Article

Medieval Archaeology in Britain, Twelfth to Fifteenth Centuries

David A. Hinton

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online December 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0052
Medieval Archaeology in Britain, Twelfth to Fifteenth Centuries

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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By the start of the 12th century, large-scale migrations had ended in Western Europe, although colonizers followed in the wake of successful invasions, such as that of the Normans into Ireland in 1169, and “aliens” from the Low Countries became a substantial group in 14th- and 15th-century England. The relationship of medieval archaeology to social anthropology, to historical documentation, and to contemporary literature takes the discipline beyond the study of physical remains alone. Themes include the role of material culture in shaping the environment and the lives of the people in its cities, towns, villages, and farmsteads. Churches provided a forum for their expressions of belief and received their corpses for eternity; their bones can reveal their aches, strains, and vulnerability to disease and inadequate nutrition. The social hierarchy is expressed in buildings that are increasingly likely to survive at least in part as standing structures: the elites’ castles and palaces; landowners’ manor houses; peasants’ farmhouses and barns; urban merchants’ grand dwellings and storage provisions; and the urban artisans’ terraces. Agriculture was the main economic activity; topics include the growth and decay of settlements, the crops grown, and the stock reared. Farming’s ability to change with the balance of supply and demand depended on ownership and control of land, leading to social issues, such as peasants’ ability to retain some of their production surplus. Urbanism, the market, and the physical evidence of trade are major themes. Objects range from elaborate gold and enameled goblets to pottery cups, from gold coins to copper-alloy tokens, and from crowns to pilgrims’ badges. Use of these depended on resources and the application of technologies, but also on people’s mindsets and their view of what was appropriate in terms of investment, behavior, and social positioning.

Article.  36106 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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