Early Medieval


Research interest in the Early Medieval collections has been relatively limited, but represents a good variety of research projects, with particular interest in the human remains. Leggett (2020) has sampled remains from Collingbourne Ducis for a study combining multi- isotopic analysis with machine learning in order to investigate diet and mobility in Early Medieval populations, with these remains used previously by Venn (2017) as part of an MSc thesis, re- evaluating the age and gender of individuals in the cemetery based on skeletal and grave good evidence. A further study utilising isotopic analysis of human remains had been planned, but was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Holmes (2020) has undertaken a detailed reassessment of the animal bone assemblages from Cadley Road, Market Lavington and Ramsbury, providing an assessment of the extent of the assemblage, and the economy of the sites. With this being followed by some radiocarbon dating by McKerracher (2022) as part of the FeedSax project. The final research project identified, and the only project to focus on material culture, was undertaken by Moradi (2019) as part of their MRes thesis, which examined anthropomorphic and zoomorphic depictions on jewellery from Blacknall Field, Pewsey, as part of a study of potential totemic and shamanic beliefs in Early Medieval Wessex and East Anglia.

Although outside of the timeframe of this project, the Museum is eagerly awaiting the final publication of a programme of geophysical survey and excavation led by Semple and Williams (2001) on Roundway Down. This project had aimed to precisely locate the location of the burial and add new context. In addition to the new archaeological information, it is also hoped that this publication will raise awareness of the burial, with there being very few readily available published discussions.

Research projects and publications

Holmes, M. (2020) Case study summary report:

Wiltshire Sites, Unpublished report.

Leggett, S. (2020) Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are’: A Multi-Tissue and Multi- Scalar Isotopic Study of Diet and Mobility in Early Medieval England and its European Neighbours, Unpublished PhD thesis: University of Cambridge.

McKerracher, M. (2022) Radiocarbon dating of zooarchaeological remains from excavations at Market Lavington, Wiltshire, Unpublished report.

Moradi, L. (2019) Animal and human depictions on artefacts from early Anglo-Saxon graves in the light of theories of material culture, Unpublished MRes thesis: University of Exeter.

Venn, R. (2017) The age and gender identities of older individuals buried at the Anglo-Saxon cemetery of Collingbourne Ducis: A holistic study utilising grave goods and a life course approach. Unpublished MSc thesis: University of Durham.

Research priorities

The collection of human remains associated with this period is well utilised, however, the collection of animal remains attributed to this period sees far less use. Holmes’ work assessing the principal assemblages could be used as a starting point for more detailed assessments, and in particular the application of isotopic and other methods of analyses as undertaken by Madgwick et. al. on later Prehistoric assemblages (see 5.2). It is hoped that the FeedSax project or associated research will lead to such studies.

The Museum would also like to encourage smaller scale projects which would be more appropriate for individual student-level research. In particular, the museum would like to see projects which can make much wider use of its collection of grave goods, either through materials analysis, or through more theoretical discussions. For instance, Moradi’s (2019) thesis demonstrates that a variety of perspectives beyond traditional discussions of ethnicity and identity can be explored through this material, with these latter concepts increasingly out of favour in modern scholarship (e.g. Harland 2019).

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