Yeavering

BookYeavering

Yeavering

An Anglo-British centre of early Northumbria

English Heritage

2014

July 15th, 2014

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This volume – originally published in 1977 and long out-of-print, but still in demand – describes the excavation of a site near Wooler in Northumberland which is identified with the place called Ad Gefrin by the Venerable Bede. There, Edwin of Northumbria had a northern palace; and there Paulinus, his Roman missionary, achieved mass-conversions.

Excavation showed that the roots of Ad Gefrin stretched further back in time. The site was used as a cremation cemetery from about 2000 BC. Put under the plough, at or after the time that a British oppidum was established on an overlooking hill, it was still receiving cremations during the Roman Iron Age. Then, or slightly later, the first element of the future township was established: a palisaded enclosure rebuilt repeatedly (finally by Edwin himself). By the sixth century a little mortuary enclosure or ‘shrine’, its inhumations clustered round the focus of the prehistoric cremation cemetery, had been replaced by what appears to have been a pagan temple. That, preserved as part of Edwin’s township, was closely followed by a wooden ‘theatre’ for formal assemblies (which outlived Edwin). The series of royal halls so closely studied here then began: Edwin’s was the greatest, but it was neither the first nor the last.

Techniques of excavation were evolved specially to allow the precise recovery of the details of vanished wooden structures. The author showed that archaeological enquiries into historical periods must, both in questions and answers, also serve the needs of students of written evidence. There has been much scholarly reinterpretation of the original results, but the volume stands as a record of that work.

This volume – originally published in 1977 and long out-of-print, but still in demand – describes the excavation of a site near Wooler in Northumberland which is identified with the place called Ad Gefrin by the Venerable Bede. There, Edwin of Northumbria had a northern palace; and there Paulinus, his Roman missionary, achieved mass-conversions. Excavation showed that the roots of Ad Gefrin stretched further back in time. The site was used as a cremation cemetery from about 2000 BC. Put under the plough, at or after the time that a British oppidum was established on an overlooking hill, it was still receiving cremations during the Roman Iron Age. Then, or slightly later, the first element of the future township was established: a palisaded enclosure rebuilt repeatedly (finally by Edwin himself). By the sixth century a little mortuary enclosure or ‘shrine’, its inhumations clustered round the focus of the prehistoric cremation cemetery, had been replaced by what appears to have been a pagan temple. That, preserved as part of Edwin’s township, was closely followed by a wooden ‘theatre’ for formal assemblies (which outlived Edwin). The series of royal halls so closely studied here then began: Edwin’s was the greatest, but it was neither the first nor the last. Techniques of excavation were evolved specially to allow the precise recovery of the details of vanished wooden structures. The author showed that archaeological enquiries into historical periods must, both in questions and answers, also serve the needs of students of written evidence. There has been much scholarly reinterpretation of the original results, but the volume stands as a record of that work.

Author Information

The late Brian Hope-Taylor excavated several classic Dark Age period sites, recording them in meticulous detail as evidenced by the artwork and discussion in this volume.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Cover1
Half-Title Page2
Title Page3
Copyright Page477
CONTENTS4
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS IN THE TEXT6
LIST OF PLATES11
PREFACE14
CHAPTER ONE: THE SITE: ITS DISCOVERY AND TOPOGRAPHY17
(A) INTRODUCTION: THE CONTEXT OF DISCOVERY17
(B) LOCAL TOPOGRAPHY AND PLACE-NAMES21
I. Location21
II. Yeavering Bell, the oppidum and its field ef view22
III. Rivers, Routes and Geology25
IV. The Whaleback27
V. Old Yeavering30
VI. Local Climate31
VII. The names TEAVERING and MAELMIN31
VIII. The River-names GLEN and TILL32
IX. The name BELL32
(C) THE PATTERN OF EARLY SETTLEMENT IN BERNICIA32
CHAPTER TWO: EXCAVATIONS AT YEAVERING 1953–6244
(I) FACTORS DETERMINING EXCAVATIONAL METHOD44
(a) The nature ef the inquiries44
(b) The plrysical nature ef the remains and their context44
(c) General conditions prevailing on the site46
(d) The nature of the labour force47
(II) THE PROCESSES OF EXCAVATION AND RECORD47
(III) DIAGNOSIS BY SOIL-DISSECTION52
CHAPTER THREE: THE EXCAVATED STRUCTURES62
(I) GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF STRUCTURES AND OCCURRENCES OF ARTIFACTS62
AREA A: THE CENTRAL COMPLEX62
AREA B: THE EASTERN CEMETERY, BUILDING B, THE GREAT ENCLOSURE'S PALISADES AND THE RING-DITCH86
(i) THE EASTERN CEMETERY, PIT BX, GRAVE BX I AND BUILDING B 86
(ii) THE GREAT ENCLOSURE'S PALISADES AND THE EASTERN RING-DITCH94
AREA BC: THE ENTRANCE-WORKS OF THE GREAT ENCLOSURE101
AREA C: THE ECHELON OF NORTHERN BUILDINGS104
AREA D: THE WESTERN RANGE OF BUILDINGS AND THE WESTERN CEMETERY111
AREA E135
(II) SUMMARY OF STRUCTURAL SEQUENCE EVIDENCED BY INTERSECTIONS IN AREAS A AND B138
(III) THE PROCESSES OF SETTING-OUT, MEASUREMENT AND CONSTRUCTION AS EVIDENCED BY THE MAJOR BCILDINGS140
BUILDING E140
BUILDINGS A2 AND A4141
BUILDINGS CI-4 AND A3157
BUILDINGS DI, D2 AND D3162
BUILDINGS A5 AND D6163
BUILDINGS A6 AND A7163
(IV) STRUCTURAL TYPOLOGY AND STYLE; PHASES, FUNCTIONS AND EVENTS166
(a) Types and Styles166
(b) Phases167
(c) Functions and Events: SUMMARY AND INTERPRETATION170
CHAPTER FOUR: THE SMALL-FINDS AND THEIR ARCHAEOLOGICAL AFFINITIES186
(A) CATALOGUE186
(i) Pottery186
(ii) Loom-Weights (Lr–4, Fig. 86 (a))197
(iii) Gold (G1, G2, Plate III)198
(iv) Iron and Bronze (Figs. 87–91)199
(v) Glass (GLr and GL2, Fig. 86 (b))209
(vi) Objects ef Stone (Fig. 92)210
(B) GENERAL DISCUSSION OF THE FINDS212
(C) A NOTE ON THE POSSIBLE NATURE AND IMPLICATIONS OF THE WOODEN OBJECT IN GRAVE AX216
CHAPTER FIVE: THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL AFFINITIES OF THE TIMBER STRUCTURES AND OTHER FEATURES OF THE SITE220
(A) THE FIELD-SYSTEM220
(B) THE GREAT ENCLOSURE221
(C) BUILDINGS A5 and D6225
(D) THE TRENCH-BUILT HALLS OF PHASES II, III AB and III229
(E) THE TRENCH-BUILT HALLS OF PHASES IV and V253
(F) THE SUNKEN-FLOORED BUILDINGS OF PHASES II and IV255
(G) B UILDING E (Figs. 55–57)257
(H) THE GRAVES AND STANDING POSTS260
CHAPTER SIX: THE HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF YEAVERING292
APPENDIX I: Yeavering's faunal remains341
APPENDIX II: Charcoal349
APPENDIX III: CATALOGUE OF YEAVERING'S CREMATION-BURIALS AND THEIR ASSOCIATED ARTIFACTS351
NOTES AND REFERENCES374
SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY391
INDEX393
PLATES409