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The Archaeology of Early Medieval Britain


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor and tutor: Stuart Brookes
  • Assessment: two 2500-word essays (50%) and a 48-hour online examination (50%), with a 60% attendance requirement

Module description

This module covers the contribution of archaeology and related disciplines to the study and understanding of the British Isles from c. AD 400 to c. AD 1100. It examines developments in the settlement and burial record in a landscape context and explores major themes such as the development of early states, the nature of religious change, the impact of conquest and the emergence of towns.

You will be introduced to the principal social developments in Britain from the end of the Roman period until shortly after the Norman conquest. You will discuss the character and significance of a range of important archaeological sites and artefacts for the study of early medieval Britain, and evaluate the geographical and chronological variability of sources (archaeology, written sources and place-names) for Britain between the fifth and eleventh centuries AD. You will also identify the key theoretical approaches to the archaeology of early medieval Britain, and consider how archaeology has extended our perception of the period AD 400-1100.

Indicative module syllabus

  • From Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England: debating the ‘Romanist’ and ‘Germanist’ traditions
  • Early Anglo-Saxon ‘deathscapes’: how archaeologists interpret funerary evidence
  • Early medieval settlements of the British Isles: comparing east and west (and north) - how archaeologists interpret settlement evidence
  • Landscapes of power: from kinship to kingship - debating how kings come to power
  • The early church: how to ‘read’ churches
  • Maritime landscapes and international trading settlements: debating towns
  • Vikings in Scotland and England: archaeological approaches to warfare
  • The growth of towns: material culture of urban living
  • Society and landscape around the year 1000

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • have knowledge of the nature, extent and limitations of the archaeological evidence for the Anglo-Saxon and Viking periods in Britain
  • recognise and understand the various approaches used to reconstruct Anglo-Saxon and Viking society, and the problems of interpreting the evidence
  • have an appreciation of the relationship of other disciplines to the period and their importance in assessing and interpreting the evidence
  • have an understanding of, and ability to evaluate, the range of current archaeological methods and techniques used for recovering and analysing evidence for early medieval Britain.