My research and publications focus on the archaeology of rural communities in early medieval Europe, particularly on both sides of the North Sea, which was an important unifier in this period. 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). I also have an ongoing project to investigate the post-Roman archaeology of the Upper Thames Valley, a region which played a central role in the origins of the kingdom of Wessex.
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.
The archaeology of early medieval Europe
Rural communities in the early Middle Ages
Early medieval trade and exchange
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).
A conversion-period burial in an ancient landscape: A high-status femael grave near the Rollright Stones
A Conversion-Period Burial in an Ancient Landscape: A high-status female grave near the Rollright Stones
In 2015, a metal detector user uncovered several early medieval artefacts from land adjacent to a major prehistoric complex that straddles the Oxfordshire - Warwickshire border known as the Rollright Stones. He alerted the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the well-preserved burial of a female, aged around 25-35 years and aligned S-N, was subsequently excavated. The grave contained a number of remarkable objects on the basis of which the burial can be dated fairly securely to the seventh century. It lay some 50m northeast of a standing stone presumed to be prehistoric in date, known locally as the ‘King Stone’. This burial and its remarkable setting form a significant addition to the corpus of well furnished female burials which are shedding new light on the role of women in Conversion-period England
The Circulation of Garnets in the North Sea Zone, AD400-700
The Circulation of Garnets in the North Sea Zone, c. 400-700
Early Medieval Places and Spaces. Breaking Down Boundaries in British Archaeology
Early medieval Britain, landscape archaeology, assembly sites, boundaries
The circulation of garnets in the North Sea Zone, AD400-700
Furnished female burial in seventh-century England: Gender and authority in the Conversion Period
A new, refined chronology for seventh‐century graves and grave goods in England has revealed a marked increase in well furnished female burials beginning in the second quarter of the seventh century. The present study considers what gave rise to this phenomenon and concludes that the small number of royal nuns and abbesses who figure so prominently in written accounts of the Conversion were part of a wider, undocumented change in the role of women that began several decades before the founding of the first female houses. It is argued that these well furnished graves reflect a new investment in the commemoration of females who came to represent their family’s interests in newly acquired estates, their importance enhanced by their ability to confer supernatural legitimacy onto dynastic claims.
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
Britain, first millennium AD, archaeometallurgy, copper alloys, recycling metal, life histories