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

Mar 2015
1,404
Yorkshire
They were my comments on Aelfwine's statement and his question 'how long?'

"Those Saxon foederati or mercenaries who were probably the first to arrive would have no doubt have taken British wives and girlfriends. That is an example of the settled order of nature. How long this "love in" lasted is another question."

If the starting point is germanic male warriors coming to britain taking british wives, a point on which Aelfwine has 'no doubt', and the end point is settled anglo saxon families, what is the proposed chain of events that join those two points? When do germanic women start to settle? When do they arrive in numbers? At what point in time do the number of females migrating equal the numbers of males migrating.? What are the numbers of the mixed anglo saxon/british families at that time? This is not speculating. They are questions which follow the suggestion. We do not have enough data to provide clear answers.

I am fully familiar with the case of West Heslerton having been in personal correspondence with Paul Budd when his paper was published in Antiquity in 2004 and also in personal correspondence with Janet Montgomery, when the multidisciplinary study was published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology in 2005. Budd's study ran into problems and ended using only some ambiguous data on oxygen isotopes. Montgomery's study was on the strontium isotopes and it was then extended to include archeological disciplines. I have also publically debated with Dominic Powlesland following a lecture of his on West Heslerton, which omitted Budd's comments in his Toronto conference which explained the shortcomings of his study and which also conflicted with Montgomery's findings. The debate with DP was about his rejection of Philip Rahtz's paper in Antiquity which summarised the West Heslerton Conference which was attended by 'some 50 well known archaologists' in 2001. DP took exception to Rahtz's view that "Although DP stressed his own belief in continuity, it was generally seen more as one of continuity of place, with a dichotomy between ‘late Romans’ and the new settlers". DP's belief in continuity led him to reject findings such as Charlotte Precious and Maggie Darling's findings that, "no links could be found between the late Roman pottery and the Anglian that followed - nothing ‘sub-Roman’; the general impression is still of a social and economic collapse in the latest 4th-early 5th century".

Powlesland's views reject the views of his peer archaeologists and reject the findings of the science, however West Heslerton studies do not demonstrate an example of a purely migrant community. Neither Budd nor Montgomery make that claim. Montgomery's conclusion is limited to her statement that there is "no clear support for the exclusively male, military-elite invasion model at this site."

Just as the earlier osteological evidence suggested two groups, the 32 skeletons examined too showed two groups, a local and a non local group. The origin of the non local group is suggested as continental through on the basis of the grave goods as on their own, the isotopic results overlap with Scotland and are therefore not definitive. However, there is no data on whether the local group are migrants or not, nor could it be. We cannot distinguish between britons and locally born offspring of migrants. They are just local, that's all we know. The graves tested do not represent a single migration event and span 150 years. We have continuous migration into the community. There are two date ranges acccording to calibration. The table below gives the upper and lower limits of those calbrations. Only 22 of the 32 graves were dated:

View attachment 20710


The sexing of the local and non local groups does not allow us to conclude that men and women came over in equal numbers at the same time or which women were british and which were germanic. Some are germanic, but we cannot say all were germanic.

View attachment 20717


It is interesting to see that both local and non local groups contain weapons and that women and juveniles are buried with weapons.

Thanks for the personal info. I think have just about everything published on West Heslington (expensive though some of it is) but it is refreshing to get the inside story.

I did realise that Sr and 02 evidence could be interpreted in other ways - in simple terms all it tells us is that the person spent childhood in an eg an area of high rainfall and granite geology - hence Scotland or Norway can equally fit.

I certainly accept that some women were British but it seems clear that a significant and sufficient number were Angles both from the grave furniture and the simple fact that we speak English today.

Must say I thought from what I read that Powlesland's interpretations were a bit suspect and he tries so desperately to justify continuity - thanks again, nice insight.

BTW - I hav seen a comment of his that all this business of studying "Placenames" should be consigned to the dustbin - I agree with him one thing at least!
 
Likes: authun

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,185
Language contact has everything to do with the politics or princes and kings,
Or trade, which is often done without the knowledge of princes and kings. From Montgomery's Continuity or Colonisation in Anglo Saxon England:

"The second observation is not consistent with the hypothesis that crops and livestock were being grown and grazed in the immediate locality of the site, and may point to larger-scale trading in foodstuffs. This would seem to be inconsistent with a small, self sufficient farming community, but may confirm the observation that West Heslerton was a proto-urban settlement (Powlesland, 1998)"

I have long wondered where the early anglo saxons got their livestock from.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,185
BTW - I hav seen a comment of his that all this business of studying "Placenames" should be consigned to the dustbin - I agree with him one thing at least!
Yes, I remember that was his opening, "the linguistic evidence amounts to no more than a handful of placenames". However, I quite like some of the research on the continent on this. It goes much further than most of the things we see in england. I've scanned a few of Jürgen Udolph's maps comparing the incidence of place name suffices. They are from the Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde, Namenkundliche Studien zum Germanenproblem



horst.jpg


kot.jpg


kreek.jpg

lar.jpg

rik(e).jpg

klei.jpg

rusch.jpg

sol.jpg
 
Jan 2014
2,520
Westmorland
BTW - I hav seen a comment of his that all this business of studying "Placenames" should be consigned to the dustbin - I agree with him one thing at least!
I don't! Place name evidence is extremely valuable. There was, for a while something of a stand-off between archaeologists and place-name experts. The latter got grumpy because the former were misusing place-name evidence or seeing it only as useful for signposting a potential dig site. There followed (for academia) some quite lively exchanges, as a result of which archaeologists started to treat place-names as one might handle a scorpion in a bad mood. The trend toward synthetic histories, in which evidence from various disciplines is drawn together has healed the rift, but I suspect Powlesland's comments were made in the scholarly equivalent of the heat of the moment.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,185
misusing place-name evidence or seeing it only as useful for signposting a potential dig site. ....... I suspect Powlesland's comments were made in the scholarly equivalent of the heat of the moment.
Having started his lecture dismissing the importance of placenames, DP then went on to urge that archaeologists should look around Hovingham as the name suggests followers of the royal house. His statement seemed coloured by the facts that he was complaining that he was unemployed and lived nearby. To be fair, it is the seat of the Worsley family - Duchess of Kent - but then there are many well known families in the area, the most famous are the Worseley's neighbours, the Howards. It's not hard to find royal connections.

The problem with place names is how to interpret them. The suffices quickly become naming conventions and once most people are speaking english the same names appear again and again. Farnley Tyas near me means forest clearing overgrown with ferns belonging to the german, ie Teutonicus Baldwin, who was connected with the local norman bigwig, Ilbert de Laci. Nothing to do with the anglo saxons. I remember the archaeologist Win Scutt falling into this trap when he attempted to write about 'english as a pre roman language of Britain' citing Marston Maisey as an example of an 'eg' placename, from which we get 'ey' today, unless it is an 'ley' derived from 'leag/leah'. He claimed it coild be an example of an 'eg' placename before the arrival of the saxons. About a dozen of us pointed out that Marston Maisey gets its name from the Mersey familiy who owned it in 1259.

Placenames are useful but they must be treated with caution. The only thing this map of 'tun'/ton' placenames tells us is that it was a very popular name in England, much more popular than on the continent.

tun_placenames.gif
 
Nov 2008
1,358
England
t's not at all a fallacious argument. If you are arguing that Anglo-Saxons had as little contact with Brittonic as possible, it is entirely fair to point out that the notion of an English king who went to the trouble to learn how to speak Brittonic is seriously at odds with that. Language contact has everything to do with the politics or princes and kings, as it is the socio-political situation which determines important initial questions such as which language is prestigious and which is not and the extent and nature of contact between speakers of different languages.
There is no evidence whatsoever that an Anglo-Saxon king learned to speak Brittonic so I`m at a loss as to understand why you keep mentioning it as though it was a fact.
 
Nov 2008
1,358
England
I would have thought that royal servants were selected because they were trustworthy. Whilst it is probably correct to say that it is their position is the reason for the higher wergelf value, it does not follow that they were regarded as lowly or menial. Why assume that? If the relationship between anglo saxons and britons was characterised by emnity as you have claimed, why would one entrust a potential spy or traitor with messages? Even if the man was illiterate and a blithering idiot, he can be intercepted and quizzed.




But Coates evaluates the linguistic effects of acculturation and mass migration models, he does not investigate the linguistic effects of chain migration and there is data to suggest that immigration lasted several generations.
His theory works for both scenarios.
 
Mar 2015
1,404
Yorkshire
Since Bede tells us that Oswald and his brother Oswiu, Kings of Northumbria 634-642 and 642-670AD, respectively were bi-lingual but in Old Irish and Anglian. This is not surprising since they spent a long childhood, 17 years, in exile in Iona. I suppose its also possible that Oswiu was able to converse in Brittonic since his first legitimate marriage was to a British Princess, Rieinmellt, great granddaughter of Urien of Rheged, who ironically had come within a hairsbreadth of eliminating the nascent Angle Bernician Kingdom - only saved form extinction by his assassination.

This is the only one known dynastic marriage between a Briton and an A-S. There is considerable speculation about the motive and nothing is clear other than the marriage most probably took place when the brothers returned from exile and Oswald was King of Northumbria. Not much is known about Rieinmelt other than the Kingdom of Rheged disappears from history at this point, her son Ahlfrith, is made sub-King of Deira by Oswiu who by then is King of Northumbria. Ahlfrith appears to be a strong proponent of the Catholic version of Christianity and is responsible for introducing St Wilfrid. However he disappears, like his mother from history without a mention even by the Bede - strange?

Aldfrith an illegitimate son of Oswiu by an Irish Princess, Fine, and later king of Northumberia, is also bilingual in Old Irish. In addition he is referred to as a Sapiens, so it is certain that he is also knowledgeable in Latin.

Anyway the reason for my ramblings - bilingualism of A-S kings has got to be very rare and in the period 450 to 600AD surely non-existant.

So whilst there are alliances of convenience such as Cadwallon and Penda, this is a later period and even then does not seem to involve dynastic marriages - where A-S Kings look for such linkages seems to be with either Franks or between other A-S Kingdoms.
 
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authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,185
His theory works for both scenarios.
But not exclusively. Coate's view is not required to explain what we see. Minimal contact may be one explantion but others are better able to explain the observed data. Britons existed in Anglo Saxon England in the 8th century. So, why don't we see many more examples of brittonic speaking communities later? Where did they go? When two linguistic communities come together, it is not unusual for language shift to be unidirectional. How many people in Wales speak welsh? How many words in the type of english spoken by the welsh contain welsh borrowings? If languages mixed, there would be thousands.

If 54% of the males in england owe their heritage to the anglo saxons but only 38% of the population do, this suggests that less than 38% of the females owe their heritage to the anglo saxons, roughly 20-25%. Thus, another possible explantion for change in language is that british women married anglo saxon males and that they spoke english to their children whilst infants at home.

It is considered a realistic possibility by many linguists and is just as valid as Coate's polarised explantion.
 
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