Anglo-Saxon England

Helmet from the ship-burial at Sutton Hoo

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.

A new burial ritual emerged, in which the dead received grave goods. Dress accessories suggest that a different costume was worn. Weapons and handmade 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. 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. Little more than a century later, the Normans under William the Conqueror seized control of England, following the Battle of Hastings in 1066. This event traditionally marks the end of the Anglo-Saxon period.

Image caption: Helmet from the ship-burial at Sutton Hoo
Anglo-Saxon, early 7th century AD. From Mound 1, Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, England

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