Tuesday, December 23, 2008
By the end of the fifth century different settlement patterns are discernible between eastern Britain (which had been settled by Anglo-Saxons) and western Britain (which had not). One sign of changing circumstances in the west of Britain was the re-emergence of hill-top settlements which, it has been argued by Leslie Alcock in particular, may have functioned as chieftain centres and be linked with the emergent British kingdoms we can dimly discern in the written sources. The reoccupation of the impressive Iron Age hill-fort of South Cadbury (Som) is a good example of the type. The whole of the innermost rampart of nearly 1100 m in length was refortified in the sub-Roman period and a substantial timber hall built on the highest point in the interior. Yet there were very few finds of artefacts from the South Cadbury excavations, and this helps to explain why the British generally have proved very hard to detect in the sub-Roman period. After the Romano-British lost access to Roman industrial products, they become all but invisible in the archaeological record as they were no longer using on any scale artefacts which were diagnostically Romano-British or, at least, not of a type that survives in the soil. The Britons of the west country received the occasional consignment of pottery from Mediterranean kilns brought by foreign traders, the Britons in the east presumably made use of Anglo-Saxon craftsmen. We should not assume that every owner of an artefact of ‘Germanic’ type in eastern England was of Germanic descent.