Culture and identity in the early medieval fenland landscape, Susan Oosthuizen 

The fen-basin is located in a region in which material culture had become largely Germanic by the mid-fifth century. This paper evaluates the contribution made to an understanding of that process of cultural change by place-names, archaeology and documentary records. Archaeological evidence indicates little post-Roman abandonment of the fenland; the region continued to be inhabited and exploited. Patterns of intercommoning, the Tribal Hidage, and stray pieces of information recorded by Bede and Felix, demonstrate the presence of territorial groups across the whole basin by the mid-seventh century in a complex, almost certainly dynamic, hierarchy of subordinate and dominant polities, principalities and kingdoms, some with some Brittonic territorial names and others with names based on Old English elements. Most of the people who gave these place-names were likely to have been descended from the Romano-British and prehistoric inhabitants of Britain. Different cultural traditions cannot be identified in their material culture, and many may have been bilingual. Such commonalities together with continuity across the region in structures governing rights of common pasture suggests that it is as likely that some sub-Roman polities evolved into sub-kingdoms as it is that other polities were created anew. There is nothing so out of the ordinary in such political changes that they might be ascribed to the influence of incomers. The influence of migration on the evolution of early medieval fenland culture remains enigmatic.

Power, conflict and ritual on the fen-edge: the Anarchy-period castle at Burwell, Cambridgeshire, and its pre-Conquest landscape, Duncan W. Wright, Oliver Creighton, Steven Trick and Michael Fradley

Burwell, Cambridgeshire, is best known as possessing a castle constructed by King Stephen during the mid-twelfth-century civil war commonly referred to as ‘the Anarchy’. Documentary sources confirm that the king built a series of fortifications around the East Anglian fen-edge during A.D. 1144 in an attempt to restrict the activities of the rebellious baron Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, who was using the Isle of Ely as a base to raid the surrounding countryside. Written texts also reveal how de Mandeville was mortally wounded during a skirmish or siege which subsequently took place at Burwell. A combination of topographic and geophysical survey, supplemented by documentary analysis, suggests that the castle was constructed in a landscape with a complex earlier history. It is suggested that during the Romano-British period a temple complex was developed on the site, with a spring rising on the edge of the fens providing the likely focus for ritual activity. Burwell later developed into an important early medieval place and the castle itself may have been inserted into a thegnly enclosure — an act which probably sought to appropriate a recognised pre-existing centre of power. The current research provides the most comprehensive assessment of the site to date, and supports existing interpretations which consider the twelfth-century castle to be incomplete. Analysis also gives additional insight into the functional and symbolic significance of the castle at Burwell, and sheds important light on the character of power and conflict in the fenland during the mid-twelfth century.

The articulation of burgages and streets in early medieval towns, part 1: the case of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, Jeremy Haslam

This study, of which this paper is the first part of two, examines one particular aspect of the planning process in new towns of the early medieval period in England which were set out on a rectilinear module. In all these planned towns, the way burgages were laid out at the corners of streets meeting at right angles will have always been problematical. The examples of five towns, ranging in date from the late ninth to the late twelfth century, are examined to illustrate one particular way in which these spatial problems were resolved. Deductions are made from this evidence concerning the contemporaneity or otherwise of streets and burgage systems, seen as inter-functional ensembles. These observations and deductions generate new historical narratives relating to both the morphogenetic development of the towns studied and, in some cases, the wider course of the development of urbanism in general. In the first part of this study, the case of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, is taken as an exemplar of the particular issues examined.

Cartographic evidence for seventeeth-century ‘cross-sites’ in North-East Scotland: Robert Gordon of Staloch and the Blaeu maps of Scotland, Colin Shepherd

This paper considers the cartographic depiction of a series of crosses shown on one of Robert Gordon of Straloch’s seventeenth-century maps of North-East Scotland. Their portrayal in map form within the religious context of the time is problematic. Their potential existence on the ground raises even greater problems of identity and form. That they were not, in reality, as they were depicted on the maps is evident by the landscape evidence. The survival of documentary evidence in the form of the Straloch Papers moves the story from the North-East of Scotland to Amsterdam, the place of production of the maps. These papers describe aspects of the wider political upheavals during which these maps were made and suggest possible motivations beyond geographic interest.

Seasonal settlement and the interpretation of upland archaeology in the Galtee  Mountains, Ireland, Eugene Costello

This paper discusses the complexity of archaeological evidence associated with seasonal upland settlement in Ireland, a subject which has only recently started to come to light. As a result of the lack of attention, many uncertainties remain in the interpretation of upland sites compared to lowland archaeology. The paper uses a case-study of the Galtee Mountains in the south of Ireland, where it focuses on the material culture of transhumance in the post-medieval period. It explores two important aspects of this: first, the activities of transhumant herders in the wider landscape as revealed by the various material remains they have left behind; and second, the identification of chronological depth in these landscapes, as revealed by the morphology of summer (booley) houses and the context in which they are found.


Mark Lynott, Hopewell Ceremonial Landscapes of Ohio: more than mounds and geometric earthworks  (Timothy R. Pauketat)

Richard Helm, Outside the Town: Roman Industry, Burial and Religion at Augustine House, Rhodaus Town, Canterbury  (Will Bowden)

Imogen Tompsett, Social Dynamics In South-West England AD350-1150: an exploration of maritime oriented identity  (Imogen Wood)

Finbar McCormick, Thomas R. Kerr, Meriel McClatchie and Aidan O’Sullivan, Early Medieval Agriculture, Livestock and Cereal Production in Ireland, AD 400–1100  (Debby Banham)

Rosamond Faith and Debby Banham, Anglo-Saxon Farms and Farming  (Stephen Upex)

Andrew Tester, Sue Anderson, Ian Riddler and Robert Carr, Staunch Meadow, Brandon, Suffolk: a high status Middle Saxon settlement  (Susan Oosthuizen)

Gale Owen-Crocker and Susan Thompson (eds), Towns and Topography: essays in memory of David H. Hill  (Bob Silvester)

Fiona Beglane, Anglo-Norman Parks in Medieval Ireland  (Elisabeth Whittle)

W. A. Champion and A. Thacker (eds), Victoria County History of Shropshire, Volume VI.i Shrewsbury: general history and topography  (Jeremy Haslam)

Karis Baker, Ruth Carden and Richard Madgwick (eds), Deer and People (Steven P. Ashby)

Vicky McAlister and Terry Barry (eds), Space and Settlement in Medieval Ireland  (Richard Oram)

Alexis Wilkin, John Naylor, Derek Keene and Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld (eds), Town and Country in Medieval North Western Europe. Dynamic interactions  (Dries Tys)

Sally Crawford and Christina Lee (eds), Social Dimensions of Medieval Disease and Disability  (Corinne Duhig)

Richard Oram (ed.), The Lordship of the Isles  (Victoria Whitworth)

Rhys Morgan, The Welsh and the Shaping of Early Modern Ireland, 1558-1641 (Susan Flavin)

Zheng Yangwen, China on the Sea. How the Maritime World Shaped Modern China  (Sally K. Church)

Cain Hegarty and Rob Wilson-North, The Archaeology of Hill Farming on Exmoor  (Hazel Riley)Gerry Barnes and Tom Williamson,  Rethinking Ancient Woodland. The archaeology and history of woods in Norfolk (Della Hooke)

Julian Orbach and Nikolaus Pevsner, Somerset: South and West  (Bob Silvester)

Philip Payton, Alston Kennerley and Helen Doe, The Maritime History of Cornwall  (Joanna Mattingley)

Charles O’Brien, Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Peterborough  (John Selby)

Rosemary Shirley, Rural Modernity, Everyday Life and Visual Culture  (Phil Back)

Colin Shepherd (ed.), Bennachie and the Garioch: society and ecology in the history of north-east Scotland (Della Hooke)

Journals: Landscape Research Vol. 39.6, vol. 40.1-8 (Della Hooke)

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Volume 37 (2016) Issue 1