Professor Helena Hamerow

Rural Settlements and Society in Anglo-Saxon England (2012)

In the course of the fifth century, the farms and villas of lowland Britain were replaced by a new, distinctive form of rural settlement: the settlements of Anglo-Saxon communities. This volume presents the first major synthesis of the evidence - which has expanded enormously in recent years - for such settlements from across England and throughout the Anglo-Saxon period, and what it reveals about the communities who built and lived in them, and whose daily lives went almost wholly unrecorded. Helena Hamerow examines the appearance, 'life-cycles', and function of their buildings; the relationship of Anglo-Saxon settlements to the Romano-British landscape and to later medieval villages; the role of ritual in daily life; what distinguished 'rural' from 'urban' in this early period; and the relationship between farming regimes and settlement forms. A central theme throughout the book is the impact on rural producers of the rise of lordship and markets and how this impact is revealed through the remains of their settlements. Hamerow provides an introduction to the wealth of information yielded by settlement archaeology and to the enormous contribution that it makes to our understanding of Anglo-Saxon society.


The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology (Oxford University Press, 2011)

Since the early 20th century the scholarly study of Anglo-Saxon texts has been augmented by systematic excavation and analysis of physical evidence - settlements, cemeteries, artefacts, environmental data, and standing buildings. This evidence has confirmed some readings of the Anglo-Saxon literary and documentary sources and challenged others. More recently, large-scale excavations both in towns and in the countryside, the application of computer methods to large bodies of data, new techniques for site identification such as remote sensing, and new dating methods have put archaeology at the forefront of Anglo-Saxon studies. The Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology, written by a team of experts and presenting the results of the most up-to-date research, will both stimulate and support further investigation into those aspects of Anglo-Saxon life and culture which archaeology has fundamentally illuminated. It will prove an essential resourse for our understanding of a society poised at the interface between prehistory and history.

​Research interests:

  • The archaeology of early medieval Europe
  • Rural communities in the early Middle Ages
  • Early medieval trade and exchange
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My research and publications focus on the archaeology of rural communities in early medieval Europe, particularly in the North Sea Zone.  I am especially interested in the impact of the establishment of kingdoms, monasteries and towns on rural producers and on the early medieval countryside.  My publications in this area include two books, Rural Settlements and Society in Anglo-Saxon England (OUP 2012) and Early Medieval Settlements: The Archaeology of Rural Communities in Northwest Europe AD 400-900  (OUP 2002). 

More recently, I have begun to explore the formation of the earliest Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, in particular the kingdom of Wessex, whose origins lie in the Upper Thames Valley. This has led to a project (‘The Origins of Wessex’) that is deploying a range of archaeological and landscape evidence to investigate the British contribution to West Saxon identity and explore how the leading families of the Gewisse (a group who later came to be known as the West Saxons) used material culture and the landscape itself to consolidate their position (www.arch.ox.ac.uk/wessex).  The discovery in recent years of several richly furnished female burials in the Upper Thames region (including one near the prehistoric standing stones at Rollright, see image) has also led me to investigate the changing role of women in England more widely during the Conversion period (Hamerow 2015 and 2016).

I am co-Director of excavations at the Roman small town of Dorchester-on-Thames (www.arch.ox.ac.uk/DOT1) and PI of the AHRC-funded Novum Inventorium Sepulchrale, an on-line database of Anglo-Saxon graves and grave-goods from Kent (www.arch.ox.ac.uk/NIS1). 

Novum Inventorium Sepulchrale. Anglo-Saxon graves and grave-goods from Kent:  http://inventorium.arch.ox.ac.uk

Dorchester-on-Thames excavation website and blog: www.arch.ox.ac.uk/DOT1 and discoveringdorchester.blogspot.com

  • A Conversion-Period Burial in an Ancient Landscape: A high-status female grave near the Rollright Stones

  • The Circulation of Garnets in the North Sea Zone, AD400-700

  • The Circulation of Garnets in the North Sea Zone, c. 400-700

  • Furnished female burial in seventh-century England: Gender and authority in the Conversion Period

  • A well furnished seventh-century female burial at West Hanney, Oxon

  • An Anglo-Saxon Great Hall Complex at Sutton Courtenay/Drayton, Oxfordshire: A Royal Centre of Early Wessex?

  • Characterising copper-based metals in Britain in the first millennium AD: a preliminary quantification of metal flow and recycling

  • Anglo-Saxon settlements in a post-Roman landscape

  • The Origins of Wessex Pilot Project

  • Transforming Townscapes From Burh to Borough : the Archaeology of Wallingford, AD 800-1400

  • More

Current DPhil Students

  • Irene Bavuso 

I would be willing to hear from potential DPhil students regarding early medieval archaeology and material culture.                           

I would be willing to hear from potential Masters students looking at early medieval archaeology.


I currently teach:

Masters:

  • Mst Archaeology, ‘Emergence of Medieval Europe’, The Archaeology of Early Anglo-Saxon England’, The Archaeology of Later Anglo-Saxon England’
  • MSt Medieval History, supervision of dissertations

Prelims

FHS
  Approaches to History & Further Subject 1
  • 2014  ‘King Alfred and the Anglo-Saxons’ (BBC 4; bbc.co.uk)
  • 21 Feb 2011  Interviews on Radio 4 ‘Today’ Programme and Radio 5-live
  • September 2010   ‘Digging for Britain’ (BBC 2)
  • June 2010  ‘Time Team’, ‘In the Hall of s Saxon King’, on Youtube.com (Time Team S17-E05)
  • 2009  Presenter of ‘The Lost World of the Vikings’, Atlantic Productions for The History Channel
List of site pages