From Wics to monasteries and palaces: investigating Anglo-Saxon vessel glass from settlement contexts
The potential value of vessel glass fragments in studying settlement morphology and social evolution in later Anglo-Saxon England has been previously overlooked. My contextual study of vessel glass of the 8th-11th centuries AD will be an excellent prism through which to contemplate Anglo-Saxon settlement and society, because glass in this period speaks of cultural activity, status and trade, and is positioned at the intersections between aristocracy and ‘middle class’, Church and state.
Incorporating Stiff’s review of glass from wics (coastal trading settlements) (PhD thesis, Oxford 1996), and the other mainly inland sites where vessel glass occurs, my research will create a comprehensive assessment of Anglo-Saxon vessel glass from settlement contexts. No synthesis of the glass from these sites exists, nor any research on what it means for the role of glass in Anglo-Saxon society - a noticeable absence in comparison to research conducted in Atlantic Britain (Campbell 2007). Who were the end consumers and what did glass mean to them? I will show how glass can inform our view of the much-debated nature of some of these “elite” rural settlements, and provide a fresh approach to sites whose precise nature has remained elusive.
Characterising assemblages from key sites and comparing them to each other will be the key methodology. The characterisation will involve studying sherd types (rims, bases etc), quantities, dimensions (maximum, minimum and average lengths, weights etc), identifiable vessel types, and range and combinations of colour and decoration. I will also be analysing the scientific composition of an assemblage from a key case study site at Lyminge, Kent; and investigating site taphonomy and the consumption of glass within sites – what do the find-spots tell us about how people lived in these settlements and how glass vessels were used there?
- BA, Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Exeter, 2002
- MA, Artefact Studies, UCL, 2003
Glass News: “Anglo-Saxon glass-working in Canterbury”, in Glass News No 28 (Newsletter of the UK Association for the History of Glass), July 2010, p. 8-9.
Archaeological Review from Cambridge: “Glass vessels in Lundenwic: An illustration of the contextual approach to fragments”, Archaeological Review from Cambridge Vol. 20.2, November 2005, p. 82-97.
Flixton (in press): Reports on the glass and its significance in “Flixton Park Quarry Volume I: Archaeological Excavations During the 1990’s”, Stuart Boulter and Penelope Walton Rogers, East Anglian Archaeology Report series, 2011.
AIHV (forthcoming): “The Church Lane assemblage: Early medieval glass-working in the shadow of Canterbury Cathedral”, Annales du 18 Congrès de l’Association Internationale pour l’Histoire du Verre, 2011.
West Heslerton: Report on the glass and its significance in forthcoming volume on the excavations of the Anglian settlement by Prof. Dominic Powlesland.
Brandon: Report on the distribution of the vessel glass in forthcoming volume on the excavations of the Anglo-Saxon settlement by Andrew Tester, Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service.