Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Medieval Archaeology - Volume 53 released

Maney Publishing has released volume 53 of Medieval Archaeology: Journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology. This academic journal comes out once per year, and specializes in the medieval archaeology of Britain and Ireland.

Here are the following articles for this year's volume:

Combs, Contact and Chronology: Reconsidering Hair Combs in Early-Historic and Viking-Age Atlantic Scotland, by Steven P. Ashby

Abstract: Analysis of an important collection of bone/antler hair combs from Atlantic Scotland has illuminated the chronology of early-medieval Scandinavian settlement in the region. Application of a new typology, identification of variations in manufacturing practice and analysis of spatial patterning throw light on the development of combs traditionally seen as characteristic of early-historic Atlantic Scotland. The application of new techniques of raw material analysis demonstrates the probable use of reindeer antler in combs of 'native' style. However, none of these combs is from contexts that can confidently be dated to the 8th century or earlier, and the pattern is indicative of Norse-native coexistence (peaceful or otherwise) in the 9th century, but not before. The comb evidence demonstrates a Scandinavian presence throughout Atlantic Scotland from early in the Viking Age, but also highlights the importance of contact with Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England.

The 9th-century West Porch of St Mary's Church, Deerhurst, Gloucestershire: Form and Function, by Michael Hare

Abstract: A fresh account of the evidence for the Anglo-Saxon W porch at St Mary's Church, Deerhurst, with special reference to the elaborate second-floor chapel, suggests (contrary to recent opinion) that the walls of this high-level chapel are of one build with the W wall of the nave. A series of blocked sockets around three sides of the porch and in the W wall of the nave formerly held a complex series of interlocking beams, which supported an internal floor and extended externally to form a projecting walkway round three sides of the porch. This timber arrangement not only adds to our knowledge of Anglo-Saxon building techniques, but is also the only unambiguous example of such a structure between late Antiquity and the central Middle Ages. The surviving walkway at St Peter, Beho (Belgium) and the evidence of various manuscript illustrations, most notably a 10th-century Spanish depiction of a tower with a projecting walkway, offer parallels; ultimately these derive from classical precedents. The extension of the walkway round the porch at Deerhurst implies liturgical ceremonies of some complexity. At Beho a priest displayed relics from the walkway in the 18th century; the display of relics was probably also the principal function of the Deerhurst walkway.

The Development of Late-Saxon Christchurch, Dorset, and the Burghal Hidage, by Jeremy Haslam

Abstract: Advances in the understanding of the Anglo-Saxon burh in the last 25 years, a reassessment of the date and context of the Burghal Hidage and a recent analysis of comparable archaeological evidence from Cricklade make it necessary to review the archaeological evidence of the defences of the late-Saxon burh at Christchurch. This enables a reconstruction of the urban landscape, which in turn allows a new view of the significance of hidage assessments in the Burghal Hidage for all the burhs in the system it describes. It also places the development of Christchurch in the context of that of other burhs in Wessex and southern Mercia, and throws a new light on general historical processes in the 9th to the early 11th centuries.

The Architectural Setting of the Mass in Early-medieval Ireland, by Tomas Carragáin

Abstract: Surviving churches and documents are analysed for what they may reveal about the architectural context of the mass in early-medieval Ireland. This shows that there is no evidence to support the widely held view that the congregation stood outside. Instead, the variable but relatively small size of these churches expresses the fact that they served smaller and more diverse communities than their high-medieval successors. The altars in large episcopal and/or monastic churches seem positioned further west than those in relatively small, pastoral churches. In part, this was probably to facilitate relatively complex eucharistic liturgies. Externally defined chancels appear for the first time in the late 11th century AD in response to an increased emphasis on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Significantly, they occur at a handful of important sites whose clerics and patrons were in direct contact with Lanfranc of Canterbury, a key exponent of this doctrine.

The Lewis Hoard of Gaming Pieces: A Re-examination of their Context, Meanings, Discovery and Manufacture, by David H. Caldwell; Mark A. Hall and Caroline M. Wilkinson

Abstract: Almost 180 years of scholarship on the Lewis chessmen have given us a solid foundation of understanding, primarily based upon their art-historical analysis. Taking a more interdisciplinary approach (combining elements of art history with archaeology and history), this paper focuses on some over-looked themes — primarily the archaeological, gaming and political contexts of the 12th- and 13th-century North Sea world — and some more familiar themes but in a new light. We suggest a more fluid composition and function of the gaming hoard, with at least four sets of chessmen from the same workshop conceivably made for use in Lewis, possibly in the early 13th century.

Administrative Organisation and State Formation: A Case Study of Assembly Sites in Södermanland, Sweden, by Alexandra Sanmark

Abstract: This is the first multi-disciplinary study of Swedish local thing (assembly) sites of the Viking Age through to the late Middle Ages. Previous studies ignored the larger body of evidence, producing models that are too generalising and often one-dimensional. A systematic overview of the location, features and landscape characteristics of things in the county of Södermanland enables exploration of wider questions, such as the development of the thing organisation and the beginnings of state formation in Sweden. This suggests late-Viking thing sites, mainly created in 11th century, are Christian sites, established by local magnates in response to the growing central power. The similarities and conformity of sites, together with a reorganisation of the defensive systems from inland lakes to coastal areas, suggest there was a sense of growing unity and unification within Sweden at this time.

The Historic Landscape of the Saga of the People of Vatnsdalur: Exploring the Saga Writer's Use of the Landscape and Archaeological Remains to Serve Political Interests, by Thor Hjaltalín

Abstract: The saga of the People of Vatnsdalur (Vatnsdaelasaga) provides a case study for a new approach to the Sagas of Icelanders (Íslendingasögur). This treats the saga as a cultural product of the 13th century that can give insights into its creator's ideas and worldviews. Fieldwork at five sites in the Vatnsdalur valley in NW Iceland seeks to establish what these places were like in the 13th century. This knowledge, alongside the saga and place-name evidence, illustrates how the saga writer, presumed to come from a powerful 13th-century family, systematically used the landscape and archaeological remains in the valley to serve his political interests when describing 10th-century events.

Native Enclosed Settlement and the Problem of the Irish 'Ring-fort', by Elizabeth Fitzpatrick

Abstract: One of the most sustained monolithic traditions of Irish archaeology is the classification of a wide variety of earthen and stone enclosures (ráth and caisel) as 'ring-forts'. This is an impediment to understanding the significant changes that native enclosed settlement underwent through time since it encourages archaeologists to fit their evidence to the category rather than to assess each enclosed settlement on its own merits. It also conceals differences between various forms of enclosed settlements inhabited from the 7th to the 17th century AD, occasionally later. The proposal is therefore that the 'ring-fort' is a chimera and that the use of that term should be discontinued so that study of native enclosed settlement can be liberated from its insular base and used to explore social change in Ireland. A field study from the Burren, Co Clare is used in support of this argument.

Click here to go to the journal's website on IngentaConnect.

We will be reporting on details of some of the articles in Medieval Archaeology over the next few days and weeks. Previously, we reported on Lewis Chessmen might not be Chessmen, which is based on one of the articles in this year's issue.