The extent to which Anglo-Saxon society was capable of
large-scale transformations of the landscape is hotly disputed. This
interdisciplinary book – embracing archaeological and historical sources –
explores this important period in our landscape history and the extent to which
buildings, settlements and field systems were laid out using sophisticated
surveying techniques. In particular, recent research has found new and unexpected
evidence for the construction of building complexes and settlements on
geometrically precise grids, suggesting a revival of the techniques of the
Roman land-surveyors (Agrimensores).
Two units of measurement appear to have been used: the ‘short perch’ of 15 feet
in central and eastern England, where most
cases occur, and the ‘long perch’ of 18 feet at the small number of examples
identified in Wessex. This technically advanced planning is evident during two
periods: c.600–800, when it may have been a mostly
monastic practice, and c.940–1020, when it appears to have been revived in a
monastic context but then spread to a wider range of lay settlements.
Planning in the Early Medieval Landscape is a completely new perspective on how villages and other settlement were formed. It combines map and field evidence with manuscript treatises on land-surveying to show that the methods described in the treatises were not just theoretical, but were put into practice. In doing so it reveals a major aspect of previously unrecognised early medieval technology.