Conquest and continuity

Characterising portable metalwork
in Late Saxon and Anglo-Norman England,
AD 900-1250

Project team

Department of Portable Antiquities
and Treasure 


Supported by

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • An Arts and Humanities Research Council
    Collaborative Doctoral Award

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The Norman Conquest of AD 1066 brought huge social and political change in England, most visible in the elite architecture of the period immediately after it. This project will explore whether or not these shifts can be seen in the portable material culture of the time.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme database of archaeological objects discovered in England and Wales provides an unprecedentedly large dataset with which to study different regional responses to a ‘national’ socio-political event of the magnitude of the Norman Conquest. While it is thought that there are few portable metal artefacts dateable to the eleventh and twelfth centuries, this project aims to critically re-examine the dating of such objects over the wider period between AD 900 and AD 1250.

Having achieved a better profiling of relevant non-ferrous dress accessories, equestrian equipment and weaponry, interesting questions can be asked of the cultural effects (or relative lack) of the Norman Conquest, and by extension of perceived turning points in history.

Copper alloy mount for a stirrup strap

Copper alloy mount for a stirrup strap, late Anglo-Saxon, 11th century, Peterborough

The key research questions include:

  • What changes can be discerned in English metalwork between about AD 900 and about AD 1250, particularly in terms of raw material, morphology, manufacturing methods, and ornament? Specifically, did the use of particular ‘pre-conquest’ artefact forms and styles persist beyond the Norman Conquest?
  • How is artefactual variation expressed in terms of geographical patterning (regionality) and in differing contexts (rural/urban; high status/low status)?
  • What are the implications of spatial and temporal patterning? In what ways was material culture an active player in the social and political discourse of the period and what differences can be identified between different areas of England?

The findings will be promoted widely to achieve a better understanding of Anglo-Norman metalwork within both academic and public realms.