Grubenhaus 1

Period Early Anglo-Saxon
Building Type half-sunken feature/Sunken Feature Building/Grubenhaus
Description Tent-shaped building with a sunken floor with black thatched roof. Known to us as The Grubenhaus (using the Germanic term name for this type of building which is exclusive to Anglo-Saxon settlements), they are also known by the less romantic but more descriptive name of Sunken Feature Buildings (SFB). The purpose and form of these buildings is still debated as no equivalents seem to have been built since antiquity: they seem to have gone out of fashion. Ours is a (re)construction of one which was excavated at New Bewick by Colm O’Brien in the 1980s and at the time, SFBs were unknown in Northumberland. Some (re)constructed SFBs include a floor over the pit (perhaps the pit was a cellar for storage or maybe allowed air-flow to prevent damp and therefore rot?) but as no evidence survives, a minimalist approach has been taken here and the base of the pit is presented as the floor. The thatched roof is of heather to represent an alternative example: this is known in Northern England as “Black Thatch”, utilising locally available materials. The archaeology at New Bewick showed two posts positioned centrally at the shorter sides of the sunken feature which suggests the tent-shape for our (re)construction. Perhaps the eaves were supported above ground-level on turf footings making the usable space inside greater? We cannot know for sure.
Project Team Bede’s World
Material Ash (rafters), oak (bottom frame, posts and planks), hazel (roof wattle), heather (thatch)
References Gates, T. and O’Brien, C. 1988 ‘Cropmarks at Millfield and New Bewick and the Recognition of Grubenhäuser in Northumberland.’ Archaeologia Aeliana 5th Series, 16, 1–9.
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