Timber buildings excavated in the 1930s at Ezinge, Netherlands. © Groningen Institute of Archaeology (30-1930-101: https://facsimile.ub.rug.nl/digital/collection/GIA/id/30/rec/2, 417-1930-102: https://facsimile.ub.rug.nl/digital/collection/GIA/id/417/rec/3, 33-1930-113: https://facsimile.ub.rug.nl/digital/collection/GIA/id/33/rec/14, 51-1932-62: https://facsimile.ub.rug.nl/digital/collection/GIA/id/51/rec/133, 409-1932-231: https://facsimile.ub.rug.nl/digital/collection/GIA/id/409/rec/97, 179-1933-140: https://facsimile.ub.rug.nl/digital/collection/GIA/id/179/rec/41, 330-1933-194: https://facsimile.ub.rug.nl/digital/collection/GIA/id/330/rec/95).

Scholars have discussed whether early medieval structures like the ones uncovered at Yeavering, Thirlings and New Bewick can be characterised as “Anglo-Saxon”. 

There have been two main trends when interpreting early medieval buildings in Britain. Timber buildings, dating between the 5th and 6th centuries CE, were thought to be “Germanic”. However, if the architectural style couldn’t be linked to a continental European tradition, the building was interpreted as being indigenous “Romano-British”. This basic categorisation doesn’t take into account the historical complexity and is influenced by our modern perceptions. 

In fact, early medieval timber buildings varied depending on the political and economic circumstances of the builders. This variety means they can’t be considered as a single group of structures, yet alone all be attributed to a ‘Germanic’ origin. It’s also possible that those arriving in Britain by sea may not have seen themselves as “Anglo-Saxon” in the way we currently use the term. Similarly, those who lived in early medieval Northumbria may not have been a single group of ‘indigenous’ people. Genetic data suggest continuous and intense movement across the North Sea to Britain between the 5th and the 11th century CE, interpreted as a mass migration of small groups from the Continent. The most likely scenario is that the majority of these people were small groups moving independently to pursue their own interests. Migrations across the North Sea continued during the Middle Ages and probably beyond. 

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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