Saxon elite families and a clear unitary oversight. Whether the majority of these leaders were early settlers, descendant from settlers, or especially after the exploration stage they were Roman-British leaders who adopted Anglo-Saxon culture is unclear. The balance of opinion is that most were migrants, although it shouldn't be assumed they were all Germanic (see Elite personal names evidence ). There is agreement: that these were small in number and proportion, yet large enough in power and influence to ensure "Anglo-Saxon" acculturation in the lowlands of Britain. Most historians believe these elites were those named by Bede, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and others, although there is discussion regarding their floruit dates. Importantly, whatever their origin or when they flourished, they established their claim to lordship through their links to extended kin ties. As Helen Peake jokingly points out "they all just happened to be related back to Woden".
Tribal Hidage is evidence of the existence of numerous smaller
provinces, meaning that southern and eastern Britain may have lost any
macro-political cohesion in the fifth and sixth centuries and
fragmented into many small autonomous units, though late Roman
administrative organisation of the countryside may have helped dictate
their boundaries. By the end of the sixth century the leaders of these
communities were styling themselves kings, with the majority of the
larger kingdoms based on the south or east coasts. They include the
provinces of the
The southern and east coasts were, of course, the areas settled first and in greatest numbers by the settlers and so presumably were the earliest to pass from Romano-British to Anglo-Saxon control. Once established they had the advantage of easy communication with continental territories in Europe via the North Sea or the Channel. The east and south coast provinces may never have fragmented to the extent of some areas inland and by the end of the sixth century they were already beginning to expand by annexing smaller neighbours. Barbara Yorke suggests that such aggressiveness must have encouraged areas which did not already possess military protection in the form of kings and their armies to acquire their own war-leaders or protection alliances. By the time of the Tribal Hidage there were also two large 'inland' kingdoms, those of the Mercians and West Saxons, whose spectacular growth we can trace in par in our sources for the seventh century, but it is not clear how far this expansion had proceeded by the end of the sixth century.
RURAL FREEDOMS AND KINSHIP GROUPS
Where arable cultivation continued in early Anglo-Saxon England, there seems to have been considerable continuity with the Roman period in both field layout and arable practices, although we do not know whether there were also changes to patterns of tenure or the regulation of cultivation. The greatest perceptible alterations in land usage between about 400 and 600 are therefore in the proportions of the land of each community that lay under grass or the plough, rather than in changes to the layout or management of arable fields.
The Anglo-Saxons settled in small groups covering a handful of widely dispersed local communities. These farms were for the most part mobile. This mobility, which was typical across much of Northern Europe took two forms: the gradual shifting of the settlement within its boundaries or the complete location of the settlement altogether. These shifting settlements (called _Wandersiedlungen_ or "wandering settlements") were a common feature since the Bronze Age. Why farms became abandoned and then relocated is much debated. However it is suggested that this might be related to the death of a patron of the family or the desire to move to better farmlands.
These farms are often falsely supposed to be "peasant farms". However, a _ceorl_, who was the lowest ranking freeman in early Anglo-Saxon society, was not a peasant but an arms-owning male with access to law, support of a kindred and the wergild, situated at the apex of an extended household working at least one hide of land. It is the ceorl that we should associate with the standard 8–10m x 4–5m post-hole building of the early Anglo-Saxon period, grouped with others of the same kin group. Each such household head had a number of less-free dependants.
The success of the rural world in the 5th and 6th centuries, according to the landscape archaeology, was due to three factors: the continuity with the past, with no evidence of up-rooting in the landscape; farmer's freedom and rights over lands, with provision of a rent or duty to an overlord, who provided only slight lordly input; and the common outfield arable land (of an outfield-infield system) that provided the ability to build kinship and group cultural ties.
The origins of the timber building tradition seen in early
Philip Rahtz asserted that buildings seen in West Stow and Mucking had late Roman origins. Archaeologist Philip Dixon noted the striking similarity between Anglo-Saxon timber halls and Romano-British rural houses. The Anglo-Saxons did not import the 'long-house', the traditional dwelling of the continental Germanic peoples, to Britain. Instead they upheld a local vernacular British building tradition dating back to the late first century. This has been interpreted as evidence of the endurance of kinship and household structures from the Roman into the Anglo-Saxon period.
However, this has been considered too neat an explanation for all the evidence. Anne and Gary Marshall summarise the situation:
"One of the main problems in Anglo-Saxon archaeology has been to account for the apparent uniqueness of the English timber structures of the period. These structures seem to bear little resemblance either to earlier Romano-British or to continental models. In essence, the problem is that the hybrid Anglo-Saxon style seems to appear full-blown with no examples of development from the two potentially ancestral traditions … The consensus of the published work was that the Anglo-Saxon building style was predominantly home-grown."
For Bryan Ward-Perkins the answer is found in the success of the Anglo-Saxon culture and highlights the micro-diversity and larger cohesion that produced a dynamic force in comparison to the Brittonic culture From beads and quoits to clothes and houses, there is something unique happening in the early Anglo-Saxon period. The material culture evidence shows that people adopted and adapted styles based on set roles and styles. John Hines, commenting on the diversity of nearly a thousand glass beads and many different clothes clasps from Lakenheath, states that these reveal a "society where people relied on others to fulfill a role" and "what they had around them was making a statement", not one about the individual, but about "identity between small groups not within small groups".
Julian Richards commenting on this and other evidence suggests:
" was more complex than a mass invasion bringing fully formed lifestyles and beliefs. The early Anglo-Saxon, just like today's migrants, were probably riding different cultural identities. They brought from their homelands the traditions of their ancestors. But they would have been trying to work out not only who they were, but who they wanted to be … and forge an identity for those who followed."
Looking beyond simplistic 'homeland' scenarios, and explaining the observations that 'Anglo-Saxon' houses and other aspects of material culture do not find exact matches in the 'Germanic homelands' in Europe, Halsall explains the changes within the context of a larger 'North Sea interaction zone', including lowland England, Northern Gaul and northern Germany. These areas experienced marked social and cultural changes in the wake of Roman collapse—experienced not only within the former Roman provinces (Gaul, Britain) but also in _Barbaricum_ itself. All three areas experienced changes in social structure, settlement patterns and ways of expressing identities, as well as tensions which created push and pull factors for migrations in, perhaps, multiple directions.
CULTURE OF BELIEF
The study of pagan religious practice in the early Anglo-Saxon period is difficult. Most of the texts that may contain relevant information are not contemporary, but written later by Christian writers who tended to have a hostile attitude to pre-Christian beliefs, and who may have distorted their portrayal of them. Much of the information used to reconstruct Anglo-Saxon paganism comes from later Scandinavian and Icelandic texts and there is a debate about how relevant these are. The study of pagan Anglo-Saxon beliefs has often been approached with reference to Roman or even Greek typologies and categories. Archaeologists therefore use such terms as gods, myths, temples, sanctuaries, priests, magic and cults. Charlotte Behr argues that this provides a worldview of Anglo-Saxon practice culture which is unhelpful.
Peter Brown employed a new method of looking at the belief systems of
the fifth to seventh centuries, by arguing for a model of religion
which was typified by a pick and choose approach. The period was
exceptional because there was no orthodoxy or institutions to control
or hinder the people. This freedom of culture is seen also in the
Roman-British community and is very evident in the complaints of
One Anglo-Saxon cultural practice that is better understood are the
burial customs, due in part to archaeological excavations at various
Sutton Hoo ,
Spong Hill , Prittlewell , Snape and
Walkington Wold , and the existence of around 1,200 pagan (or
non-Christian) cemeteries. There was no set form of burial, with
cremation being preferred in the north and inhumation in the south,
although both forms were found throughout England, sometimes in the
same cemeteries. When cremation did take place, the ashes were usually
placed within an urn and then buried, sometimes along with grave goods
. According to archaeologist Dave Wilson, "the usual orientation for
an inhumation in a pagan Anglo-Saxon cemetery was west–east, with
the head to the west, although there were often deviations from this."
Indicative of possible religious belief, grave goods were common
amongst inhumation burials as well as cremations; free Anglo-Saxon men
were buried with at least one weapon in the pagan tradition, often a
seax , but sometimes also with a spear , sword or shield, or a
combination of these. There are also a number of recorded cases of
parts of animals being buried within such graves. Most common amongst
these was body parts belonging to either goats or sheep , although
parts of oxen were also relatively common, and there are also isolated
cases of goose , crab apples , duck eggs and hazelnuts being buried in
graves. It is widely thought therefore that such items constituted a
food source for the deceased. In some cases, animal skulls,
particularly oxen but also pig, were buried in human graves, a
practice that was also found earlier in
There is also evidence for the continuation of Christianity in south
and east Britain. The Christian shrine at St Albans and its martyr
cult survived throughout the period (see
The complexity of belief, indicated by various pieces of evidence, is disturbing to those looking for easy categories. The extent to which belief was discursive and free during the settlement period suggests a lack of proscription, indeed, this might be a characteristic of Anglo-Saxon cultural success.
LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE
Little is known about the everyday spoken language of people living in the migration period. Old English is a contact language and it is hard to reconstruct the pidgin used in this period from the written language found in the West Saxon literature of some 400 years later. Two general theories are proposed regarding why people changed their language to Old English (or an early form of such): either a person or household changed so as to serve an elite, or a person or household changed through choice as it provided some advantage economically or legally.
According to Nick Higham, the adoption of the language—as well as the material culture and traditions—of an Anglo-Saxon elite, "by large numbers of the local people seeking to improve their status within the social structure, and undertaking for this purpose rigorous acculturation", is the key to understanding the Anglo-Saxon from Romano-British transition. The progressive nature of this language acquisition, and the 'retrospective reworking' of kinship ties to the dominant group led, ultimately, to the "myths which tied the entire society to immigration as an explanation of their origins in Britain".
The final few lines of the poem The Battle of Brunanburh , a tenth
century Anglo-Saxon poem that celebrates a victory of
_OLD ENGLISH_ _MODERN ENGLISH_
...Engle and Seaxe upp becomon, ofer brad brimu Britene sohton, wlance wig-smithas, Wealas ofercomon, eorlas ar-hwaete eard begeaton.
This 'heroic tradition' of conquering incomers is consistent with the conviction of Bede, and later Anglo-Saxon historians, that the ancestral origin of the English was not the result of any assimilation with the native British, but was derived solely from the Germanic migrants of the post-Roman period. It also explains the enduring appeal of poems and heroic stories such as Beowulf, Wulf and Eadwacer and Judith, well into the Christian period. The success of the language is the most obvious result of the settlement period. This language was not just the language of acculturation, but through the stories, poetry and oral traditions became the agency of change.
Nick Higham has provided this summary of the processes:
* ^ A sample of this discussion can be seen on the television
series _Britain AD: King Arthur's Britain_, particularly the
* ^ The area of
* Channel 4 (2004), _Britain AD: King Arthur\'s Britain_ * Hamerow, Helena; Hinton, David A.; Crawford, Sally, eds. (2011), _The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology._, Oxford: OUP, ISBN 978-0-19-921214-9 * Higham, Nicholas J.; Ryan, Martin J. (2013), _The Anglo-Saxon World_, Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0-300-12534-4 * Hills, Catherine (2003), _Origins of the English_, London: Duckworth, ISBN 0-7156-3191-8 * Koch, John T. (2006), _Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia_, Santa Barbara and Oxford: ABC-CLIO, ISBN 1-85109-440-7 * Pryor, Francis (2005), _Britain AD: A Quest for Arthur, England and the Anglo-Saxons_, London: Harper Perennial (published 2001), p. 320, ISBN 978-0-00-718187-2
* Behr, Charlotte (2010), _Review of Signals of Belief in Early
* Nick Higham (2004), "From sub-
* Bazelmans, Jos (2009), "The early-medieval use of ethnic names
from classical antiquity: The case of the Frisians", in Derks, Ton;
Roymans, Nico, _Ethnic Constructs in Antiquity: The Role of Power and
Tradition_, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University, pp. 321–337, ISBN
* Brown, Michelle P.; Farr, Carol A., eds. (2001), _Mercia: An
Anglo-Saxon Kingdom in Europe_, Leicester: Leicester University Press,
* Charles-Edwards, Thomas, ed. (2003), _After Rome_, Oxford: Oxford
University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-924982-4
* Dornier, Ann, ed. (1977), _Mercian Studies_, Leicester: Leicester
University Press, ISBN 0-7185-1148-4
* Elton, Charles Isaac (1882), _Origins of English History_, London:
* Frere, Sheppard Sunderland (1987), _Britannia: A History of Roman
Britain_ (3rd, revised ed.), London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, ISBN
* Giles, John Allen , ed. (1841), "The Works of Gildas", _The Works
* Jones, Barri; Mattingly, David (1990), _An Atlas of Roman
Britain_, Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers (published 2007), ISBN
* Jones, Michael E.; Casey, John (1988), "The Gallic Chronicle
Restored: a Chronology for the Anglo-Saxon Invasions and the End of
Roman Britain", _Britannia_, The Society for the Promotion of Roman
Studies, XIX (November): 367–98, doi :10.2307/526206 , retrieved 6
* Kirby, D. P. (2000), _The Earliest English Kings_ (Revised ed.),
London: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-24211-8
* Laing, Lloyd; Laing, Jennifer (1990), _Celtic Britain and Ireland,
c. 200–800_, New York: St. Martin's Press, ISBN 0-312-04767-3
* McGrail, Seàn, ed. (1988), _Maritime Celts, Frisians and Saxons_,
London: Council for British Archaeology (published 1990), pp. 1–16,
* Mattingly, David (2006), _An Imperial Possession: Britain in the
Roman Empire_, London: Penguin Books (published 2007), ISBN
* Pryor, Francis (2004), _Britain AD_, London: Harper Perennial
(published 2005), ISBN 0-00-718187-6
* Russo, Daniel G. (1998), _Town Origins and Development in Early
England, c. 400–950 A.D._, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN
* Snyder, Christopher A. (1998), _An Age of Tyrants: Britain and the
Britons A.D. 400–600_, University Park: Pennsylvania State
University Press, ISBN 0-271-01780-5
* Snyder, Christopher A. (2003), _The Britons_, Malden: Blackwell
Publishing (published 2005), ISBN 978-0-631-22260-6
* Wickham, Chris (2005), _Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and
the Mediterranean, 400–800_, Oxford: Oxford University Press
(published 2006), ISBN 978-0-19-921296-5
* Wickham, Chris (2009), "Kings Without States: Britain and Ireland,
400–800", _The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages,
400–1000_, London: Penguin Books (published 2010), pp. 150–169,
* Wood, Ian (1984), "The end of Roman Britain: Continental evidence
and parallels", in Lapidge, M., _Gildas: New Approaches_, Woodbridge:
Boydell, p. 19
* Wood, Ian (1988), "The Channel from the 4th to the 7th centuries
AD", in McGrail, Seàn, _Maritime Celts, Frisians and Saxons_, London:
Council for British Archaeology (published 1990), pp. 93–99, ISBN
* Yorke, Barbara (1990), _Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon
England_, B. A. Seaby, ISBN 0-415-16639-X
* Yorke, Barbara (1995), _
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