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Title: Beyond the End: Communities in Post-Roman Britain's "Ghost" Century
Authors: Mayhew, G. Galen
Advisors: Reimitz, Helmut
Department: History
Class Year: 2018
Abstract: In AD 410, Emperor Honorius famously told the cities of Britain to “look to their own defenses.” According to sixth- and eighth-century chroniclers like Gildas and Bede, the Roman province was subsequently overcome by waves of invasions of Scots, Picts, and continental Germanic Saxons who burned, killed, and conquered. Many scholars, past and present, have since based their conclusions on these accounts, the scarcity of surviving texts leaving few alternatives. Yet a wealth of material exists that can bring light to this century. Pottery, architecture, metalwork, skeletons and much more material culture have been found in the thousands across Britain, turned up by farmer’s ploughs and archaeologists’ careful trowels. Through their changing forms, usage, and placement, these materials reveal persons and aspects of contemporary life neglected by chroniclers and poets. Comparative study of the Late Roman communities at Horcott Quarry, Cirencester, and Winchester suggests that the Romano-British of the fifth century did not cling to a universal, shared identity. With the decline and withdrawal of Roman administration and support networks, it was clear to the many communities of Britain that a single, political entity would be nearly impossible to maintain. Even in settlements geographically close to each other, communities relied on their neighbors and families to survive and grow through the fifth century’s uncertain years rather than on other groups of people. The fifth century in Britain was an era of related but distinct communities with their own local practices, beliefs, and ways of life. This was not the time of the disappearance of Romans, nor the beginning of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. This was a period of communities developing, on their own terms, their own strategies for an unknown future.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History, 1926-2020

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