Settlement and Landscape

Rural Settlement and Landscape

Worcestershire is a county of contrasting settlement and landscape patterns. The northern and western areas of the county are dominated by dispersed farmsteads, wayside dwellings and small hamlets, set within a rolling landscape with areas of semi-upland character, woodland and former heath (Robert and Wrathmell’s North and Western Province). The central, southern and eastern areas of the county are dominated by nucleated villages of varying scale, set within a generally lower lying landscape and distinctive river vales (Robert and Wrathmell’s Central Province).

Much of the framework of this landscape – its land divisions, roads, rural settlements, and towns – is thought to have been shaped during the Early Medieval period. Despite this however, very few rural settlement sites dating to the Early Medieval period have been recorded in Worcestershire. The apparent use of perishable materials, such as timber, textiles and leather, combined with a paucity of large earthwork monuments and ceramic evidence, or lack of its archaeological recovery, makes archaeological evidence for the period difficult to decipher, with less refined dating of sites as well as bias in their distribution; there being huge imbalance in the existing archaeological data set in favour of gravel terraces which have, thus far, provided unparalleled opportunities for the investigation of complex, multi-period archaeological remains.

Settlement continuity from the Early Medieval through to the modern day may also have erased or masked subtle Early Medieval remains. Recent archaeological investigation in Broadway has highlighted the importance of looking at overlying soils (including subsoil), which are routinely removed prior to excavation, as this can produce dividends in terms of Early Medieval finds. More routine metal detecting, as an integrated element of archaeological investigation, could also assist in the recovery of Early Medieval finds and identification of ephemeral Early Medieval sites.

Photograph of section of earth bank of probable Early Medieval date, parallel to and north of the course of Blacksoils Brook, Redditch.
Earthwork bank, of probable Early Medieval date, parallel to and north of the course of Blacksoils Brook, Redditch, which marks the county and diocesan boundaries between Worcestershire and Warwickshire. Of clay composition with fluvially weathered gravels to cobbles throughout, identical to those within the underlying geology and in the brook itself. Construction likely occurred as a result of repeated, deliberate deposition of material to ‘reinstate’ the bank. The historian Della Hooke (Hooke 2011: Fig 5.2) places the area of the site at the inter-section between the 7th and 8th century early medieval kingdoms of Weogoran, the Hwicce and South Mercia, and the Stoppingas. Photograph © Pre-Construct Archaeology, report no.13940

The extent to which landscape, including changes in land use and agricultural practice, and settlement in Worcestershire was remodelled following the collapse of Roman administration and military power, is largely indeterminate, and despite some evidence of Grubenhäuser – sunken featured buildings  – in the south east of the county, including at Fladbury and Aston Mill, few Early Medieval rural settlements have been recorded, indicating a level of settlement continuity  across much of the county. The recognition of deposits that date to the Early Medieval period continues to be problematic, due to the generally low use of pottery in the period. In the paper Anglo-Saxon Fields Oosthuizen (2011, 380) notes that the past thirty years has seen the emergence of new archaeological evidence which indicates that Anglo‐Saxon England demonstrated significant continuities with its Roman and prehistoric predecessors in the patterns of settlement, population, material culture, local administration, and landscape despite important discontinuities, especially in political and economic structures.

As referenced in Dalwood (2003) it has long been argued that in the 5th to 6th century much of Worcestershire – notably the north and west of the county, where archaeological evidence of Germanic culture appears largely absent – lay in ‘British territory’, contrasting with areas of ‘Anglo Saxon’ territory in the south and east of the county – where evidence of Germanic material culture and Grubenhäuser have been uncovered. These differences had apparently disappeared by the late 7th century, by which time the West Midlands region, including Worcestershire, had become ‘thoroughly Anglo-Saxon’ (Bassett 2000, 107, cited in Dalwood, 2003).

Dalwood (2007) notes that current understanding of the rural landscape in Early Medieval Worcestershire is limited and depends heavily on research, most notably by Della Hooke (Hooke 1980; Hooke 1985a & b; Hooke 1989; Hooke 1990; Hooke 1998), based on documentary sources and place name evidence. Hooke’s research suggests that the Early Medieval landscape of Worcestershire fell within two distinct zones; The Vale of Eveshaman area of intensive arable farming, recognised as valuable land by the Mercian kings, who granted large estates in the Avon Valley to support the new monastic foundations of the 7th and 8th century, with increasing nucleation around estate centres, from the 9th century – and North and West Worcestershirean area of dispersed settlement with little arable cultivation but with evidence of woodland. Studies of Hanbury (Dyer 1991) and Pendock (Dyer 1990) also provide case studies for the character of ‘woodland’ landscapes. 

The gravel terraces of the Avon Valley have long been recognised as important in terms of early settlement in the West Midlands and archaeological evidence for Early Medieval settlement in Worcestershire remains uncommon beyond the river valleys of the Severn and Avon; the desirability of settling by a river – including in terms of water supply, fertile soils and transport and trade – abundantly clear. Bond (1975) notes the same distribution of sites and find spots along the Avon repeating itself again and again over thousands of years with a progressive spread south of the river and into the Vale of Evesham. The very high archaeological potential of floodplain areas and terraces, south of Worcester, is likewise noted in Jackson and Dalwood (2007) Archaeology and Aggregates in Worcestershire: A Resource Assessment and Research Agenda, with past investigations demonstrating good preservation of multi-period remains and palaeoenvironmental deposits. However, the paucity of large-scale development on the floodplain and adjacent terraces, combined with the effects of alluvial masking of archaeological deposits, means that archaeological investigation remains both limited and logistically more difficult.

Hooke (2006, 41) notes the emergence of township communities and proto-manors within Anglo-Saxon estates – as evidenced in historical documentation – that became the building blocks of our later ecclesiastical parishes. At the beginning of the period Hooke postulates that the West Midlands region seems to have been dominated by a pattern of dispersed farmsteads but that by the late 8th or 9th century rural settlement became increasingly concentrated around the new estate nuclei in the more heavily populated areas of intensive crop growing, the Vale of Evesham being one such example (Hooke, 2006, 52-54). Perceived as a gradual rather than rapid process Hooke also notes that nucleation also seems to have occurred hand in hand with the introduction of open-field farming (Hooke, 2006, 52).

Oosthuizen (2011) argues that the old view that completely new forms of field system came with the Anglo‐Saxon migrants needs to be revised in light of adaptation and modification of existing layouts; that infield‐outfield agriculture, practised in Britain for centuries before the Anglo‐Saxon period, continued in many places to form the basis of cultivation into the Middle Ages and later (cf. Winchester 1987: 74–6 cited in Oosthuizen, 2011), and that the open fields which emerged by the 7th century may also have evolved from traditional forms of arable layout and cultivation in England. Questions clearly remain as to the contrast between those areas in Worcestershire with archaeological evidence of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ settlement and those areas seemingly without, as well as the extent to which the distinctive pattern of land tenure that resulted in nucleated settlement and open field farming in the more intensively farmed landscapes of the Central Province, was driven by Germanic migration and hierarchy.

Pearson in Jackson and Dalwood (2007) notes that a particularly noticeable trend during the Early Medieval period is a change in the types of crops in cultivation; particularly the transition in the importance of glume wheats (emmer and spelt wheat) as the main wheat crop in cultivation, to a predominance of free-threshing wheats including bread wheat (Triticum aestivum), club wheat (Triticum aestivo-compactum) and rivet wheat (Triticum turgidum). The reasons for this transition remain uncertain as although higher yielding, free-threshing wheats are less easily protected from damp and spoilage. Pearson also notes that rye, oats, hemp and flax also become more common suggesting a diversification in the cultivation of field crops (as opposed to garden crops introduced in the Roman period).

Cerealisation of the landscape, and the adoption of a ‘mouldboard plough package’, appears to have been a key driver of increased wealth, population increase, and nucleation of settlement. The FeedSax project has increased knowledge about this phenomenon (although none of their key sites were in Worcestershire). An increase in the density and distribution of charred cereal crop waste, corn drying structures and mills are all likely to be signals of this change. Archaeozoology data can contribute to identifying the adoption of a mouldboard plough package through refining methods of identifying draught cattle.

Recognising increased numbers of sheep, which may reflect their growing economic importance for wool, is also an important research question.  Combining archaeozoological data with other archaeological data for the movement and management of sheep, such as possible droveways with associated enclosures and sheepwashes can all be valuable.

Climatic change towards the end of the Roman period, lasting through the Early Medieval period until the beginning of the Medieval warm period may have had an impact on land use and husbandry. As well as archaeozoological data, evidence could include changes in alluviation and measures to drain and increase transit across wet river valley environments.

Although Norman in date, the Domesday survey, completed in 1086, yields information about broad patterns of landscape and settlement at the end of the Early Medieval period.

Urban Settlement


In the later 3rd-5th centuries the built-up area of Worcester appears to have contracted, albeit unevenly, with ‘dark earth’ deposits accumulating over earlier Roman levels.

In AD679-680 Worcester was chosen to be the seat of a new bishopric; although it has been suggested that St Helens predated the foundation of the Worcester see (seat) as the seat of a British bishop, serving a Christian population, in the late/post-Roman period. The boundaries of the diocese of Worcester, which bore the title Episcopus Hwicciorum, are believed to have been consistent with the earlier boundary of the kingdom of the Hwicce.

By the 9th century, and with ratification from the Mercian kings, the diocese of Worcester was one of the richest and most influential dioceses in the region. In the late 9th century, settlement at Worcester was reorganized as a burh: a defended military centre, and a market. The town grew rapidly in the 10th century, with evidence for a mint, craftsmen, riverine and coastal trade and large urban population (Dalwood, 2003, 3).

For further information and Research Priorities for the city of Worcester see Worcester City Council, 2007, Worcester Urban Archaeological Strategy.

Droitwich see Industry and Trade

Evesham and Pershore see Religion, Church and Christianity

Key Rural Settlement Sites

Aston Mill Quarry, Kemerton

Rescue excavations in the 1980s, at Aston Mill Quarry in Kemerton revealed early prehistoric artefacts, pits and ring-ditches along with Iron Age, Romano-British and Anglo Saxon period settlement remains. Only one structure – recognised as a ‘sunken-floored building’, could be confidently assigned to the Early Medieval period, although three others were likely contemporary. Pottery recovered from the sunken featured building was similar to that retrieved from Upwich and was dated from the mid-6th to the late 7th century AD.

Kinsham Lane, Kemerton

An Anglo-Saxon settlement site was recorded at Kinsham Lane, Kemerton during archaeological evaluation in 1994. Part of a complex area of multi-period settlement, known to have been occupied since at least the Iron Age, the site is characterised by an extensive band of cropmarks. Recorded features, including postholes, stakeholes, construction slots, a sunken featured building and pits, were dated to the 5th to 8th centuries through a small assemblage of pottery, together with (?)loom weight fragments, an iron nail, animal bone, fish bone, mollusca and plant remains (Fagan et al, 1994).

Church Farm West, Ball Mill Quarry

Archaeological investigations in 2008-2009, at Church Farm West, Ball Mill Quarry, Grimley revealed a complex sequence of enclosures – predominately used for holding large quantities of animals, but with some evidence of occupation and industrial activity – with associated tracks and field boundaries that were established and remodelled on successive occasions from the Iron Age through to at least the 3rd-4th centuries. Whilst the majority of material and features revealed were Romano-British in date, artefacts and a sparse scatter of features provided evidence for activity, and more temporary occupation, across the area from at least the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age onwards. Evidence of Early Medieval activity was also identified in the form of a sunken featured building and associated pottery, indicating either continuity of occupation from the late Roman period or abandonment of the Roman settlement in the 4th century and re-occupation of the site, during which evidence of Roman occupation would still have been visible in the landscape, in the 8th – 9th century.

The majority of the Anglo-Saxon dated material derived from a large, roughly square feature measuring 25m2 and surviving to a depth of 0.42m. This contained a distinct primary occupation deposit, 0.10m thick and characterised by charcoal and burnt material which included sherds from at least four different vessels and two interesting metal items, one a knife and the other a large iron ring. This was overlain by 0.12m of sand rich silts that included occasional fire cracked stones and charcoal flecks that became more frequent at the interface with the underlying deposit. The feature was interpreted, on morphological grounds, as a ‘typical’ type ‘A’ (in the West Stow typology: West 1985) 8th – 9th century, sunken featured building. Radiocarbon dating in the base of the sunken featured building recorded a date of AD665 to 828 (a charred Triticum sp (wheat) grain) and AD838 to 866 (a carbonised/burnt residue from a sherd of chaff-tempered ware) (Webster, 2017).

Saxon Lode’s Farm, Ryall Quarry, Ripple

Archaeological investigation at Saxon Lode’s Farm, relating to the expansion of Ryall Quarry, identified multi-period remains dating from the Bronze Age to the Early Medieval/Early to Mid Anglo-Saxon period (Barber and Watts, 2008). On the east bank of the River Severn, on the edge of the gravel terrace above the floodplain, Saxon Lode’s Farm is noted by Jackson and Dalwood (2007) as by far the most significant – as of 2007 – excavated Early Medieval rural settlement site in the county.

Excavation revealed a high density of remains related to Bronze Age and Later Iron Age activity, an Early Romano-British farmstead and Early Medieval/ Early to Mid Anglo-Saxon settlement, consisting of six sunken featured buildings, a post-built structure, ditches and other features, broadly dated to the 6th – 7th century. At the time of excavation, in 2001-2002, Saxon Lode’s Farm was the most westerly example of this type of settlement identified in Britain.

The sunken featured buildings took a variety of forms and orientations, although most were aligned either north/south or east/west suggesting a degree of regularity and planning (Barber and Watts, 2008, 26). As with earlier periods, the majority of Early Medieval/Early to Mid Anglo-Saxon features had been considerably truncated.

Archaeologist recording Sunken-Featured Building.
Archaeologist recording Sunken-Featured Building at Saxon Lodes Farm, Ryall Quarry, Ripple (view to east). Photograph © Worcestershire Archaeology Society and Cotswold Archaeology

Dating evidence was sparse with only 18 fragments of handmade Anglo-Saxon pottery, dated to between AD450-850, a few fragments of annular loom weight (indicating weaving), with a similarly broad date range and a bead of Late Roman or Early Anglo-Saxon date, recovered from a soil horizon post-dating the Romano-British farmstead (Barber and Watts, 2008, 27). The majority of pottery sherds were from relatively well-fired vessels with little in the way of surface enhancement other than a self-slipped ‘wet hand’ finish. Two sherds were lightly burnished on the outer surface (Blinkhorn in Barber and Watts, 2008, 54). Blinkhorn (in Barber and Watts, 2008, 54) notes that ‘the whole assemblage appears to have originated from no more than eight pots’, and ‘most of the wall sherds are relatively think, suggesting that they are from quite large vessels’. Fabrics included organic-tempered ware, quartz and chaff-tempered ware and quartz-tempered ware.

Analysis of environmental remains identified limited charred plant remains, generally poorly preserved but including hulled barley (Hordeum vulgare) and wheat (Triticum sp); animal bone (cattle, sheep/goat); charcoal (oak), potentially indicative of burnt structural remains, and small quantities of iron-working micro-residues (‘hammerscale’) suggestive of iron-smithing activity.

Alexander in Barber and Watts (2008, 78) suggests that the presence of a preserved soil horizon containing late Roman artefacts at the northern end of the excavation area indicates that the site was used for agriculture in-between the abandonment of the Romano-British farmstead and the establishment of the Early Medieval/Early to Mid Anglo-Saxon settlement. Alexander also notes that the siting of the Anglo-Saxon settlement over a long-abandoned Romano-British farmstead is unlikely to have been entirely coincidental and that the evidence from Saxon’s Lode Farm may be an example, albeit on a much smaller scale, of the type of unstructured settlement characterised by a shifting locus of settlement, of which Mucking, Essex, is one of the largest and best examples. Watts (in Barber and Watts, 2008, 82) remarks that although unclear why this precise location was persistently and intensively reused the attractiveness of the general location – close to the confluence of two major rivers, located on free-draining land well suited to mixed farming and in close proximity to a putative river crossing – is apparent.

Alexander (in Barber and Watts, 2008, 82) argues that the apparent small and short-lived rural settlement at Saxon Lode’s Farm appears to coincide with changes that affected the region, both on a regional level – notably when Worcestershire fell under the control of the kingdom of the Hwicce around the mid-7th century – and local level – notably that its abandonment may be associated with the land being granted to the Minster of Ripple, established in the last third of the 7th century, and the establishment of landed estates.

Artist Steve Smith’s reconstruction drawing of the Early Medieval/ Early to Mid Anglo-Saxon settlement at Saxon Lodes Farm, Ryall Quarry, Ripple.
Artist Steve Smith’s reconstruction of the Early Medieval/ Early to Mid Anglo-Saxon settlement at Saxon Lodes Farm, Ryall Quarry, Ripple. Image © Worcestershire Archaeology Society and Cotswold Archaeology

Rippon (2013) notes considerable continuity of rural character and land use across the lowlands, including at Saxon Lode’s Farm, where boundary features associated with the sunken featured buildings followed the orientation and alignment of the series of Romano-British enclosures and field boundaries, implying that elements of the mid-Roman fields remained visible beyond the end of the 4th century to influence the layout of the early Saxon farmstead and subsequently the pattern of medieval furlongs that are still fossilised in the historic landscape of today (Barber and Watts 2008 cited in Rippon et al, 2013).

Morris Lane, Broadway

Archaeological evaluation in the centre of Broadway, undertaken in May 2022, identified two sunken featured buildings, in close proximity to each other. The site, a single pasture field with earthwork ridge and furrow and remnant orchard, was situated c.80m north of the High Street, abutting Morris Road to the north and Back Lane to the south. Geophysical survey had identified a small quantity of discrete anomalies in the southern end of the site, it had not, however, identified the sunken featured buildings which were uncovered at the northern end of the site, just 0.45m below the current ground surface (Cornah and Mann, 2022).

Of typical form, being wide, shallow pit like depressions with associated postholes around the edge of the cuts, the two sunken featured buildings contained an assemblage of domestic finds consisting of sherds of early-middle Saxon pottery, a ceramic loom weight fragment, quern stone fragments and a bone thread picker. The pottery sherds were consistent with fabric types previously identified from other sites in Worcestershire, such as at Droitwich (Hurst 1997) and Aston Mill, Kemerton (Dinn and Evans, 1992), including grass tempered ware, quartz sandstone-tempered ware, quartz-tempered ware and a possible sherd of limestone-tempered ware. In addition, there was a distinctive sherd of very fine, micaceous fabric with an oxidised core and black surface. The exterior surface was very finely burnished, and the interior was wiped (Griffin in Cornah and Mann, 2022).

Photograph of Sunken-Featured Building taken during evaluation at land off Morris Road, in May 2022.
One of two Sunken-Featured Buildings discovered in May 2022, at land off Morris Road, Broadway. Photograph © Worcestershire Archaeology for Pegasus Group

Low levels of charred cereal crop residue, identified in the fills of both sunken featured buildings were made up of hulled barley (Hordeum vulgare) and free-threshing wheat (Triticum sp free-threshing) which included club wheat type (Triticum aestivo-compactum) grains. Free threshing wheat became the main wheat crop in cultivation from the middle Saxon period. Unidentified charcoal was abundant in one sunken featured building (Pearson in Cornah and Mann, 2022).

Plan of evaluation trench with two sunken featured buildings discovered at land off Morris Road, Broadway.
Plan of two sunken featured buildings discovered in May 2022, at land off Morris Road, Broadway. Image © Worcestershire Archaeology for Pegasus Group

Despite the discovery of a small Early Medieval cemetery site on Broadway Hill, in 1954, evidence of Early Medieval settlement in and around Broadway, has been elusive. The Morris Road site is one of two Early Medieval settlement sites recently discovered in Broadway; a second multi-period site, along Badsey Brook, also recently revealing several structures thought to reflect a small settlement of Saxon date (Worcestershire Archaeology, forthcoming, cited in Cornah and Mann, 2022).

The subtle character of the two sunken featured buildings at Morris Road, discovered just 0.45m under the current ground surface, also highlights that, in the case of Early Medieval archaeology, particular attention should be paid to overlying soils, including subsoil, which are routinely removed prior to excavation, as this, combined with metal detecting, may support better identification of Early Medieval archaeology as well as recovery of Early Medieval finds.

Land off Broadway Lane, Fladbury See Industry and Trade

Potential Sites

A number of, as yet, unproven sites, have produced features, without finds, which might be suspected of being Early Medieval. These include;

Roman to Post-Roman Settlement at GPO exchange, Redditch

A sub-rectangular timber building of post-hole structure over a cobbled floor, of likely Roman or Post Roman date, was uncovered in the late 1960s during excavations prior to construction of the General Post Office Exchange in Ipsley, Redditch. Of c. 30ft x 15ft in area and aligned at 45 degrees, on the western side of Ryknild Street, the building was buried underneath medieval plough soil. Alongside a scatter of Romano-British and Medieval pottery (although none directly associated with the building) a Francisca iron axe head of early Saxon date (c.500 AD) was unearthed. At the time it was assessed as ‘probably the only one in England not from a grave’ (Fasham in Bond 1970, 7).

Post-Roman Occupation or Industrial Site, Ombersley

Salvage recording east of Stone Farm in Ombersley uncovered a small and discrete group of features including a circular pit and a possible oven, interpreted as evidence of small-scale industrial or domestic activity, using wood or charcoal as fuel. The process involved could not be identified due to the absence of direct evidence in the form of debris; the very small quantity of hammerscale was not suggestive of smithing. The minimal, abraded Roman pottery recovered, was interpreted as redeposited material, probably quite unrelated to the features excavated which were concluded to be of likely post-Roman date

The estate of Ombersley is recorded in an 8th century charter, when it was granted to Evesham abbey (Hooke 1990, 36-40). Place-name evidence indicates that Ombersley was extensively wooded in the earlier Medieval period (Hooke 1990, 39). A Royal Forest in the 12th century, Ombersley Forest was disafforested by a charter of Henry III in 1217, although actual disafforestation did not take place until 1229, (VCH III, 462), potentially as a direct result of agricultural intensification (Hooke 1990, 39).

Salvage recording during construction of the Astley to Worcester Aqueduct

Salvage recording during construction of the Astley to Worcester Aqueduct revealed a small number of features consisting of a series of pits and charcoal and sand rich deposits. The ceramic artefactual evidence recovered was all of Romano-British date, and was considered to be residual.  There was also a small amount of hammerscale recovered, which appeared to relate to the pit features and related activities.  The evidence was concluded to be suggestive of a post Roman occupational or small scale industrial site.

The Old Mill, Childswickham

Evaluation at the Old Mill, Childswickham revealed a possible Anglo-Saxon pit, which contained a large quantity of charred plant remains and mollusc shell fragments, plus two ditches, of probable Medieval date, thought to be drainage, boundary, or enclosure ditches. Residual Romano-British pottery was recovered from one ditch. The small quantity but good quality of fired clay and daub remains, iron work waste and environmental samples could be indicative of a Romano-British and/or Early Medieval and/or Medieval occupation or industrial site.

Perrin’s Farm, Childswickham

A silver-gilt roundel, dating to the 6th century AD, was discovered in Childswickham in 2001, during controlled archaeological investigation (topsoil stripping), incorporating metal detecting, of a multi-period site.

The earliest traces of human activity at Perrin’s Farm, dates to the Neolithic period (worked flint) with the first major landscape impact, from an archaeological viewpoint, the construction of a large ditch in the Bronze Age. A succession of ditches, both recut and newly set out, characterises the later Iron Age/early Roman period and by the mid Roman period buildings of a style reflecting ‘Romanised’ influence (stone foundations, potential ceramic roof tiling and plastered interior walls) were being established. This was followed by the establishment of a villa complex which appears to have been occupied from the 3rd century until its deliberate demolition at the end of the 4th century/early 5th century (Patrick and Hurst et al, 2004).

Despite the apparent absence of any contemporary features, the Saxon roundel indicates Saxon presence and potential continuity of settlement, albeit potentially fleeting. Discovery of the roundel during stripping of the top soil also highlights the importance of looking carefully at the top of sequences where Roman structures are encountered, especially those that are higher status.

Photograph of the Childswickham Saxon Roundel.
The Childswickham Saxon Roundel. Photograph © Worcester City museum collection

Harvington Mill, Harvington

Undated ironworking deposits of viscous smelting slag have tentatively been dated to the Early Medieval period (Watson 1985. Manuscript Report, National Record of the Historic Environment Monument Database).

A Strategy for Investigation

  • More recent investigations suggest that particular attention should be paid to overlying soils, including subsoil, which are routinely removed prior to excavation, as this, combined with metal detecting, may support better identification of Early Medieval archaeology as well as recovery of Early Medieval finds.
  • The importance of using radio-carbon dating (where there is suitable material) for undated features on sites where there is significant late Roman and/or Medieval archaeology would, and is currently, helping to identify phases of settlement, for example at Broadway Flood Alleviation Scheme (excavation report forthcoming) – where there was little artefactual evidence for the Early Medieval phase – and at Claphill Lane, Rushwick (Mann, A et al, 2022, Worcestershire Archaeology Report 3011), where radiocarbon dating helped to clarify artefactual evidence.
  • Emerging and improving scientific methods, for example stable isotope analysis, DNA analysis and Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) profiling are valuable tools that could support reconstruction of Early Medieval landscapes and sediment chronologies.

Research Questions

WORCS_EM01: How can we develop and test methodologies to identify Early Medieval rural settlement sites, with high archaeological potential, across Worcestershire, improving the inherited imbalance in the existing archaeological dataset? To what extent could Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating, targeted metal detecting and/or attention to overlying soils, including subsoil, support better identification of sites?

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WORCS_EM02: What evidence is there to suggest uninterrupted continuity of settlement from the prehistoric into the Early Medieval period or the development of new settlement and/or patterns of settlement from the Early Medieval period, in Worcestershire?

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WORCS_EM03: What evidence is there of change/continuity of land use, including agricultural landscapes in Worcestershire between the 4th and 8th centuries?

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WORCS_EM04: What evidence is there to suggest that any change to land use, including crops cultivated, was driven by Germanic settlers, the native British or a change in response to environmental factors, including potentially the Medieval warm period of c. AD800 – 1200?

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WORCS_EM05: What evidence is there to indicate that the establishment of mosaic landscapes – with discrete pockets of communal arable land amongst woodland, unenclosed heath and enclosed pasture, – in the north and west of the County, began in the 10th/11th centuries, with the establishment of dispersed, wayside settlement?

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WORCS_EM06: To what extent does evidence derived from Early Medieval settlement and/or landscape reveal cultural indicators and/or different processes of Germanic acculturation in the south/east and north/west of the county?

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WORCS_EM12: Is there any landscape/archaeological evidence for animal trading/breeding during the Early Medieval period? N.B. There is evidence of drove routes for sheep and cattle from Wales into Worcestershire, in the Iron Age, Romano-British and Medieval periods.

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WORCS_EM22: To what extent can stable isotope analysis of animal remains identify transhumance movement of animals and long distance droving, and charred cereal remains identify increased manuring of crops?

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WORCS_EM23: What is the potential of DNA analysis of animal bone in the research of the development of specific breeds (particularly sheep, like Cotswolds and Ryeland breeds)?

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