The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century, the direct ancestors of the majority of the modern British people. They comprise people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from continental Europe, their descendants, indigenous British groups who adopted many aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture and language; the Anglo-Saxon period denotes the period in Britain between about 450 and 1066, after their initial settlement and up until the Norman conquest. The early Anglo-Saxon period includes the creation of an English nation, with many of the aspects that survive today, including regional government of shires and hundreds. During this period, Christianity was established and there was a flowering of literature and language. Charters and law were established; the term Anglo-Saxon is popularly used for the language, spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons in England and eastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century. In scholarly use, it is more called Old English.
The history of the Anglo-Saxons is the history of a cultural identity. It developed from divergent groups in association with the people's adoption of Christianity, was integral to the establishment of various kingdoms. Threatened by extended Danish invasions and military occupation of eastern England, this identity was re-established; the visible Anglo-Saxon culture can be seen in the material culture of buildings, dress styles, illuminated texts and grave goods. Behind the symbolic nature of these cultural emblems, there are strong elements of tribal and lordship ties; the elite declared themselves as kings who developed burhs, identified their roles and peoples in Biblical terms. Above all, as Helena Hamerow has observed, "local and extended kin groups remained...the essential unit of production throughout the Anglo-Saxon period." The effects persist in the 21st century as, according to a study published in March 2015, the genetic makeup of British populations today shows divisions of the tribal political units of the early Anglo-Saxon period.
Use of the term Anglo-Saxon assumes that the words Angles, Saxons or Anglo-Saxon have the same meaning in all the sources. This term began to be used only in the 8th century to distinguish "Germanic" groups in Britain from those on the continent. Catherine Hills summarised the views of many modern scholars in her observation that attitudes towards Anglo-Saxons, hence the interpretation of their culture and history, have been "more contingent on contemporary political and religious theology as on any kind of evidence." The Old English ethnonym "Angul-Seaxan" comes from the Latin Angli-Saxones and became the name of the peoples Bede calls Anglorum and Gildas calls Saxones. Anglo-Saxon is a term, used by Anglo-Saxons themselves, it is they identified as ængli, Seaxe or, more a local or tribal name such as Mierce, Gewisse, Westseaxe, or Norþanhymbre. The use of Anglo-Saxon disguises the extent to which people identified as Anglo-Scandinavian after the Viking age, or as Anglo-Norman after the Norman conquest in 1066.
The earliest historical references using this term are from outside Britain, referring to piratical Germanic raiders,'Saxones' who attacked the shores of Britain and Gaul in the 3rd century AD. Procopius states that Britain was settled by three races: the Angiloi and Britons; the term Angli Saxones seems to have first been used in continental writing of the 8th century. The name therefore seemed to mean "English" Saxons; the Christian church seems to have used the word Angli. The terms ænglisc and Angelcynn were used by West Saxon King Alfred to refer to the people; the first use of the term Anglo-Saxon amongst the insular sources is in the titles for Athelstan: Angelsaxonum Denorumque gloriosissimus rex and rex Angulsexna and Norþhymbra imperator paganorum gubernator Brittanorumque propugnator. At other times he uses the term rex Anglorum, which meant both Anglo-Saxons and Danes. Alfred the Great used Anglosaxonum Rex; the term Engla cyningc is used by Æthelred. King Cnut in 1021 was the first to refer to the land and not the people with this term: ealles Englalandes cyningc.
These titles express the sense that the Anglo-Saxons were a Christian people with a king anointed by God. The indigenous Common Brittonic speakers referred to Anglo-Saxons as Saxones or Saeson. Catherine Hills suggests that it is no accident, "that the English call themselves by the name sanctified by the Church, as that of a people chosen by God, whereas their enemies use the name applied to piratical raiders"; the early Anglo-Saxon period covers the history of medieval Britain that starts from the end of Roman rul
Mercia was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. The name is a Latinisation of the Old English Mierce or Myrce, meaning "border people". Mercia dominated what would become England for three centuries, subsequently going into a gradual decline while Wessex conquered and united all the kingdoms into Kingdom of England; the kingdom was centred on the valley of the River Trent and its tributaries, in the region now known as the English Midlands. The kingdom did not have a single capital as such. In times before a sizable civil service the'capital' was wherever the king was at any given time. Early in its existence Repton seems to have been the location of an important royal estate. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, it was from Repton in 873-4 that the Great Heathen Army deposed the King of Mercia. Earlier, King Offa seems to have favoured Tamworth, it was there where he was spent many a Christmas. For 300 years, having annexed or gained submissions from five of the other six kingdoms of the Heptarchy, Mercia dominated England south of the River Humber: this period is known as the Mercian Supremacy.
The reign of King Offa, best remembered for his Dyke that designated the boundary between Mercia and the Welsh kingdoms, is sometimes known as the "Golden Age of Mercia". Nicholas Brooks noted that "the Mercians stand out as by far the most successful of the various early Anglo-Saxon peoples until the ninth century", some historians, such as Sir Frank Stenton, believe the unification of England south of the Humber estuary was achieved during the reign of Offa. Mercia was a pagan kingdom; the Diocese of Mercia was founded in 656, with the first bishop, based at Repton. After 13 years at Repton, in 669 the fifth bishop, Saint Chad, moved the bishopric to Lichfield, where it has been based since. In 691, the Diocese of Mercia became the Diocese of Lichfield. For a brief period between 787 and 799 the diocese was an archbishopric, although it was dissolved in 803; the current bishop, Michael Ipgrave, is the 99th. At the end of the 9th century, following the invasions of the Vikings and their Great Heathen Army, much of the former Mercian territory was absorbed into the Danelaw.
At its height, the Danelaw included all of East Anglia and most of the North of England. The final Mercian king, Ceolwulf II, died in 879, it was ruled by a lord or ealdorman under the overlordship of Alfred the Great, who styled himself "King of the Anglo-Saxons". The kingdom had a brief period of independence in the mid-10th century, again briefly in 1016. Mercia is still used as a geographic designation, the name is used by a wide range of organisations, including military units, public and voluntary bodies. Mercia's exact evolution at the start of the Anglo-Saxon era remains more obscure than that of Northumbria, Kent, or Wessex. Mercia developed an effective political structure and adopted Christianity than the other kingdoms. Archaeological surveys show that Angles settled the lands north of the River Thames by the 6th century; the name "Mercia" is Old English for "boundary folk", the traditional interpretation is that the kingdom originated along the frontier between the native Welsh and the Anglo-Saxon invaders.
However, P. Hunter Blair argued an alternative interpretation: that they emerged along the frontier between Northumbria and the inhabitants of the Trent river valley. While its earliest boundaries will never be known, there is general agreement that the territory, called "the first of the Mercians" in the Tribal Hidage covered much of south Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire and northern Warwickshire; the earliest person named in any records as a king of Mercia is Creoda, said to have been the great-grandson of Icel. Coming to power around 584, he built a fortress at Tamworth, his son Pybba succeeded him in 593. Cearl, a kinsman of Creoda, followed Pybba in 606; the Mercian kings were the only Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy ruling house known to claim a direct family link with a pre-migration Continental Germanic monarchy. The next Mercian king, ruled from about 626 or 633 until 655; some of what is known about Penda comes from the hostile account of Bede, who disliked him – both as an enemy to Bede's own Northumbria and as a pagan.
However, Bede admits that Penda allowed Christian missionaries from Lindisfarne into Mercia, did not restrain them from preaching. In 633 Penda and his ally Cadwallon of Gwynedd defeated and killed Edwin, who had become not only ruler of the newly unified Northumbria, but bretwalda, or high king, over the southern kingdoms; when another Northumbrian king, Oswald and again claimed overlordship of the south, he suffered defeat and death at the hands of Penda and his allies – in 642 at the Battle of Maserfield. In 655, after a period of confusion in Northumbria, Penda brought 30 sub-kings to fight the new Northumbrian king Oswiu at the Battle of Winwaed, in which Penda in turn lost the battle and his life; the battle led to a temporary collapse of Mercian power. Penda's son Peada, who had converted to Christianity a
Kingdom of East Anglia
The Kingdom of the East Angles, today known as the Kingdom of East Anglia, was a small independent kingdom of the Angles comprising what are now the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk and the eastern part of the Fens. The kingdom formed in the 6th century in the wake of the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain, it was ruled by the Wuffingas in the 7th and 8th centuries, but fell to Mercia in 794, was conquered by the Danes in 869, forming part of the Danelaw. It was conquered by Edward the Elder and incorporated into the Kingdom of England in 918; the Kingdom of East Anglia was organised in the first or second quarter of the 6th century with Wehha listed as the first king of the East Angles, followed by Wuffa. Until 749 the kings of East Anglia were Wuffingas, named after the semi-historical Wuffa. During the early seventh century, under Rædwald of East Anglia, it was a powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Rædwald, the first of the East Anglian kings to be baptised as a Christian, is considered by many experts to be the person, buried within the ship burial at Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge.
During the decades that followed his death in around 624, East Anglia became dominated by the powerful kingdom of Mercia. Several of Rædwald's successors were killed in battle, such as Sigeberht. Under Sigeberht's rule and the guidance of his bishop, Felix of Burgundy, Christianity was established in East Anglia. After Æthelberht II was killed by the Mercians in 794, until 825, East Anglia ceased to be an independent kingdom, although it reasserted its independence under Eadwald in 796, it survived until 869, when the Vikings defeated the East Anglians in battle and their king, Edmund the Martyr, was killed. After 879, the Vikings settled permanently in East Anglia. In 903 the exiled Æthelwold ætheling induced the East Anglian Danes to wage a disastrous war on his cousin Edward the Elder. By 917, after a succession of Danish defeats, East Anglia had submitted to Edward and was incorporated into the kingdom of England, afterwards becoming an earldom. East Anglia was settled by the Anglo-Saxons as early as around 450, earlier than many other regions.
It emerged from the settlement and political consolidation of Angles in the approximate area of the former territory of the Iceni and the Roman civitas with its centre at Venta Icenorum, close to Caistor St Edmund. According to Bede, the East Angles were descended from natives of Angeln; the first reference to the East Angles is from around 704–713, in the Whitby Life of St Gregory. The East Angles formed one of the seven kingdoms known to post-mediaeval historians as the Heptarchy, a scheme used by Henry of Huntingdon in the twelfth century; some modern historians have questioned whether seven independent kingdoms really existed contemporaneously, claim that the political situation was much more complicated. The East Angles were ruled by the pagan Wuffingas dynasty named after an early king, although his name could have been an invention to explain the dynastic name, which means'descendants of the wolf'. An indispensable main source of information on the early history of the kingdom and its rulers is Bede's Ecclesiastical History, but he provided few facts relating to the chronology of the East Anglian kings or the length of their reigns.
Nothing is known of the earliest kings of East Anglia, or how the kingdom was organised, although a possible indication of the original centre of royal power is the concentration of ship-burials at Snape and Sutton Hoo in eastern Suffolk. The "North Folk" and "South Folk" may have existed before the arrival of the first East Anglian kings; the most powerful of the Wuffingas kings was Rædwald,'the son of Tytil, whose father was Wuffa', according to the Ecclesiastical History. For a brief period in the early seventh century, whilst Rædwald ruled, East Anglia was among the most powerful kingdoms in Anglo-Saxon England: Rædwald was described by Bede as the overlord of the kingdoms south of the Humber. In 616, he had been strong enough to defeat and kill the Northumbrian king Æthelfrith at the Battle of the River Idle and enthrone Edwin of Northumbria, he was the individual honoured by the sumptuous ship burial at Sutton Hoo. It has been suggested by Blair, on the strength of the parallels between some of the objects found under Mound 1 at Sutton Hoo and those discovered at Vendel in Sweden, that the Wuffingas may have been the descendants of an eastern Swedish royal family.
However, as those items thought to have come from Sweden are now believed to have been made in England, it seems less that the Wuffingas were of Swedish origin. During the seventh century, Anglo-Saxon Christianity was established; the extent to which paganism was displaced in East Anglia is exemplified by a lack of any East Anglian settlements that are named after the old gods. Rædwald was the first East Anglian king to be baptised, in 604, he maintained a Christian altar, but at the same time continued to worship pagan gods. From 616, when pagan monarchs returned in Kent and Essex, until Rædwald's death, East Anglia was the only Anglo-Saxon kingdom with a reigning baptised king. On his death in around 624, he was succeeded by his son Eorpwald, soon afterwards converted from paganism as a result of the influence of Edwin, but his new religion was evidently opposed in East Anglia and Eorpwald met his death at the hands of a pagan, Ricberht. After three years of apostasy, Christianity prevailed with the accession of Eorpwald's brother Sigeberht, baptised during his exile in Francia.
The 8th century is the period from 701 to 800 in accordance with the Julian calendar in the Common Era. The coast of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula come under Islamic Arab domination; the westward expansion of the Umayyad Empire was famously halted at the Siege of Constantinople by the Byzantine Empire and the Battle of Tours by the Franks. The tide of Arab conquest came to an end in the middle of the 8th century. In Europe, late in the century, the Vikings, seafaring peoples from Scandinavia, begin raiding the coasts of Europe and the Mediterranean, go on to found several important kingdoms. In Asia, the Pala Empire is founded in Bengal; the Tang dynasty reaches its pinnacle under Chinese Emperor Xuanzong. The Nara period begins in Japan. Estimated century in which the poem Beowulf is composed. Classical Maya civilization begins to decline; the first Serbian state is formed at the beginning of the century. Borobodur, the famous Indonesian Buddhist structure, begins construction as a non-Buddhist shrine.
Buddhist Jataka stories are translated into Arabic as Kalilag and Damnag. An account of Buddha's life is translated into Greek by Saint John of Damascus, circulated to Christians as the story of Barlaam and Josaphat. Height of the Classic period in pre-Columbian Maya civilization history. Śāntideva, a Buddhist monk at Nalanda Monastery in India, composes the famous Bodhicharyāvatāra, or Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life. The height of the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian, China is extended by 5 stories. 701: The Taihō Code is enacted in late Asuka period Japan. 705: Overthrow of Empress Wu Zetian, the reign of China's first and only sole-ruling empress ends. 705: Justinian II is forced to give the title Caesar of Byzantium to the Bulgarian Emperor Tervel. The Byzantine Empire begins to pay annual tributes to Bulgaria. 708 – 711: The Bulgarians defeat Justinian II at the battle of Anchiallus. Arab armies occupied Sindh. 710: Empress Genmei moves the capital to Heijō-kyū, initiating the Nara period of Japan.
711: Palenque is conquered by Toniná. 711: Tariq ibn Ziyad crosses the Straits of Gibraltar. With the creation of Al-Andalus, most of the Iberian Peninsula is conquered by Arab and Berber Muslims, thus ending the Visigothic rule, beginning eight centuries of Muslim rule. 712: Liutprand, King of the Lombards begins his reign. C. 712: Metropolitan episcopal see is established by the Church of the East in Chinese capital of Chang'an. 712 – 756: Emperor Xuanzong reigned, the time was considered one of China's high points. 712 – 740: Caliphate campaigns in India 713: Death of Dajian Huineng and last Patriarch of Chán Buddhism. 717 – 718: Siege of Constantinople. The Bulgarians and the Byzantines decisively defeat the invading Arabs, thus halting the Arab advance toward Europe. 718: Sri Indravarman King of Srivijaya send a letter to the Caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz of the Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus, signing early ancient Indonesian official contact with Islamic world in the Middle East. 726: Byzantine Emperor Leo III the Isaurian destroys the icon of Christ above the Chalke Gate in the capital city of Constantinople, beginning the first phase of the Byzantine Iconoclasm.
731: Bede completes his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum. 732: Battle of Tours. Near Poitiers, leader of the Franks Charles Martel and his men defeat a large army of Moors under the governor of Cordoba, Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, killed during the battle; the Battle of Tours halts the advance of Islam into Western Europe and establishes a balance of power between Western Europe and the Byzantine Empire. 732: The Sanjaya dynasty is founded around this time according to the Canggal inscription. 738: Quiriguá declares independence from Copan 740: Battle of Akroinon. Byzantines win their first large-scale victory in a pitched battle against the Arabs. 742: For the municipal census of the Tang-dynasty Chinese capital city Chang'an and its metropolitan area of Jingzhou Fu, the New Book of Tang records that in this year there were 362,921 registered families with 1,960,188 persons. 748: The Chinese Buddhist monk Jian Zhen writes in his Yue Jue Shu of the international sea traffic coming to Guangzhou, ships from Borneo, Sri Lanka and others bringing tons of goods.
750: The last Umayyad Caliph Marwan II is overthrown and executed by the first Abbasid Caliph, Abu al-Abbas al-Saffah. The Caliphate is moved to Baghdad which would develop into a centre of trade and culture; the Ghana Empire begins in western Africa. Mid-8th century - Great Wild Goose Pagoda at Ci'en Temple, Xi'an, Shanxi, is rebuilt. C. mid-8th century - Camel Carrying a Group of Musicians, from a tomb near Xi'an, Shanxi, is made. Tang dynasty, it is now kept at Museum of Beijing. 751: Arabian armies defeat Chinese Tang dynasty troops in the Battle of Talas, in the high Pamirs near Samarkand, conquer Central Asia completely. 752: The Hindu Medang kingdom flourishes and declines. 755 – 763: The An Shi Rebellion devastates China during the mid Tang dynasty. 757: King Offa of Mercia becomes dominant ruler in England. 758: Arab and Persian pirates and travelers burn and loot the Chinese city of Guangzhou, while the Tang Dynasty authorities shut the port down for the next five decades. 760: The construction of Borobudur started.
768: Pepin dies. 770's – 780's: Java launched series of naval raids on ports of Dai Viet and Cambodia. The naval raids was launched by Sailendran-Srivijayan Maharaja
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to c. 886 and King of the Anglo-Saxons from c. 886 to 899. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex, his father died when he was young and three of Alfred's brothers reigned in turn. Alfred took the throne after the death of his brother Æthelred and spent several years dealing with Viking invasions, he won a decisive victory in the Battle of Edington in 878 and made an agreement with the Vikings, creating what was known as Danelaw in the North of England. Alfred oversaw the conversion of Viking leader Guthrum to Christianity, he defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, he became the dominant ruler in England. He was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself King of the Anglo-Saxons. Details of his life are described in a work by 9th-century Welsh bishop Asser. Alfred had a reputation as a learned and merciful man of a gracious and level-headed nature who encouraged education, proposing that primary education be conducted in English rather than Latin, improving his kingdom's legal system, military structure, his people's quality of life.
He was given the epithet "the Great" after the Reformation in the sixteenth century. The only other king of England given this epithet is Cnut the Great. In 2002, Alfred was ranked number 14 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. Alfred was born in the royal estate of Wantage in Berkshire but now in Oxfordshire, between 847 and 849, he was the youngest of five sons of King Æthelwulf of Wessex by Osburh. In 853 Alfred is reported by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to have been sent to Rome where he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV, who "anointed him as king". Victorian writers interpreted this as an anticipatory coronation in preparation for his eventual succession to the throne of Wessex; this is unlikely. A letter of Leo IV shows that Alfred was made a "consul", it may be based upon the fact that Alfred accompanied his father on a pilgrimage to Rome where he spent some time at the court of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks, around 854–855. On their return from Rome in 856 Æthelwulf was deposed by his son Æthelbald.
With civil war looming the magnates of the realm met in council to hammer out a compromise. Æthelbald would retain the western shires, Æthelwulf would rule in the east. When King Æthelwulf died in 858 Wessex was ruled by three of Alfred's brothers in succession: Æthelbald, Æthelberht and Æthelred. Bishop Asser tells the story of how, as a child, Alfred won a book of Saxon poems, offered as a prize by his mother to the first of her children able to memorize it. Legend has it that the young Alfred spent time in Ireland seeking healing. Alfred was troubled by health problems throughout his life, it is thought. Statues of Alfred in Winchester and Wantage portray him as a great warrior. Evidence suggests he was not physically strong and, though not lacking in courage, he was noted more for his intellect than as a warlike character. Alfred is not mentioned during the short reigns of his older brothers Æthelberht; the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle describes the Great Heathen Army of Danes landing in East Anglia with the intent of conquering the four kingdoms which constituted Anglo-Saxon England in 865.
Alfred's public life began in 865 at age 16 with the accession of his third brother, 18 year-old Æthelred. During this period, Bishop Asser gave Alfred the unique title of secundarius, which may indicate a position similar to the Celtic tanist, a recognised successor associated with the reigning monarch; this arrangement may have been sanctioned by Alfred's father or by the Witan to guard against the danger of a disputed succession should Æthelred fall in battle. It was a well known tradition among other Germanic peoples - such as the Swedes and Franks to whom the Anglo-Saxons were related - to crown a successor as royal prince and military commander. In 868, Alfred is recorded as fighting beside Æthelred in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the Great Heathen Army led by Ivar the Boneless out of the adjoining Kingdom of Mercia; the Danes arrived in his homeland at the end of 870, nine engagements were fought in the following year, with varying outcomes. A successful skirmish at the Battle of Englefield in Berkshire on 31 December 870 was followed by a severe defeat at the siege and Battle of Reading by Ivar's brother Halfdan Ragnarsson on 5 January 871.
Four days the Anglo-Saxons won a brilliant victory at the Battle of Ashdown on the Berkshire Downs near Compton or Aldworth. Alfred is credited with the success of this last battle; the Saxons were defeated at the Battle of Basing on 22 January. They were defeated again on 22 March at the Battle of Merton. Æthelred died shortly afterwards on 23 April. In April 871 King Æthelred died and Alfred succeeded to the throne of Wessex and the burden of its defence though Æthelred left two under-age sons, Æthelhelm and Æthelwold; this was in accordance with the agreement that Æthelred and Alfred had made earlier that year in an assembly at an unidentified place called Swinbeorg. The brothers had agreed that whichever of them outlived the other would inherit the personal property that King Æthelwulf had left jointly to his sons in his will; the deceased's sons would receive only w
Wessex was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the south of Great Britain, from 519 until England was unified by Æthelstan in the early 10th century. The Anglo-Saxons believed that Wessex was founded by Cerdic and Cynric; the two main sources for the history of Wessex are the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List, which sometimes conflict. Wessex was expanded under his rule. Cædwalla conquered Sussex and the Isle of Wight, his successor, issued one of the oldest surviving English law codes and established a second West Saxon bishopric. The throne subsequently passed to a series of kings with unknown genealogies. During the 8th century, as the hegemony of Mercia grew, Wessex retained its independence, it was during this period. Under Egbert, Sussex, Kent and Mercia, along with parts of Dumnonia, were conquered, he obtained the overlordship of the Northumbrian king. However, Mercian independence was restored in 830. During the reign of his successor, Æthelwulf, a Danish army arrived in the Thames estuary, but was decisively defeated.
When Æthelwulf's son, Æthelbald, usurped the throne, the kingdom was divided to avoid war. Æthelwulf was succeeded in turn by the youngest being Alfred the Great. Wessex was invaded by the Danes in 871, Alfred was compelled to pay them to leave, they were forced to withdraw. In 878 they forced Alfred to flee to the Somerset Levels, but were defeated at the Battle of Edington. During his reign Alfred issued a new law code, gathered scholars to his court and was able to devote funds to building ships, organising an army and establishing a system of burhs. Alfred's son, captured the eastern Midlands and East Anglia from the Danes and became ruler of Mercia in 918 upon the death of his sister, Æthelflæd. Edward's son, Æthelstan, conquered Northumbria in 927, England became a unified kingdom for the first time. Cnut the Great, who conquered England in 1016, created the wealthy and powerful earldom of Wessex, but in 1066 Harold Godwinson reunited the earldom with the crown and Wessex ceased to exist.
Modern archaeologists use the term Wessex culture for a Middle Bronze Age culture in this area. A millennium before that, in the Late Neolithic, the ceremonial sites of Avebury and Stonehenge were completed on Salisbury Plain; this area has many other earthworks and erected stone monuments from the Neolithic and Early Bronze periods, including the Dorset Cursus, an earthwork 10 km long and 100 m wide, oriented to the midwinter sunset. Although agriculture and hunting were pursued during this long period, there is little archaeological evidence of human settlements. From the Neolithic onwards the chalk downland of Wessex was traversed by the Harrow Way, which can still be traced from Marazion in Cornwall to the coast of the English Channel near Dover, was connected with the ancient tin trade. During the Roman occupation starting in the 1st century AD, numerous country villas with attached farms were established across Wessex, along with the important towns of Dorchester and Winchester; the Romans, or rather the Romano-British, built another major road that integrated Wessex, running eastwards from Exeter through Dorchester to Winchester and Silchester and on to London.
The early 4th century was a peaceful time in Roman Britain. However, following a previous incursion in 360, stopped by Roman forces, the Picts and Scots attacked Hadrian's Wall in the far north in 367 and defeated the soldiers stationed along it, they laid siege to London. The Romans responded promptly, Count Theodosius had recovered the land up to the Wall by 368; the Romans temporarily ceased to rule Britain on the death of Magnus Maximus in 388. Stilicho attempted to restore Roman authority in the late 390s, but in 401 he took Roman troops from Britain to fight the Goths. Two subsequent Roman rulers of Britain, appointed by the remaining troops, were murdered. Constantine III became ruler, but he left for Gaul and withdrew more troops; the Britons requested assistance from Honorius, but when he replied in 410 he told them to manage their own defenses. By this point, there were no longer any Roman troops in Britain. Economic decline occurred after these events: circulation of Roman coins ended and the importation of items from the Roman Empire stopped.
In An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England, Peter Hunter Blair divides the traditions concerning the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain into two categories: Welsh and English. De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, written by Gildas, contains the best preservation of the Welsh tradition. In brief, it states that after the Romans left, the Britons managed to continue for a time without any major disruptions. However, when faced with northern invaders, a certain unnamed ruler in Britain requested assistance from the Saxons in exchange for land. There were no conflicts between the British and the Saxons for a time, but following "a dispute about the supply of provisions" the Saxons warred against the British and damaged parts of the country. In time, some Saxon troops left Britain. A lengthy conflict ensued, in which neither side gained any decisive advantage until the Britons routed the Saxons at the Battle of M
Archaeology of Igbo-Ukwu
The archaeology of Igbo-Ukwu revealed bronze artifacts dated to the 9th century A. D. which were discovered by Isiah Anozie in 1939 while digging a well in his compound in Igbo-Ukwu, an Igbo town in Anambra State, Nigeria. As a result of these finds, three archaeological sites were excavated in 1959 and 1964 by Thurstan Shaw which revealed more than 700 high quality artifacts of copper and iron, as well as about 165000 glass and stone beads, pottery and ivory, they are the oldest bronze artifacts known in West African and were manufactured centuries before the emergence of other known bronze producing centers such as those of Ife and Benin. The bronzes include numerous ritual vessels, crowns, staff ornaments and fly-whisk handles; the Igbo-Ukwu bronzes amazed the world with a high level of technical and artistic proficiency and sophistication, distinctly more advanced than contemporary bronze casting in Europe. Peter Garlake compares the Igbo-Ukwu bronzes "to the finest jewelry of rococo Europe or of Carl Faberge," and William Buller Fagg states they were created with "a strange rococo Faberge type virtuosity."
Frank Willett says that the Igbo-Ukwu bronzes portray a standard, comparable to that established by Benvenuto Cellini five hundred years in Europe. Denis Williams calls them "an exquisite explosion without antecedent or issue." One of the objects found, a water pot set in a mesh of simulated rope is described by Hugh Honour and John Fleming as A virtuoso feat of cire perdue casting. Its elegant design and refined detailing are matched by a level of technical accomplishment, notably more advanced than European bronze casting of this period; the high technical proficiency and lack of known prototypes of the Igbo-Ukwu bronzes led to initial speculation in the academic community that they must have been created after European contact and phantom voyagers were postulated. However research and isotope analysis has established that the source of the metals is of local origin and radio carbon dating has confirmed a 9th-century date, long before the earliest contact with Europe; the Igbo-Ukwu artifacts did away with the hitherto existing colonial era opinions in archeological circles that such magnificent works of art and technical proficiency could only originate in areas with contact to Europe, or that they could not be crafted in an acephalous or egalitarian society such as that of the Igbo.
Some of the glass and carnelian beads have been found to be produced in Old Cairo at the workshops of Fustat thus establishing that trade contacts did exist between Igbo-Ukwu and ancient Egypt. Archaeological sites containing iron smelting furnaces and slag have been excavated dating to 2000BC in Lejja and 750BC in Opi both in Nsukka region about 100 Kilometers east of Igbo-Ukwu; the initial finds were made by Isiah Anozie while digging in his compound in 1939. He was not aware of the significance of the objects he had found and gave away some of them to friends and neighbors, as well as using some of the vessels to water his goats. J. O. Field, the British colonial district officer of the area learned of the finds and was able to purchase many of them, publishing the find in an anthropological journal, he handed over the artefacts to the Nigerian department of antiquity. Curiously Mr. Field noted at the time that Although the Awka people are known to have done a little metal casting, it is certain that they never reached the degree of skill required to fashion any of the objects here described.
The Igbo people are not themselves metal workers, as far as is known they never have been it is improbable that it has lain buried for more than a century at the most. Subsequent research was to prove him wrong. Twenty years in 1959 and again in 1964 Thurstan Shaw and his team excavated three sites around the original find for the Nigerian department of antiquity and for the University of Ibadan; the archaeological digs revealed hundreds of copper and bronze ritual vessels as well as iron swords, iron spear heads, iron razors and other artifacts dated a millennium earlier. The metal workers of ancient Igbo-Ukwu were not aware of used techniques such as wire making, soldering or riveting which suggests an independent development and long isolation of their metal working tradition, it is therefore perplexing that they were able to create objects with such fine surface detail that they depict, for example small insects which seem to have landed on the surface. Though these appear to have been riveted or soldered on to the artifacts, they were cast in one piece.
The Grove Encyclopedia of Materials and Techniques in Art describes them as being "among the most inventive and technically accomplished bronzes made." Although the lost wax casting process was used to produce the bronzes, latex was used in Igbo-Ukwu instead of beeswax which would explain how the artists were able to produce such fine and filigrann surface detail. Some of the techniques used by the ancient smiths are not known to have been used outside Igbo-Ukwu such as the production of complex objects in stages with the different parts fixed together by brazing or by casting linking sections to join them; however the complexity of some of the Igbo-Ukwu objects has led to considerable altercation between various metallurgic experts and debates regarding the actual production process, an affidavit for the developed and intricate work of the ancient artists. The composition of the metal alloys used in the production of the bronze is unique, with an unusually high silver content and is distinct from alloys used in Europe, the Mediterranean or other African bronze centers.
The origin of the metal ore used to produ