Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Anglo-Saxons Dark Ages

The 'Dark Ages' is a term given by some archaeologists and historians to the centuries after the Roman period, from about 410 AD, when it is very difficult archaeologically to see what happened as far as settlement, farming and so on are concerned. There is hardly any written evidence from this time and much of what we know from the early written sources was actually transcribed much later. Bede's Historica Ecclesiastica writings, for example, which provide us with the most complete account of the history of this period, date from the mid-seventh century.
The absence of written records meant that the Dark Ages were seen as 'dark' in the sense that we didn't know much about them. The description also came to be associated with the idea that civilised life collapsed in Britain after the Roman departure and didn't recover again until the Renaissance a thousand years later. In most of Britain, people stopped using and making pottery, ceased producing and using coins, built in wood (which has rotted away) rather than stone and, in many other ways, have denied archaeologists the wealth of inorganic and concrete evidence they are used to from the Roman centuries.
The Anglo-Saxons Today the term 'Anglo-Saxon' is most widely used to describe the period, which historians divide into:
Early Anglo-Saxon (450-650)
Middle Anglo-Saxon (650-800)
Late Anglo-Saxon (800-1066)
Although the early part of the period would certainly have encompassed some unsettling times, people still lived productive lives. Many fine archaeological discoveries have helped reinterpret the time as one of consolidation and development.
Though urban centres tended to fall into decay in the fifth century, trade still continued with continental Europe. Mediterranean pottery was imported and grave goods found with burials from the time include imported bronze, glass and ivory. Various finds of Anglo-Saxon jewellery and other metalwork, meanwhile, have shown it to be highly sophisticated and often delicately wrought.
The VikingsFrom the 8th century onwards, Viking raiders began to appear in increasing numbers. 'Viking', the Norse term for pirate, has come to be used as the general name given to the Northmen (Norsemen) from Scandinavia who raided, plundered and then settled many parts of Britain and Europe in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries.


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