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 Why is there so little left of the Anglo-Saxons

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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Why is there so little left of the Anglo-Saxons   Tue 13 Mar 2012, 22:34

The Romans left a lot of ruins for us to dig up and spend years researching the finds. We’re still worshiping in Norman built churches, there’s a wealth of Norman castles… and there’s plenty of other buildings around from their era… so why not the Anglo-Saxons… few remnants and the odd wall of a church. Why was this… did they not possess the skills to build with stone, was it too expensive, did they think their tenure of the land was maybe too temporary to warrant the expense time and effort to build in stone… did the Normans destroy everything of the past to make way for the new… the new conquering Normans.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Why is there so little left of the Anglo-Saxons   Tue 13 Mar 2012, 22:43

Saxon settlements have been extensively researched. However in cases where the settlement was urban it is a distinctly difficult proposition.

If you google anglo-saxon archaeology in Britain you will notice the proliferation of non-urban sites and the paucity of urban ones immediately. You will also find a paucity of early Norman urban archaeology for the same reason, though the Norman habit of building fortifications and ecclesiastical establishments in stone from around thirty or forty years after the conquest changes this pattern decisively and suddenly in terms of architectural remains.

On the bright side, things aren't as bad as they seemed a few decades ago (when people were still largely guessing about Saxon London). Improved techniques and conditions for archaeological research have already begun to pay dividends in the Strand area of London, for example, and a complex and detailed picture of Lundunwic is beginning to take shape - as well as isolated finds in The City which are beginning to lend the lie to the previous presumption that it had been abandoned at the time and used for grazing by Saxon farmers.

Their penchant for wooden structures did indeed work against them in terms of archaeological possibilities and architectural legacy, but at least we're slowly overcoming the obstacle this previously presented to research.
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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Re: Why is there so little left of the Anglo-Saxons   Tue 13 Mar 2012, 23:01

I’d thought the lack of remains was due to them building mainly from wood… I take it the excitement on time team when they discover a slight discolouration in the soil leading to ‘post holes’.
At the same time though, surly not all Normans lived in stone buildings… what remains of the non landed Normans, there must have been a distinct difference in Norman timber buildings, village layout etc, and the AS prior to the conquest.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Why is there so little left of the Anglo-Saxons   Tue 13 Mar 2012, 23:18

The Norman conquest wasn't accompanied by a mass influx of Norman people so by and large, with the exception of important military and public buildings, the people continued to inhabit what they had, and the Normans were happy they did so - all the easier to tax people if they're not peripatetic on grounds of invasion.

There is practically no difference in the artefactual evidence between late Saxon and early Norman times. Ceramics continued to be fired in the same kilns and moulded by the same hands (not turned) for quite a while. In some houses in The Strand (during rebuilding at the rear of the Savoy in the 1980s) an opportunity to uncover the basement/foundation layer of several houses at once revealed that what had previously been classified as early medieval was in fact Saxon. Furthermore the style, material and techniques mirrored those of other excavations around the city which also had been tentatively dated to early medieval. This and similar excavations elsewhere has caused, at least in London, a huge re-evaluation of the data previously amassed. The London Museum had an interesting map (two maps actually) at one stage which showed the pre-1980s estimation of Saxon finds (very low) with the newer revised version and it reveals a Saxon settlement which was much larger than hitherto assumed containing two centres - a civic centre around The Strand (Lundunwic) with a commercial centre more or less operating out of the Roman emporia on the Thames shore near where Blackfriars Bridge is today. If London can be taken as a model for false assumptions elsewhere then the actual Saxon footprint might have been generally much larger and more defined than had been assumed countrywide - it had just been misinterpreted.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Why is there so little left of the Anglo-Saxons   Tue 13 Mar 2012, 23:37

If you look at the Shelley ware on this link you'll see the're all classified now by the Museum of London as "Saxon-Norman". Thirty years ago these were nearly all assumed to be "early medieval", meaning Norman. Just this particular re-classification of this particular ware automatically spreads concentrated and continuous Saxon inhabitation throughout almost the entire conurbation as it then was and westwards a distance of two miles along the river (right up to Westminster). Not only did they not "abandon" the city, as previously assumed, they inhabited it and expanded it. Furthermore it expanded on a per-capita rate not seen again until the 19th century.

Museum of London (Late Saxon Shelley)
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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Re: Why is there so little left of the Anglo-Saxons   Tue 13 Mar 2012, 23:38

as i dont have access to a library, can you recomend any links to further reading... especially the recent digs at the savoy site... seems totally facinating.



opps sorry cross posts... you'd read my mind
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Why is there so little left of the Anglo-Saxons   Tue 13 Mar 2012, 23:47

A book I think you might like is John Schofield's "The Building of London - From the Conquest to the Great Fire". Buy the revised edition.

Despite its title it deals with the architectural evidence in the archaeological record right back to Roman times. Schofield re-wrote the Saxon chapter in the light of the then recent Strand digs and much of the early Norman chapter also as a result. It's a dry book, no great stories or anything, but if you're into the history of a place as told through its architecture and by someone who knows his stuff then this is the one. I bought a copy years ago at the bookshop in the old GLC building (can't remember what exhibition was on) but I'm sure it can be bought online or by mail order from the Museum.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Why is there so little left of the Anglo-Saxons   Tue 13 Mar 2012, 23:50

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Why is there so little left of the Anglo-Saxons   Tue 13 Mar 2012, 23:56

That's the revised edition too. Go for it!
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