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

Mar 2015
1,458
Yorkshire
I think there was a hybridisation of British culture but not with A-S or other Germanics but with Ireland and possibly Pictland.

As an example, Charles-Edwards quotes the case of the Fourth Century Romano-British broach which developed into the the Penannular Class I Brooch produced in Celtic Britain (especially old Votadini territory) and copied in Ireland. This particular broach became a symbol of status in both societies.

So I beleive there is better evidence for a sharing of material and certainly ecclesiastical cutlure within the "Celtic World" than between Briton and A-S.
 
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Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,649
Westmorland
It is true there are no finds in Wales but there are some in the British Kingdom of Elmet and in Ireland and one might question why all have Celtic designs and not a single germanic inscription, except those stolen or otherwise acquired by Norwegian Vikings (runic and clearly added later).
I think the question you posit is an extremely interesting one. It brings us on to asking 'what is a Briton?' The discussions in this thread all seem to implicitly accept that there is a kit or uniform (or 'cultural assemblage', as archaeologists would term it) which allows us to draw conclusions about ethnicity. So, if you see X, Y or Z in a grave, you must be looking at an Anglo-Saxon. Or a Briton. Or whatever. This hypothesis is subject to increasing challenge. Insofar as hanging bowls are concerned, I think we need to ask questions such as "why do such distinctly British pieces only appear in what we currently term 'Anglo-Saxon contexts' but rarely, if ever, in those parts of the country where we all agree that the Britons actually lived?" Because it is odd, is it not, that the Britons of Wales or the north should apparently not have used such obviously British artefacts?
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
I looked at the map and there appear to be around 5 or 6 finds in the extreme South of what some think was Elmet territory. However I publish below the page taken from Bruce Mitford's book which tentatively suggest Elmet as the source:


I see, the place where he thinks the Sutton Hoo bowl was made. I understood when you wrote "no finds in Wales but there are some in the British Kingdom of Elmet " that you meant some bowls were found in Elmet, rather than being made there. Sadly, we have no high status burials in Elmet for the 7th century.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
So, if you see X, Y or Z in a grave, you must be looking at an Anglo-Saxon. Or a Briton. Or whatever. This hypothesis is subject to increasing challenge. Insofar as hanging bowls are concerned, I think we need to ask questions such as "why do such distinctly British pieces only appear in what we currently term 'Anglo-Saxon contexts' but rarely, if ever, in those parts of the country where we all agree that the Britons actually lived?" Because it is odd, is it not, that the Britons of Wales or the north should apparently not have used such obviously British artefacts?
Heinrich Härke suggested a few decades ago that the invisible britons might be found in culturally anglo saxon graves. However, there are still parts of the Britain where invisibility is 'the norm'. These four graphs, from Härke's MED publication show anglo saxon burial sites, sites where place names indicate the presence of britons, pennanular brooches and hanging bowls.

med.jpg
 
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Nov 2008
1,417
England
By mixing, I mean:-

1. Marriage (as discussed the other week with Authun and Aelfwine)
2. Trade/exchange (including the hanging bowls we are now talking about, but probably much more about agricultural surplus. New settlers need time and raw materials to build and establish their farms and they can't always just have nicked everything off the Britons).
3. Alliance (as attested for the sixth century, at least by later sources)
4. Assimilation (as attested in Gildas who bemoans some of his countrymen making accord with the barbarians)
5. Hybridisation (my big theory which no-one here agrees with!).
Numbers one and three: we know this happened. There are attested examples of political marriages and alliances.

Number two: Trade. I do not believe this happened to a great extent, particularly in the sixth century. The economics during that century was primitive and localised with most produce being made at village level.

Number four. I would replace "assimilation" with "submission", and we know that happened.

Point number five: Hybridisation. If this happened, it did not do so to any large degree. There is no real evidence it did, although there is a possibility it may have happened to a localised extent in Mercia.
 
Nov 2008
1,417
England
I think we need to ask questions such as "why do such distinctly British pieces only appear in what we currently term 'Anglo-Saxon contexts' but rarely, if ever, in those parts of the country where we all agree that the Britons actually lived?"
As I suggested before. If the Anglo-Saxons were the ones who mainly used them, they could well have been manufactured by those same people. Saxon craftsmen who made those exquisite objects in the Staffordshire hoard would surely not have not found it difficult to have mastered the art of enamelling.
 

Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,649
Westmorland
Heinrich Härke suggested a few decades ago that the invisible britons might be found in culturally anglo saxon graves. However, there are still parts of the Britain where invisibility is 'the norm'. These four graphs, from Härke's MED publication show anglo saxon burial sites, sites where place names indicate the presence of britons, pennanular brooches and hanging bowls.
There are undoubtedly a few more dots on the maps now (especially as regards penannular brooches, further examples of which have been reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme), but the southern and eastern bias of this supposedly diagnostic British material has never to my knowledge at least, been examined in any serious way. Neither has the obverse. One commentator remarked how surprising it was that no Class I stones have ever been found in (presumably) Christian Elmet, but never engaged with why that might be the case. As mentioned to peccavi yesterday, I think that these are interesting research questions.
 
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Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,649
Westmorland
As I suggested before. If the Anglo-Saxons were the ones who mainly used them, they could well have been manufactured by those same people. Saxon craftsmen who made those exquisite objects in the Staffordshire hoard would surely not have not found it difficult to have mastered the art of enamelling.
At first blush, that sounds a bit like special pleading to allow you to continue to deny a British contribution to Anglo-Saxon material culture, notwithstanding apparently clear evidence to the contrary. If they had mastered the art of enamelling, why did they not use it in other artefacts? Why would they regard as high status objects which, within Britain at least, were used predominantly by their despised British slaves?

But, strange as it may seem, I actually agree with you, in part at least. You and I have a different view of what constitutes an Anglo-Saxon. I think yours is largely a biological definition, whereas mine is a cultural and linguistic one. In the sense that I understand the term, I would agree that whoever was knocking out these bowls would have been Anglo-Saxon. I don't think there were workshops of enslaved British master craftsmen churning out hanging bowls like Santa's depressed and overworked elves in the Family Guy Christmas special. But if - as was the case with the Gallo-Romans and the Franks - anyone who was anyone in southern or eastern England made it their business to be an Anglo-Saxon, we have a partial answer to at least one of the questions posited in my posts to peccavi and authun.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
One commentator remarked how surprising it was that no Class I stones have ever been found in (presumably) Christian Elmet, but never engaged with why that might be the case.
If by Class 1 you refer to a category of Anglo Saxon Stone Scultpure, analagous to say Pictish Class 1 stones, I don't find it surprising simply because there isn't much of anything. Despite the York to Chester road running through Elmet, there's a paucity of material. The Aberford Dykes complex, Grim's Ditch and Becca Banks appear to mark the boundary of Elmet in the north but there isn't even enough archaeology to date these features. Elmet is a british kingdom east of the pennines still at the start of the 7th century but when, on paper, it is lost, it's about a century before we see anglo saxons. A few missions are sent there by the newly converted Deirans but we don't know who people like Paulinus were trying to convert. There is no archaeology which we can use in an attempt to identify them. Deira is 30 or so miles away and separated from Elmet by a large area of wetlands
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
Some interesting questions about the manufacture of the items found in the Staffordshire Hoard concern where they were made. There are just over 5 kilos of gold, although there are no anglo saxon gold mines, the small garnets in the Cloisonné are from Bohemia and the larger one from India. The suggestion is that the objects were made from recycled roman material. Who amongst the early anglo saxons thought in terms of melting down roman gold and turning it into think wire to make the filigree? Who knew how to cut and recut garnet? The people who were working these materials also used glass and the roman glass is superior to the anglo saxon glass. The early anglo saxons made poor glass and primarily worked with carved wood in their continental homeslands. The early pottery was fired on open hearths, they didn't even build kilns. Even if they did manufacture these fine artefacts themselves, someone showed them how to do it. This item, known as the Staffordshire Hoard Sea Horse is made from filigree wire laid on cast gold. Where did they learn that technique?