The study of these metal fragments found at Eslington in the Aln valley has revealed that they were part of an early medieval pattern-welded sword (Collins & Turner, 2018). The sword and the context of the archaeological site show the presence of high-status inhumations and indicate that social changes were occurring in late sixth century CE Northumberland in connection to the emergence of new elites. These dynamics were previously undocumented in the early middle ages in the Bernicia region, which corresponds to what nowadays are the northern part of Northumberland and southern area of eastern Scotland. Image by Rob Collins; published in: Collins & Turner, 2018, 35, fig. 7.

The three (re)constructed buildings and early medieval Northumbria

To understand our (re)constructed buildings, we need to consider their historical context. Our reconstructions are from Thirlings, New Bewick, Yeavering and St Paul’s monastery, showing the complexity in early medieval Northumbria between the 5th and 8th century CE. They can be found in Gyrwe farm and in these Digital Collections. 

The documentary and archaeological evidence we have so far suggest that the island of Great Britain was occupied by different groups of people, each with their own background and language, who were sometimes in conflict. Bede, writing later, gives the impression that the island was attacked, occupied, and conquered by a cohesive ‘Anglo-Saxon’ group in the 5th century CE. Recent research suggests that the truth is more complex.  

There is evidence that multiple small groups settled on the island before gaining increasing control over large areas of land. They were linked to warrior rulers around the North Sea, legitimising their power. As time passed, they developed their own distinctive settlement types, objects and burial rites. Through these we can understand the practices, strategies, and social indicators of this new elite as they fought for control over resources and trade. 

 Virtual Museum | 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

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