Early Medieval

Key overview statements to address for the Early Medieval period:

A number of overarching comments came out of the workshops discussions for the framework that should be taken into consideration for the early medieval period:

  • How did people think about the transition from Roman to early medieval?
  • The early medieval period starts from the lowest base with most of the material culture lost and a pseudo-chronology. New science techniques are helping us to get at previously ‘invisible’ sites and most of these occur by chance through other period studies. This is a regional distinctiveness.
  • Have we got enough archaeological evidence yet to support PhDs/research?
  • Early kingdom boundaries are important: they extended into Scotland, Northumbria was north of the Mersey and Mercia was south of the Mersey, so we need inter-regional/cross-country research.
  • The PAS evidence is vital. How can we tell early medieval ceramics from Bronze Age and re-use of late Roman? A study is needed and training.
  • One early hoard from outside the area could radically change our view/understanding.
  • A lot of the issues highlighted in the previous research framework are still relevant.

Early Medieval Research Questions

Chronology and Dating

EM01: How can an agreed terminology allow us to better understand types and phases found during the medieval period?

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Establish an agreed common terminology across the region for the types and phases of activity found in the early medieval period. (4.1:4.1) Re-examine and date deposits of animal bones and environmental material from Castle Street, Carlisle, to resolve at least some of the uncertain date of existing material excavated from urban contexts. (4.3:4.20)

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
22/03/2024
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
EARLY MEDIEVAL, Collections research, typology, Chronology

EM02: What can modern techniques of analysis tell us about dark earth horizons in post-Roman urban centres?

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A literature review is needed and this should be done through PhDs/theses, specifically looking at the interventions involving dark earth. Establish methodologies for the excavation of sites where there is potential for early medieval activity, to maximise the chances of its identification and recording, including regular metal detector surveys to aid artefact recovery. (4.1:4.2) Undertake radiocarbon dating as a matter of routine on any site with the potential to produce early medieval activity. (4.1:4.3) Prioritise dating by other methods, particularly dendrochronology, where appropriate.(4.1:4.4) Ensure that any palaeoenvironmental sampling and analysis should not be focused only on the prehistoric levels, but should include, and date, later material. (4.1:4.5) Ensure suitable sampling strategies for dating, geoarchaeological, and palaeoenvironmental analysis of deposits overlying Roman stratigraphy, such as testing for soil formation, agricultural or horticultural mixing, and nutrient enrichment. (4.2:4.11) Analyse any animal bones, and charred, mineralised or waterlogged plant remains, identified from any site of the period as a matter of priority. (4.3:4.20) Develop a programme of sampling and dating of suitable samples, such as those from Castle Street, Carlisle, to enlarge the corpus of insects from the region, and our understanding of the conditions in which they thrived.(4.6:4.54)

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
22/03/2024
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
DATING TECHNIQUES, EARLY MEDIEVAL, SPECIALIST SAMPLING, Palaeoenvironmental Analysis, Higher Education research

EM03: How and when does a post-Roman cultural identity emerge?

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Attempt to link the fragmentary artefact sequences to some kind of chronologically robust framework. (4.1:4.6) Undertake focused research on issues of border and cultural identity across borders ie. Wales and Scotland. How would a post-Roman cultural identity be recognised within the specific NW region?

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
22/03/2024
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
EARLY MEDIEVAL, typology, Chronology, Identity, Culture

EM04: What can a better understanding of urban stratigraphic sequences tell us about early medieval site activities?

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Sample suitable deposits throughout urban stratigraphic sequences systematically, for scientific analyses, coupled with scientific dating techniques, to refine both the chronology and an understanding of the activity taking place. (4.1:4.28)

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
22/03/2024
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
DATING TECHNIQUES, EARLY MEDIEVAL, EXCAVATION, SPECIALIST SAMPLING

EM05: How can careful analysis of the late Roman/early medieval horizon help to identify early medieval activities on site?

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Ensure the upper stratigraphy of Roman period sites, including demolition deposits, and the lower stratigraphy of medieval sites are subject to detailed scrutiny for what may be ephemeral traces of early medieval activity. (4.1:4.23)

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
22/03/2024
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
ROMAN, EARLY MEDIEVAL, EXCAVATION

EM06: How can we identify the character of early medieval rural settlement sites?

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Ensure method statements and research designs for the excavation of rural settlement in the region build in costings for scientific dating, in most cases for a series of dates, particularly targeting short-lifespan material, such as twiggy charcoal, animal bones and charred cereal grains, as well as archaeomagnetic dating of materials heated in situ (hearths, ovens, kilns, etc). (4.1:4.24)

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
22/03/2024
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
DATING TECHNIQUES, EARLY MEDIEVAL

Ending of Roman Britain

EM07: How could a review of old archives and grey literature shed light on the end of Roman Britain?

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Re-examine old excavation archives and grey literature from key Roman sites, to look again at evidence for latest activity. (4.2:4.9)

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
25/06/2024
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
ROMAN, EARLY MEDIEVAL, Collections research, Synthesis

EM08: What investigative techniques work best to identify Early Medieval deposits above more easily discernible Roman features?

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Ensure that methodologies for the excavation of late Roman deposits are appropriate for recognising, characterising and dating later material above the more easily identifiable Roman features. (4.2:4.10) Undertake detailed surveys at Romano-British sites with good earthwork preservation to establish potential phases prior to excavation. Ensure methodologies for any excavations of late Roman or medieval sites are sufficiently robust to allow for the possibility of early medieval industrial/craft production, including salt. (4.5:4.49) Training is needed on identification of RB and EMED mixed deposits Radiocarbon dating of seemingly Roman remains could reveal they were actually in use after the Roman period eg. charred residue to late Roman wares and other organic remains within Roman assemblages.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
RADIOCARBON DATING, EARLY MEDIEVAL, INVESTIGATIVE TECHNIQUES, Training

EM09: What evidence is there for the decline in urban settlements toward the end of the Roman period?

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Ensure that opportunities are taken to examine the veracity of the commonly held view of a population shift away from towns into defended places at the end of the Roman period. (4.2:4.12) A synthesis of excavation evidence is needed and this would make a suitable subject for a PhD.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
ROMAN, EARLY MEDIEVAL, TOWN, Higher Education research, Synthesis

EM10: How can we clarify cultural indicators from the ephemeral remains of the early medieval period? (4.2:4.13)

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Ensure appropriate methodologies are adopted on all sites with a potential for early medieval remains, to identify and characterise activity leaving scant and possibly confusing cultural indicators. (4.2:4.13)
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
EARLY MEDIEVAL, ASSEMBLAGE

EM11: What can early medieval sites tell us about social disparity at the end of Roman Britain?

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Target sites that may contribute to an understanding of social disparity in the early medieval period. (4.2:4.14) Target place names that suggest political centres or meeting places. Learn more from place name studies, working more closely with English place name societies, to identify site specific and wider EM settlements and seek ways to map place name evidence on county HERs.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
25/06/2024
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
ROMAN, EARLY MEDIEVAL, society, Place name study

EM12: What evidence is there of Romano-British culture surviving into the Medieval Period?

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Develop methodologies to identify British cultural remains in the post-Roman milieu. (4.2:4.15)

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
25/06/2024
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
ROMAN, EARLY MEDIEVAL, ASSEMBLAGE, Culture

EM13: How can we identify the emergence of social elites in the early medieval period?

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See supporting statements for Q10 to 12 above. Target research on hill forts and comparative studies across borders.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
25/06/2024
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
HILLFORT, EARLY MEDIEVAL, society

Settlement and Land use

EM14: How can we identify changes in landscape use related to climate change?

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Integrate palaeoecological and archaeological data to investigate how people’s use of the landscape altered it and to try to distinguish changes relating to climate from changes related to human activities. (4.3:4.16)
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
EARLY MEDIEVAL, Landscape, Synthesis, Climate change

EM15: How can archaeological methods be used to recognise domestic, farming and food provision sites?

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Can we distinguish everyday domestic and local trade practices and do they characterise the NW region or do they echo patterns across early medieval England.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
EARLY MEDIEVAL, Trade, Domesticity

EM16: How can place names inform our understanding of the landscape context of known sites?

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Link place-name studies with wider landscape research in an attempt to place the known sites into some sort of landscape context. (4.3:4.8)
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
EARLY MEDIEVAL, Landscape, Place name study

EM17: What evidence is there for landscape change in the early medieval period?

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Target river basins and valley bottoms to investigate erosion sequences potentially associated with the intake of fields, woodland clearance or soil disturbance. This could be undertaken in conjunction with investigations of peat deposits for climatic indicators and changes in settlement and land-use. (4.3:4.18)
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
EARLY MEDIEVAL, Landscape

EM18: How can the archaeological investigation of parish boundaries inform our understanding of the Early Medieval land use?

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Record, wherever possible, sections through extant civil parish boundaries. Opportunities are most likely to arise through linear development projects, such as pipelines and road schemes, as well as housing developments, but could include local society projects. Work should concentrate not just on recording sections but also on assessing the potential for the preservation of environmental data (buried soils, pollen, macrofossils etc). (4.3:4.21) This would make a potential PhD research project.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
EARLY MEDIEVAL, Palaeoenvironmental Analysis, Parish Boundary, Boundary, Land use

EM19: How can archaeological investigations be targeted to inform our understanding of places of authority and local government?

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Examine, wherever possible, presumed centres of early medieval activity, particularly the nature of surviving archaeological deposits, coupled with a detailed programme of dating. These might include settlements with churches producing early sculpture, or medieval estate centres re-occupying Roman sites. (4.3:4.25) Target centres of medieval culture, including churches with early sculpture and medieval churches on Romano-British sites, hill forts and assembly points.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
19/08/2024
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
DATING TECHNIQUES, EARLY MEDIEVAL, CHURCH

EM19: How can archaeological investigations be targeted to inform our understanding of places of authority and local government?

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Examine, wherever possible, presumed centres of early medieval activity, particularly the nature of surviving archaeological deposits, coupled with a detailed programme of dating. These might include settlements with churches producing early sculpture, or medieval estate centres re-occupying Roman sites. (4.3:4.25) Target centres of medieval culture, including churches with early sculpture and medieval churches on Romano-British sites, hill forts and assembly points.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
19/08/2024
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
DATING TECHNIQUES, EARLY MEDIEVAL, CHURCH

EM20: How can we identify hotspots of Early Medieval activity and individual sites with archaeological potential?

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Synthesise the PAS data and Metal Detector surveys. Monitor the distribution pattern of material reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme throughout the region, to highlight ‘hot spots’ of early medieval activity, and individual sites with archaeological potential. (4.3:4.26) Undertake systematic metal detector surveys in such ‘hot spots’ to attempt to define and characterise early medieval activity. (4.3:4.27) The successful Cheshire metal detector model could be applied to the rest of the region as it is particularly relevant for the early medieval period.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
EARLY MEDIEVAL, Metal Detecting Survey, Synthesis

Ritual, Religion and Ceremony

EM21: What can archaeological investigation tell us about the origins and character of early Christian sites?

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Target appropriate sites with ‘Eccles’ place-names with systematic survey of surrounding settlement. (4.4:4.31) Links to/from medieval buildings need to be considered with respect to Christian/religious development. Include circular graveyards.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
EARLY MEDIEVAL, CEMETERY, PLACE OF WORSHIP, Place name study

EM22: What can church sites associated with Romano-British sites tell us about early medieval sculpture and can these provide further evidence for early Christianity?

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Target churches on headlands for study as possible early sites, particularly when they are associated with Roman material or early medieval stone sculpture. (4.4:4.32) Prioritise the study of long segmental churches in both east Cumbria and adjacent parts of Yorkshire. (4.4:4.35) CSIR work for area underway, corpus for Anglo-Saxon sculpture on-line. How do we maintain/update publications/websites?
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
ROMAN, EARLY MEDIEVAL, CHURCH, SCULPTURE

EM23: What can funerary evidence tell us about the transitions between new and previous belief systems?

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Review existing burial assemblages to highlight key artefacts which may indicate belief systems. Examine distribution patterns of excavated late Roman and early medieval grave yards. This would make a potential PhD research project.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
DEATH BURIAL OR FUNERARY OBJECT, EARLY MEDIEVAL, ASSEMBLAGE, FUNERARY SITE, Higher Education research

EM24: What can the difference between worked stone materials of sub regional level tell us about early Medieval religion and burial?

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Analyse differences between stone sculpture at a sub-regional level. (4.4:4.34) Review Anglo Saxon sculpture in the North West publications. NEW STRATEGY Systematic scanning of sculpture and worked stone to help to facilitate new research. NEW STRATEGY
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
EARLY MEDIEVAL, BURIAL, SCULPTURE, Laser Scanning Survey, Religion, Synthesis

EM25: How can we find out more about the nature of early medieval burials?

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Prioritise any possibly early medieval burials or funerary material for full scientific analysis including scientific dating, stable isotopes and DNA investigations.(4.4:4.36)
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
DATING TECHNIQUES, DEATH BURIAL OR FUNERARY OBJECT, EARLY MEDIEVAL, BURIAL, STABLE ISOTOPE ANALYSIS, Grave goods

EM26: How can we identify potential early Medieval burial sites?

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The presence of stray finds recovered by metal detectorists needs to be highlighted, which may indicate burials of this period being damaged by agricultural practice, and they should be prioritised for investigation. (4.4:4.37) Review existing burial assemblages to highlight key artefacts which may indicate burial practices. This has been shown to work at Cumwhitton but the artifacts may also indicate sites of more general activity.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
DEATH BURIAL OR FUNERARY OBJECT, EARLY MEDIEVAL, BURIAL, METAL DETECTING USE, Grave goods

Technology and Production

EM27: How could a re-evaluation of museum collections help to identify early Medieval ceramics and other materials?

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Examine any relatively undiagnostic ceramic material currently held in museums and classed as prehistoric, to establish whether any of this could actually be early medieval in date. (4.5:4.42)
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
CERAMIC, EARLY MEDIEVAL, POTTERY, Collections research

EM28: How can we improve the identification of early medieval pottery on excavation sites?

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Raise awareness in those responsible for the excavation of sites that ceramics initially classed as prehistoric might represent examples of a regional tradition of early medieval hand-made pottery. (4.5:4.41) Training issue: need workshops for identification of EMED pottery for early career archaeologist, researches and local society groups. This would make a potential PhD research project.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
EARLY MEDIEVAL, POTTERY, Higher Education research, Training

EM29: How could an intra-regional study reveal the quantity and continued use of Romano-British materials during the early medieval?

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Recognise the continued use of ‘Roman’ artefacts into the 5th century as a topic worthy of further research, and ensure all late Roman assemblages are scrutinised for such. (4.5:4.43) This would make a potential PhD research project. Ensure all Romano-British assemblages are scrutinised for potential early medieval materials, including intra-regional contexts, and data along with Scotland and Cornwall.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
ROMAN, EARLY MEDIEVAL, ASSEMBLAGE, Collections research, Higher Education research

EM30: How can we further our understanding of the exploitation of resources for the extraction of materials during the early Medieval period?

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Establish a regular period-based review or publication scheme for artefacts recorded by the PAS, including metallurgical studies, as appropriate. (4.5:4.46) Undertake metallurgical studies of early medieval metalwork as a matter of routine. (4.5:4.47) Examine how and if particular post-Roman regional industries generate a unique NW culture and vibrant economic and trade systems.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
EARLY MEDIEVAL, METAL, publication, Synthesis

Trade, Exchange and Interaction

EM31: What can a detailed landscape survey tell us about the early Medieval settlements on coastal promontories and water courses?

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Take into account all coastal survey or research, any former sea level rises and the possible locations of settlement on promontories, river inlets and on water courses, including former channels now in-filled. (4.6:4.50) Undertake detailed landscape surveys of headland sites. (4.6:4.51) Develop a GIS to aid understanding of historic changes in sea level, and their effect on possible coastal settlement. (4.6:4.53) Examine to what degree the post-Roman NW was an Irish Sea or terrestrial-based economy and culture. Could be both or mixed.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
SETTLEMENT, EARLY MEDIEVAL, Survey, Coastal And Intertidal, River, Landscape

EM32: How can we identify early medieval sites in a coastal environment?

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Treat any early medieval coin and artefact finds, not just hoards, in coastal and river-edge areas as potential sites, and monitor such areas closely. (4.6:4.52) Can a re-evaluation of PAS and museum archives identify potential early Medieval sites in a coastal environment? (4.6:4.52)
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
EARLY MEDIEVAL, ASSEMBLAGE, SITE, COIN, Coastal And Intertidal, River, Collections research

EM33: What evidence is there for the importation of raw materials from outside the region?

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A better understanding of this would be provided through analysis of PAS data, examining museum archives, and scientific analysis. This would make a potential PhD research project.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
EARLY MEDIEVAL, Collections research, Higher Education research, Trade

Defence, Warfare and Military Activity

EM34: What can archaeological investigations tell us about the character of early Medieval re-use of former defended sites, such as Roman Forts and Hill Forts?

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Ensure excavation methodologies are in place to recognise and characterise post-Roman activity in Roman forts. (4.6:4.55) Great care needs to taken when preparing project designs on high medieval castles as there is a possibility of early medieval or post-Conquest military and/or ecclesiastical activity. Ensure all opportunities are taken to date material from both the defences and interiors of hillforts, and from potential burh sites in Cheshire. (4.6:4.56)
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
06/01/2021
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
CASTLE, HILLFORT, EARLY MEDIEVAL, FORT

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