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Early Medieval SettlementsThe Archaeology of Rural Communities in North-West Europe 400-900$
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Helena Hamerow

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199246977

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199246977.001.0001

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Rural Centres, Trade, and Non-Agrarian Production

Rural Centres, Trade, and Non-Agrarian Production

(p.156) 6 Rural Centres, Trade, and Non-Agrarian Production
Early Medieval Settlements

Helena Hamerow

Oxford University Press

In contrast to the relative scarcity of publications dealing with the buildings and layouts of rural settlements, many volumes have been devoted to the development of early medieval trade and craft production (e.g. Jankuhn et al. 1981; 1983; K. Düwel et al. 1987, vols. 1–4; Hodges and Whitehouse 1983). Archaeological research into these topics has been made more fruitful—as well as more complex—by the contributions of neighbouring disciplines such as history, geography, and numismatics. It has, however, tended to focus almost exclusively on towns, monasteries, and royal centres, yet craft production, trade, and exchange also played a significant role in farming communities before and after the emergence of such specialized centres. Indeed, the rural settlements of northwest Europe were already significantly differentiated in their economies in the Migration period, suggesting a high level of socio-economic complexity several centuries earlier than has generally been supposed. The evidence now available for trade and non-agrarian production, which derives almost wholly from archaeology, calls for a thoroughgoing reassessment of when and how centralized authorities emerged in northern Europe after the collapse of the western Empire. This is particularly true for northern Germany and southern Scandinavia, where early state formation has conventionally been dated to the late Viking period. Research into state formation has in the past focused on the origins of towns and market centres, the latter usually seen as arising from participation in long-distance trade which was controlled by kings or magnates. Yet, several centuries before there were kings or towns in northern Europe, rural settlements emerged which point to a degree of political centralization. This chapter considers the evidence for these rural centres and the role of non-agrarian production and exchange in rural settlements generally: what was the scale and context of the production, distribution, and consumption of non-agrarian goods? Who controlled these activities, and how, if at all, did the long-distance trade networks which fuelled the nascent towns of Merovingian and Viking Age Europe affect the economies of the communities which lay in their hinterlands?

Keywords:   Andernach, Badorf Ware, Camulodunum, Danelaw, Ely Abbey, Geest, Heeten, Ibsker, Jaeren, Kugeltöpfer

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