An archaeology of literacy and the church in southern England to AD 750
This thesis investigates the impact of the Christian clergy on daily life in Anglo-Saxon England in the seventh and eight centuries AD. Noting from the outset an interpretative impasse in historical sources, the archaeological record is explored for what it may reveal concerning those areas and peoples most hidden from historical scholarship. Noting problems with techniques that assume clear distinctions between Christian and pagan ritual - in particular funerary ritual - the anthropology of religious phenomena and religious conversion is introduced to support and expand that critique, but also to focus attention on the sophistication of the problem to be addressed. It is argued that the social sciences are ill-equipped to investigate religious phenomena and that a more subtle, if more complicated, approach is required. Considering the coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England as an encounter between missionaries and their audience, we are encouraged to investigate the subtle tensions implicit in that relationship. The relationship is thus recast in terms of access to literacy, since this is a distinguishing factor of the clergy in England in the seventh and eighth centuries. Literacy, modelled as a set of discursive practices embedded in and re-produced through social relationships, is investigated from the perspective of the archaeology of surveillance. Two cases from Hampshire - Micheldever and Saxon Southampton (or Hamwic) - support the view that literacy can be used as a means of investigating the missionary encounter. It is proposed that, by the first half of the eighth century, the populations of these two areas were drawn into an intricate engagement with the clergy, facilitated by the bureaucratic and discursive deployment of literacy practices. Though necessarily more complicated than approaches that depend on the archaeology of the cemeteries to investigate the relationship between the clergy and the laity, this insight does at least do justice to the complexity of the issue being discussed.