A reassessment of the Anglo-Saxon artefacts from Scotland: material interactions and identities in early medieval northern Britain

Blackwell, Alice (2018) A reassessment of the Anglo-Saxon artefacts from Scotland: material interactions and identities in early medieval northern Britain. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis identifies and interprets the 5th to 9th-century Anglo-Saxon artefacts found within modern Scotland. It uses them to consider material expressions of ethnogenesis and to examine political, economic and ecclesiastical relations within early medieval northern Britain. In total, 221 objects are catalogued and discussed. The earliest finds suggest contact with the changing late/post-Roman frontier, while among the latest objects is a hacked finger ring deposited in a Viking-age hoard. The corpus includes several pieces of early 6th-century Style I metalwork, a cluster of 7th-century elite gold and garnet fittings, a large number of glass beads, a group of loom weights, and a substantial body of 8th/9th-century strap-ends and pins. Many are stray finds, though material was identified among excavated assemblages from monastic, chapel, settlement, hillfort and crannog sites, and from the chance discovery of several hoards and burials.
In an attempt to move beyond a culture-history paradigm that has been deeply embedded in past work on these artefacts, this thesis employs the theories of hybridisation and entanglement, emphasising agency in the selection and reimagination of material culture in processes of identity creation. It identifies evidence for the promulgation of an elite Anglo-Saxon identity in 7th-century Lothian and argues that the region was being presented as a royal heartland. Bordering areas appear to have rejected Anglo-Saxon material culture outright, while regions further away, particularly Galloway and Argyll, were receptive to using and hybridising it. It is suggested that these differences were governed by the desire to show difference from immediate neighbours (for instance between polities within the Solway region) or create new identities (for instance incorporating former kindred-groups in Argyll). Different patterns were apparent in the 8th/9th-century finds: south-east and south-west Scotland appear to have had similar access to late Anglo-Saxon material, including a handful of high-status objects manufactured within Northumbria, while other parts of Scotland produced relatively few finds beyond imported vessel glass and a scatter of metal finds along the coast. While this might suggest a similar cultural context across southern Scotland and a contrast to that north of the Forth–Clyde, differences in deposition, particularly in the presence of hoards in the south-west, show the material was clearly being used and conceived differently. Above all else, this thesis demonstrates that no work on early medieval Northumbria should ignore material found north of the modern national border.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Archaeology, Anglo-Saxon artefacts, Scotland, ethnogenesis, identity.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Campbell, Dr. Ewan
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Ms Alice Blackwell
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30708
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2018 13:45
Last Modified: 13 Aug 2018 14:59
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/30708

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