Romans, Britons or Anglo-Saxons in Fifth Century Britain: How do we know, why should we care?
Paper by Paul Gorton
Given at the Theoretical Archaeology Group Conference on December 20, 2017
Abstract: The ongoing deconstruction of Anglo-Saxon typology in metalwork and the identification of local variations in pottery representing intermediate points between Roman and Anglo-Saxon types present the possibility of a chronological spectrum rather than the definitive end or the absolute genesis of the Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods respectively. If we step away from notions of the fifth century representing the end of one period and the beginning of another and historiographically derived ideas of who the actors involved in each locality were, their ethnicity and the culture they ascribed to, what does the evidence actually show us?
Taken from a purely economic point of view, are the changes we see merely local responses to new economic circumstances and are they part of the ebb and flow of urban life in Britain in the middle of the first millennium? These questions will be considered using a series of case studies to highlight the potential of seeing general trends in action if we move away from our attachment to periodisation, ethnicity and the notion that there was a fault line at the beginning of the fifth century.
Top Image: Map of England and northwestern Europe drawn “according to the moderns” (as opposed to Ptolemy), contained in Benedetto Bordone’s book Isolario, 1534 edition