Early Medieval

The Museum’s Early Medieval collections are relatively small, but have the benefit of being dominated by a group of recently excavated, and well-published, sites. The evidence if firmly focused on the Early and Middle Saxon periods (c. 410-900), with much less in the way of material attributable to the Late Saxon period, aside from some individual objects. It is likely that some of the Saxo-Norman ceramics from Ludgershall Castle, and similar sites, will date to the tenth or early eleventh centuries, however these are discussed together with their wider assemblage.

The main strength of the Museum’s Early Medieval Collections are the archives associated with the excavations of three Early Saxon cemeteries: Collingbourne Ducis (Gingell 1978), Blacknall Field, Pewsey (Annable and Eagles 2010), and Grove Farm, Market Lavington (Williams and Newman 2006). Although the full deposition of the archives is yet to occur, the excavated area at Collingbourne Ducis has recently been significantly expanded (Dinwitty and Stoodley 2016), and an Early to Middle Saxon cemetery at Barrow Clump, Figheldean, has been excavated in a number of phases since 2010 (Figure 7.1) Osgood et al. 2019). Even excluding these soon-to-be-deposited archives, the Museum holds remains relating to c. 180 inhumations dating to between the fifth and seventh centuries, with in excess of 70 more inhumations to be deposited, as well as a much smaller number of cremations. In addition to the human remains, the archives also obviously contain diverse assemblages of grave goods, including weapons, shields, dress fittings, vessels, and even a yew bucket.

Figure 7.1: A yew bucket with copper alloy fittings, from Barrow Clump, part of a small collection of artefacts from the site already deposited with the museum.

In addition to these more recent excavations, two burials discovered during antiquarian barrow exploration also held by the Museum, are of note. These are the burials from Woodyates and Roundway Down, both excavated prior to 1850. Both burials are associated with a rich suite of grave goods, including jewellery (Figure 7.2), and at Roundway Down, the fittings from another yew bucket. Although the ironwork from neither burial survives, the contemporary descriptions strongly suggest that both were also deposited in a wooden structure, such as a bed or coffin. Both appear to be further examples of high- status late-seventh century female burials, part of the same phenomenon as the much better known Swallowcliffe Down Bed Burial, in the south of the county (Speake 1989), and that from Collingbourne Ducis (Dinwitty and Stoodley 2016), the latter soon to be deposited with the museum.

The material relating to settlements held by the Museum is less noteworthy, but is nonetheless of considerable research value, doubly so as the two main settlement sites, Grove Farm, Market Lavington (Williams and Newman 2006), and Cadley Road, Collingbourne Ducis (Pine et al. 2001), are at least in part contemporary with the corresponding cemetery site. At Cadley Road excavation uncovered ten sunken feature buildings and one possible post- built structure, with occupation dating to the Early Saxon period and continuing into the Middle Saxon period. The material culture from the site is extremely rich, with large and well- preserved assemblages of both ceramics (1,400 sherds) and animal bone (Pine et al. 2001). The evidence from Grove Farm is similar. At this site three Sunken-Feature Buildings and a possible post-built structure were excavated, along with a number of pits and ditches associated with the settlement. These features produced a slightly smaller assemblage of 1,200 Early to Middle Saxon sherds, along with another large animal bone assemblage (Williams and Newman 2006). The wider small finds assemblages from both sites is more modest, but nonetheless contains interesting material, such as a number of composite bone comb fragments from Cadley Road.

In addition to these two sites, a further Early Medieval settlement assemblage derives from Haslam’s excavations of Ramsbury in the 1970s (Haslam 1980). Ramsbury is particularly notable for a detailed sequence of Middle Saxon ironworking furnaces, and with them considerable quantities of metalworking debris (although only a small sample was retained) and iron tools. Early Medieval settlement evidence elsewhere is more limited, such as the assemblage from Wellhead, Westbury (Fowler 1966) which principally comprises of just 89 sherds of pottery.

Leave a Reply