What Made the Anglo-Saxons Capable of Conquering the Britons?

Isleifson

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
4,122
Lorraine tudesque
Milder climate: see Zimmermann's paper Favourable Conditions for Cattle Farming, "it is the milder climate and hence the great quantitiy of biomass even in winter" He proposes it in the first paragraph and hence my assumption that you haven't read it.

I even linked to the article Out-wintering of cattle which lists the benefits:

Reduced feeding and bedding costs providing there is some grazing available
Reduced housing requirements - may allow finishing of store cattle in housing. Reduced build-up of infection.

And includes a photo of cattle outwintering;




But you don't look at these things.

There is not a shadow of a doubt that in the milder regions and the suitable breeds, cattle can be outwintered, feeding on the available biomass, Hay is brought to the animals when the snow covers the ground but, as Bede writes, it rarely does so for more than three days. Bede also points out that the midler climate is favourable for cattle and that Britain, in some places produces vines. Much of Zimmermann's work was on the archaeology of farms, from the bronze age to the middle ages and he undertook many phosphate studies, used to identify where domesticated animals were kept.

Depending on what the breed is and where the farm is, there is enough biomass for cattle to be outwintered. There is no point in outwintering cattle if there isn't enough food, the farmer would be making extra work for himself if he had to constantly go out to cows to keep them fed. Hay is used as a supplement or when there is a lot of snow.




There was also a lot more forest cover during the anglo saxon period, ideal for shelter and foraging. In the terp areas on the north sea littoral, there was just marsh.

This is the oft cited terp village of Feddersen Wierde, humans and animals are confined to the man made mound.



An artists impression of the village life.




In such places, the animals are stalled in the same house as the people, in the so called tripartite long house. We tend not to find these in England and one reason may be that they were not necessary because animals could be outwintered and used to fertilise the arable field when the crops were harvested.
We still have the tripartite house. Cattle and people under one roof.

Lothringerhaus – Wikipedia
 

Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,671
Westmorland
Milder climate: see Zimmermann's paper Favourable Conditions for Cattle Farming, "it is the milder climate and hence the great quantitiy of biomass even in winter" He proposes it in the first paragraph and hence my assumption that you haven't read it.
I had read it (some years ago and also when you kindly re-posted it). I saw the assertion, but did not see anything to back it up.

I even linked to the article Out-wintering of cattle which lists the benefits:

Reduced feeding and bedding costs providing there is some grazing available
Reduced housing requirements - may allow finishing of store cattle in housing. Reduced build-up of infection.

And includes a photo of cattle outwintering;
You did, but outwintering and winter feeding are two different things. One is about where they stay, the other is about what they eat. My issue is with the latter and the article was predominantly about the former. I did note that it included references to winter supplement feeding, to the problem of cows puddling the land when they are hanging around the feeders and even showed a photo of cows sitting on what looked to be bits of leftover hay from the feeders.

But you don't look at these things.
I most certainly did.

There is not a shadow of a doubt that in the milder regions and the suitable breeds, cattle can be outwintered, feeding on the available biomass
I'm afraid there is a shadow of doubt in my mind. I know something about farming - not a huge amount, but not negligible either. I appreciate that modern farming and early medieval farming were very different. Early medieval cows were small, tough multi-purpose breeds. I'm not saying you are wrong about the winter biomass thing, but I would still like to know what this available winter biomass actually is. Some grasses contain a bit of nutrition all year round, but cows thrive on decent pasture grass (and the various flowers groing in i) and that has no nutritional value after the first frosts.

Hay is brought to the animals when the snow covers the ground
Do you argue that it was not brought at any other time?

There is no point in outwintering cattle if there isn't enough food, the farmer would be making extra work for himself if he had to constantly go out to cows to keep them fed.
He has to feed them whether they are in or out. Once they are down from the seasonal summer pastures, they are much closer to hand.

In such places, the animals are stalled in the same house as the people, in the so called tripartite long house. We tend not to find these in England and one reason may be that they were not necessary because animals could be outwintered and used to fertilise the arable field when the crops were harvested.
This is the point I made the other day. The cows are put in the infield over winter in order that their dung can be exploited. If they are in the infield, what do you say they are eating when it is not snowing? And if they are not in the infield, how is the land being dunged for next season?
 

Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,671
Westmorland
I do not expect sarcasm, but if that is the way you want to play it so be it.
I genuinely wasn't being sarcastic and my sincere apologies if it sounded like I was. It's too easy to lose context in a typed message. We've all had enough spats over the years and I for one am very keen not to have any more. I might disagree with you on many matters, but I enjoy discussing them with you and hope you do likewise.

The point I was making is that whilst I agree with you that a racist might like an Asiatic ornament, I do not believe that there is any cultural trend in this direction. The hanging bowls seem different, as they appear to have been aspirational items.

By way of analogy, there are a small number of cremation urns in the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Cleatham, Lincs, which appear to be Romano-British in style. I think that if I were to argue that this was evidence of a desire to be buried in a British pot, you would be right to use the example of a racist being happy to enjoy an Asiatic ornament whilst still being racist. There are too few of these urns at Cleatham let alone elsewhere, for us to seek to draw conclusions from them. I do feel the bowls are a bit different and although I appreciate that you disagree with me, I see their acquisition as being less about securing bling or looking Roman and much more about the bowls having a personal resonance, either to the deceased or to those commemorating the deceased.
 

Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,671
Westmorland
These were clearly very valuable objects that even the Vikings were keen to acquire (loot or trade, we know not) - sometimes adding a runic inscription. Very difficult to beleive that this was A-S nobility harking back to a possible mixed Celtic\Germanic heritage.
Do you know what the evidence is for arguing that they were made in Elmet? is that just because Elmet is the closest known British kingdom to eastern England?

It is not strange that none whatsoever are found to the west (or any distance to the west) of the broad line which demarcates the Anglo-Saxon and British cultural 'zones'?
 
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Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,671
Westmorland
New published research on the Justinian Plague out this week which may have some relevance to this thread - and especially the notion that the Anglo-Saxon population of eastern England was spared the consequences of the sixth-century Black Death:-

Ancient Yersinia pestis genomes from across Western Europe reveal early diversification during the First Pandemic (541–750)

Samples taken from the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Edix Hill, Cambridgeshire show likely evidence of the sixth-century plague in four individuals.

Interesting stuff.
 
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authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
You did, but outwintering and winter feeding are two different things.
You make several points in this post but you are conflating the issues. My post, the one where you interjected, stated:

"Haio Zimmermann postulates that Britain's favourable climate for cattle rearing offered an easier and more productive lifestyle. There is a much lower requirement to grow winter fodder in summer for the cattle as the biomass was sufficient to allow them to outwinter"

I wrote 'much lower requirement', not zero requirement'. The production of hay is supplemental and the benefits which follow are a reduced requirement for growing fodder hay, bedding, building byres and building hay lofts, very much the same points made by the National Animal Disease Information Service which I posted. When compared to animal husbandry on the continent, this is an easier and more productive lifestyle.

To understand that, you need to understand the different continental practices and not look at it purely from an upland region in england; your comment "Once they are down from the seasonal summer pastures", which infers upland. According to national milk records complied by the government as part of their milk production policies, the vast majority of outwintered herds in England in the 1950s were in the lowland areas in the south and the east. The map is in the link. Another point to consider is that in the 5th and 6th century, no one was producing beef or milk for market. There weren't even any large nucleated settlements. It was subsistence farming and it didn't matter too much that after the frosts the nutritional value of the biomass was reduced. They didn't have large herds to sustain. They just ate more, 7.5% more for every one degree below 10 degrees. Zimmermann cites in the 2nd link an account by Völtz and Kirsch, of cattle being taken out of the byre in Finland at -30 degrees. Presumably there was little or no snow but the available biomass still made it worthwhile to take the cattle out to feed on it.

Zimmermann's primary evidence is in the paucity of byres in the archaeological record in England, when compared to the continent. He cites Addyman, 1972, 'provison for winter shelter is not essential in the southern and eastern parts of England' and also Beresford who gives the date until which small numbers of cattle remained outside the whole year round as the mid 14th century. "There are no or at least seldom byres in Anglo Saxon England" is repeated by Hamerow. According to Könekamp, "the conditions for cattle and horse farming in the south of England, Yorkshire, Ireland and Normandy are less burdensome because even in winter grassland is almost uninterruptedly green". The references are all in Zimmermann's paper.

Outwintering does not mean that the animals are outside day and night. Anglo Saxon England still had wolves and bear and cowherds were employed pretty much in the same way as shepherds and swineherds. They are taken to and from the dungyard which is within the fenced enclosure, usually a thicket, which surrounds the farm. Any food they can get outside the farm means a reduced requirement for the farmer to grow it. Bede writes that "Britain excels for grain and trees, and is well adapted for feeding cattle and beasts of burden" and adds that Ireland's climate "surpasses Britain, for the snow scarcely ever lies there above three days: no man makes hay in the summer for winter's provision, or builds stables for his beasts of burden."

I don't know if an easier lifestyle was the prime motivator but it often is and having read both papers and read modern farming practices, I can see that it is an alternative which would appeal to some.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
New published research on the Justinian Plague out this week which may have some relevance to this thread - and especially the notion that the Anglo-Saxon population of eastern England was spared the consequences of the sixth-century Black Death:-

Ancient Yersinia pestis genomes from across Western Europe reveal early diversification during the First Pandemic (541–750)

Samples taken from the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Edix Hill, Cambridgeshire show likely evidence of the sixth-century plague in four individuals.

They span 6th and 7th century burials though. Plague is noted for reccurent outbreaks and the first outbreak in britain, in 544 was followed by reccurent outbreaks in 576, 663 and 684 in Ireland and in 663 and 684 in eastern england. What the study suggests is that the 7th century anglo saxon plague is the same strain, but not at the same time. It's not clear what those particular grave dates are. It would be interesting if they date to the mid 6th cent. as that would mean they were victims of the 544 outbreak.
 
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authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
Table 1 in the Supplementary Data gives the dates of graves, 76, 78, 96, 106 in the range 500-550AD obviously meaning that they are victims of the 544 outbreak. The other gaves are dated 500-650AD, those are free of disease. What can explain the occurance of the Justinian Plague in Cambridgeshire in the middle of the 6th century?

Malim & Hines, The Anglo Saxon Cemetary at Edix Hill, provides details of the numbered graves, eg:

no. 76, unsexed age given as 15, buried with spearhead and buckle,
no.78, unsexed age given as 14, buried with annular brooch, beads, incl. amber, buckle and latch lifters,
n0. 96, double burial adult female aged 25-35 with child buried with disc brooch, long brooch, beads incl amber, bead tube, knife and ring, the child had glass bead and scutiform pendant,
no. 106, also a double burial, female 18-20, cast saucer brooches, beads, including gold in glass, buckle, girdle hanger, ring, wrist clasps, studs and male, aged 18 with knife and spearhead.

Looking at the map, it could have come from either the west or from the continent, either Trier or Rheims, which would imply contact with Franks.

 
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