In particular, two main tendencies have been followed in the historiography of early medieval settlements in Britain. The first has been to relate fifth and sixth century timber architecture on the island to the “Germanic” buildings that were constructed on the Continent from the fourth century onwards. The second has been to attribute it to an indigenous “Romano-British” tradition that lacked any strong connections with overseas contemporary buildings. This dual opposition, however, does not make justice to the complexity of the problem and seems influenced to a large extent by our bias, ideologies, perceptions of the present and need for simplification.
In fact, early medieval timber buildings in Britain result from specific social, political and economic circumstances, and cannot even be defined within a homogeneous architectural typology. It has been observed that it is even difficult to understand whether the people who arrived in Britain across the sea perceived themselves as “Anglo-Saxon” in the modern sense of the term. At the same time, there is no reason to assume that early medieval Northumbria was inhabited solely or mainly by “indigenous” people given that the North Sea was more a fluid connection than a strong border.
The three (re)constructed buildings and early medieval Northumbria | Five languages | Local groups | The past in the present | Anglo-Saxonism | The three buildings and their significance | The sites of the (re)constructed buildings | “Germanic” vs “Romano-British” | Early medieval timber buildings in Britain | (Ex)perimental reconstructions