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The Romans officially withdrew from Britain in AD 410. It is from around AD 450 that we notice large-scale evidence for new and different kinds of people in the archaeological record of the area today called England.
Following a new burial ritual, the dead received grave goods. Dress accessories suggest that a different costume was worn. Weapons and hand made pottery are of previously unseen form and decoration. We also see new house forms and the adoption of a Germanic language that would later become English.
Historical sources mention incomers from regions called Angeln and Saxony, so we call these newcomers Anglo-Saxons. Their way of life can indeed be paralleled in northern Germany and Denmark, but also in northern France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia and there would have been an element of the original Romano-British population.
By the seventh century a number of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms had formed. The treasures from the ship burial at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, for instance, may bear witness to an East Anglian royal house. At the same time Christianity became established, the first towns formed from trading centres and the Anglo-Saxons started minting their own coinage.
With time, the kingdoms were united, notably under Alfred the Great in the ninth century, when the Anglo-Saxons faced major opposition from Viking settlers in the east and north of England. By the 950s, one unified kingdom emerged.
The Anglo-Saxon collection of the British Museum reflects all the different influences and developments in the make-up of Anglo-Saxon England. It starts with the first settlers and illustrates with later pieces how England became one of the major artistic and intellectual forces in early medieval Europe.