Who are the Anglo Saxons

Nov 2008
1,086
England
So, what was the reason for the Angles under Eomaer to evacuate Angeln and go to Britain? Pressure from other tribes or something else?
Eoomaer belongs to the misty past of Germanic legend, and there is no way to prove whether or not he actually lived. As an heroic figure, he may well have been incorporated into the Mercian royal genealogy to enhance the prestige of the dynasty.

The mass migration, and that is what seems to have happened, could have been caused by a number of factors. Authun mentioned one such reason. There was a down turn in the climate at that time, and there were the marine transgression which must have had a adverse effect on the coastal regions of Angeln. Environmental stress can cause a desperate people to mass migration and this has, indeed, happened throughout history. Political pressure too can lead to mass migration as we in Europe have seen only to tragically recently, and there was such political stress at this time with the Huns. All of these reasons can be called the "push factors". Then we have in the fifth century, a pull factor, and this was the breakdown of political authority in Britain when the Romans left. A golden opportunity for these early English to take advantage of the situation.

If you need further information on the prevailing climatic conditions around the North Sea littoral, in particularly the marine transgressions, Authun is the man.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
4,674
Some historians and archaeologists believe these Frisians were actually Jutish colonists, or a mixture of Angles and Jutes.

That's right plus a mix of many other groups such as the Amisvarini, Chauci, Nordalbingi. Aviones, Chamavi etc. Frisian discontinuity theory holds that the Frisians from Friesland mentioned in roman sources more or less disappeared by the 3rd century AD when the land was inundated. The people that started refilling the area in 6th century, took the name from the land, not give their name to it. The mixed group are, according to JAW Nicolay, from the areas shown in his 2006 map:

 
Jan 2014
2,116
Westmorland
The mass migration, and that is what seems to have happened,
Yes indeed. What 'mass migration' actually means in terms of absolute numbers remains a matter of debate, but we certainly see evidence in the fifth-century for relatively significant numbers of Anglo-Saxon migrants settling across southern and eastern Britain. I'm inclined to agree with Heinrich Harke's estimates on numbers, even though may thinks he puts it too high. He estimates migration at between 100,000 and 200,000 individuals over the course of a century. For a fuller exposition, see Heinrich Härke, “Anglo-Saxon Immigration and Ethnogenesis.” Medieval Archaeology, 55 (2011).

Some may have come as federates or warrior elites, but for the most part we appear to be looking at extended family groups living in small,, scattered and undefended agrarian communities. The archaeology suggests that until the mid sixth-century, status was expressed within the kin group rather than as between kin groups, although East Kent might be a notable exception. So, for the most part, we have leading individuals within each family group, rather than leading families per se.

One thing we do not have a great deal of clarity on (but which would be interesting to know) is how these fifth-century Anglo-Saxon groups interacted with one another. There is some evidence that the Old Saxons (the name given to the Saxons who stayed at home) came together to elect leaders in times of war or crisis and it may be that this was happening in Britain too.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
4,674
He estimates migration at between 100,000 and 200,000 individuals over the course of a century. For a fuller exposition, see Heinrich Härke, “Anglo-Saxon Immigration and Ethnogenesis.” Medieval Archaeology, 55 (2011).

That's based on the skeletal evidence:

"The model based on skeletal evidence and the weapon burial rite implies an original immigration of about 200,000. Realistically, this may be closer to 100,000 if factors such as gender imbalance of migrants, high birth rates of settler communities, post-immigration social processes and acculturation are taken into account. "

As far as the biological evidence is concerned, he puts the figure higher:

"The proportions of male-mediated introgression evidenced by the analysis of Y-chromosome DNA data would, therefore, suggest between 250,000 and 500,000 male immigrants. The main problem here is that estimating the date of DNA introgression events is only very approximate within relatively wide margins, and it is likely that at least a small proportion of the introgressive DNA is due to earlier or later immigration but even more to social processes after the Anglo-Saxon immigration (see below). The maximum of 20% immigration tentatively suggested in the unpublished ancient mtDNA study would imply up to 100,000 female immigrants. "

He explains that the "calculations are as good as can be done with the data available at present. "

The biggest problem is that we don't know what the population of Britain was before the advent of germanic immigration. The lack of "post crash gap" british burials or archaeology contrasts with the higher population estimates of late roman britain. If we don't know how many britons there were, or where they were, other than the western side, it makes relative proportions subject to a fair amount of guesswork. Plus, until Joel Gunn's book 'Years Without Summer' the effects of the plague in the west and a second wave of hypothesised immigration from Scandinavia in the east, events in the mid 6th century have received little attention.

Millett's population figure of circa 4 milion for roman britain drops. Domesday estimates, which is the best set of data that we have is circa 2 million and this is against a backdrop of a rising population in the 9th, 10th and 11th century. The year 650 AD is given as the nadir and estimates for the population range between 1.2m and 1.5m. Unless we have a better picture of what happened to the Britons in the first half of the 5th century, comparisons between the native population and the incoming germanic settlers is pure guesswork. The data that we have is incomplete and not in any context. Even if we had better numeric data, without context, we still won't know what happened, other than there was migration, though I think it was over a couple of centuries and more comparable to chain migration.
 
Jan 2014
2,116
Westmorland
"The model based on skeletal evidence and the weapon burial rite implies an original immigration of about 200,000. Realistically, this may be closer to 100,000 if factors such as gender imbalance of migrants, high birth rates of settler communities, post-immigration social processes and acculturation are taken into account. "

As far as the biological evidence is concerned, he puts the figure higher:

He explains that the "calculations are as good as can be done with the data available at present. "

The biggest problem is that we don't know what the population of Britain was before the advent of germanic immigration. Plus, until Joel Gunn's book 'Years Without Summer' the effects of the plague in the west and a second wave of hypothesised immigration from Scandinavia in the east, events in the mid 6th century have received little attention
It gets worse. As I recall (and I might not be recalling correctly), the conclusion drawn from the skeletal evidence is posited partly on the assumption that weapons burial = Germanic migrant or descendant of one. That isn't a safe assumption.

As I recall (and, again, I might be recalling wrong) the biological evidence is based partly on extrapolating the fifth-century situation from modern DNA studies. That isn't terribly safe either.

Ultimately, we need a much bigger data set of ancient DNA before we can draw any evidenced conclusions. That will come, but until then, Harke's figures are at least a sober attempt to consider the question.

I agree that the impact of the dark sun event of 436 and the subsequent Justinian Plague are not given enough consideration in standard works. The evidence for trade with the
eastern Mediterranean gives a clear route for plague into both western Britain and Ireland and this is further strengthened by the entries in the reconstructed Chronicle of Ireland. However, the commonly expressed notion, repeated in Gunn's collection by Elizabeth O'Brien/Briggs (can't quite recall the surname off the top of my head) that the Anglo-Saxon areas escaped the plague is not terribly convincing. Gregory of Tours reports the plague in Arles and Gaul more widely in the window 527-551 and even though some argue for zero contact between Britons and Anglo-Saxons, no-one argues for zero contact between Anglo-Saxons and Frankish Gaul.
 
Aug 2011
1,564
Sweden
Eoomaer belongs to the misty past of Germanic legend, and there is no way to prove whether or not he actually lived. As an heroic figure, he may well have been incorporated into the Mercian royal genealogy to enhance the prestige of the dynasty.

The mass migration, and that is what seems to have happened, could have been caused by a number of factors. Authun mentioned one such reason. There was a down turn in the climate at that time, and there were the marine transgression which must have had a adverse effect on the coastal regions of Angeln. Environmental stress can cause a desperate people to mass migration and this has, indeed, happened throughout history. Political pressure too can lead to mass migration as we in Europe have seen only to tragically recently, and there was such political stress at this time with the Huns. All of these reasons can be called the "push factors". Then we have in the fifth century, a pull factor, and this was the breakdown of political authority in Britain when the Romans left. A golden opportunity for these early English to take advantage of the situation.

If you need further information on the prevailing climatic conditions around the North Sea littoral, in particularly the marine transgressions, Authun is the man.
Bad weather 536 onwards perhaps was a main factor, but I thought that colder climate resulted in sea regression, not transgression. But then perhaps other factors such as isostatics was involved. Even if live was not very bad for the Angles back home, a few lucky immigrants in Britain could possibly attract numbers of relatives to take the step. Just like people going for America in th19th C.

On island Mön in Denmark, which I have visited several times in relation to the Grendel episode in Beowulf, sediments show forestation during this period. Many bronze age mounds are today situated in the forest, which during earlier times was open landscape.
 
Aug 2011
1,564
Sweden
This is Othere's account told to Alfred. Othere was from the Lofoten Islands. He sailed to the white sea and then later into Denmark.

"Then this country continues until he comes to Sciringesheal, and Norway all the way on the port side. To the south of Sciringesheal a very great sea extends up into the land; it is broader than any man can see across. And Jutland is opposite on one side, and then Zealand. The sea extends many hundred miles up into the land.

And from Sciringesheal, he said that he sailed in five days to the trading-town which they call Hedeby; this stands between the Wends and the Saxons and the Angles, and belongs to the Danes. When he sailed there from Sciringesheal, then Denmark was to the port and open sea to the starboard for three days; and then for two days before he came to Hedeby there lay to his starboard, Jutland, and Zealand and many islands. The Angles dwelt in those lands before they came here to this country. And for those two days there lay to his port those islands which belong to Denmark."


Bede mentions Angeln earlier in his Ecclesiastical History of the English Speaking Peoples and the very early, distinctly anglian, cremation urns in places like Goodmanham, Sancton, Londesbrough etc have their 'closest parallels with those from Angeln and on the island of Fyn', according to JNL Myres. Later pottery is classed as Nordseemischgruppe or mixed north sea style.
Ok, you mentioned Angles also on Fyn in another thread. What I recall from an old publication, is that place names on Fyn show a pattern, where there are two zones, one in NW and one in SE. I believe that -lev names is found only in the latter part of the island. But I have to check this.

By the way, another source mentions a possible location of Nerthus sacred lake on the western tip of Als (Hellesö=Holy lake), which is in the middle of Angle area. Which could indicate that the Hjortspring boats was placed on the island for that reason.
 
Likes: authun
Aug 2011
1,564
Sweden
Ok, you mentioned Angles also on Fyn in another thread. What I recall from an old publication, is that place names on Fyn show a pattern, where there are two zones, one in NW and one in SE. I believe that -lev names is found only in the latter part of the island. But I have to check this.

By the way, another source mentions a possible location of Nerthus sacred lake on the western tip of Als (Hellesö=Holy lake), which is in the middle of Angle area. Which could indicate that the Hjortspring boats was placed on the island for that reason.
No, I was wrong. -lev names is instead found on the northern part of Fyn. I tried Angel- in the same database which showed four names in southern Jutland.
 
Last edited:
Nov 2008
1,086
England
Bad weather 536 onwards perhaps was a main factor, but I thought that colder climate resulted in sea regression, not transgression. But then perhaps other factors such as isostatics was involved. Even if live was not very bad for the Angles back home, a few lucky immigrants in Britain could possibly attract numbers of relatives to take the step. Just like people going for America in th19th C.

On island Mön in Denmark, which I have visited several times in relation to the Grendel episode in Beowulf, sediments show forestation during this period. Many bronze age mounds are today situated in the forest, which during earlier times was open landscape.
The evidence for the marine transgressions is a fact, and it is overwhelming, so there is no doubt. Marine regression does happen when the climate is cold enough to cause extreme conditions such as an ice age for instance. The climate cooled in the Dark Ages producing wetter conditions.
 

Similar History Discussions