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Title: The Anglo-Saxon burial sites of the upper Thames region, and their bearing on the history of Wessex, circa AD 400-700
Author: Dickinson, Tania Marguerite
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1977
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The aim of this thesis is to establish a chronological framework for the grave-goods, and hence the graves, from all known Anglo-Saxon burial sites in the Upper Thames Region. Such a framework is considered essential to any reconstruction of early Saxon activity in the area and especially to any solution of the problems which surround the origin and early development of Wessex. It is based on a detailed typological study of material from 168 sites within a defined area. This area is bounded approximately on the west by the source of the Thames and the Cotswolds scarp, on the north by the Oxfordshire/Northamptonshire county boundary, on the east by the Thames/ Ouse watershed and the Chilterns scarp, and in the south by the Kennet Valley. The thesis is presented in three volumes, text (I), catalogue (II), and illustrations (III). The text is divided into three parts. Part I is introductory. The subject is set in the context of broader problems and previous hypotheses, and the value of the material to be analysed is assessed. The physical identity of the Upper Thames Region, the problems and methods of cataloguing sites, and the history of their discovery and recording are briefly discussed. Part II, in which the typology and chronology of the grave-goods are established, forms the core of the thesis. It consists of seventeen chapters and a summary chronological chart. The first chapter considers some general methodological problems and outlines the fundamental points of archaeological chronology for the period, on which that of the Upper Thames Region depends. Chapter 2 is a long analysis of brooches. The greatest attention is given to the manufacture and chronology of cast saucer brooches, but the dating of disc brooches is also set on a firmer basis, and there are important comments on all remaining forms (penannular, annular, button, great and small square-headed, small-long, and miscellaneous). Chapters 3 to 8 deal with the other objects found principally in women's graves (pins, finger rings and bracelets, necklaces, combs, toilet items, and bags, boxes, and girdlehung objects); they include discussion of the function of some of these items as well as their dating. Chapter 9 is about belt-equipment. The weapons found in men's graves are discussed in chapters 10 to 14 (swords, seaxes, shields, spears, and miscellaneous); in chapter 12 the first attempt at a typology of English shield bosses, based on computerised numerical taxonomy, is presented, while in chapter 13 Dr. M.J. Swanton's recently published typology of spearheads receives detailed criticism. Knives are briefly considered in chapter 15. Chapter 16, an analysis of the pottery, includes several modifications of Dr.J.N.L.Myres' work. This part concludes with chapter 17 on vessels of glass, metal, and wood. The chronologies thus established help to provide a date of burial for about one third of the catalogued graves and to indicate a date-range for the use of most sites. These data form the basis for deductions, made in Part III, about the history of the Saxon settlement in the Upper Thames Region. The background to this discussion is set out briefly in two sections, one on the nature of the Roman settlement in the Region, the other a critical survey of documentary evidence pertaining to the period. The synthesis deals in turn with the archaeology of the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries, and its possible historical interpretation. It is argued that the initial settlement during the first quarter of the fifth century consisted of a group of Saxons hired as foederati, who were posted at and near Dorchester-on- Thames; in the second quarter of the century their leaders usurped authority from their erstwhile British employers and assumed control of a wide area, planting out groups of settlers, probably including many new immigrants, during the second half of the century throughout most of the Region. These settlements grew in size, number, and wealth; their prosperity is reflected in the emergence of well furnished graves, probably belonging to leading families, the most spectacular of which is the early seventhcentury 'princely' burial at Cuddesdon near Dorchester. During the fifth and sixth centuries the Upper Thames Region appears to have been most closely connected with the other Saxon settlement along and south of the Thames, but in the sixth century connections with the Midlands, especially the West Midlands, were established, and there is some evidence of direct contact with East Kent. In the seventh century the Upper Thames shares the uniform material culture associated with 'Final Phase 1 or 'Proto-Christian' cemeteries. Direct connections between this evidence and documentary history are few, though it is argued forcibly that there is no evidence that the battle a of Badon had any effect on the Saxon settlement of the Upper Thames Region. The archaeological evidence also suggests that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entries relating to the battles fought by Ceawlin and Cuthwulf should not be taken at face value. In a final section the documentary evidence for the history of Wessex is specifically examined in the light of the archaeological conclusions. It is suggested that during the second half of the sixth century one of the leading families of the Upper Thames Region asserted its power not only over an enlarged Upper Thames Region, but also over Hampshire and Wiltshire, thus founding the royal dynasty of Cerdic and Cymric and creating what became known as the kingdom of the West Saxons.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Anglo-Saxons ; Burial ; History ; Cemeteries ; Mounds ; Antiquities ; England ; Wessex (England)