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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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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 26 October 2021

The Forces of Production: Crop and Animal Husbandry

The Forces of Production: Crop and Animal Husbandry

(p.125) 5 The Forces of Production: Crop and Animal Husbandry
Early Medieval Settlements

Helena Hamerow

Oxford University Press

In a world in which virtually everyone was a farmer, farming was not an ‘occupation’: the early medieval leod who, on the one hand, was in military service to the king, could also have fields to till. It is perhaps for this reason that, although the Lex Salica deals extensively with farming matters, it contains no term for ‘farmer’. The daily life and world view of early medieval communities were undoubtedly shaped in fundamental ways by the agricultural cycle, yet it is difficult to treat farming activities per se, precisely because there is so little description of everyday activities. Further complicating matters, ancient field systems are notoriously difficult to identify and date, and although animal bones and plant remains survive in relative abundance from this period, agricultural tools are very rarely preserved. Even excavating settlements is unlikely to tell us much about systems of farming. A web of economic and environmental factors underlies the developments in farming practices apparent during the second half of the first millennium ad, and agrarian production remains among the most intractable, yet crucially important, subjects in early medieval studies. This chapter begins with a broad overview of what is known about the agrarian practices of individual communities from archaeological and written sources, and concludes with a consideration of the implications of this evidence for wider social and economic issues. For example, in those regions lying within the former western Empire, how much continuity was there with the late Roman rural economy? When did at least some farms begin regularly to produce a substantial, tradeable, surplus? Finally, how did the intensification of cereal production apparent throughout the North Sea zone relate to changes in the nature of lordship and land tenure? Early medieval law-codes and charters generally have more to say about animal rearing than about crop husbandry and some of this information is remarkably detailed; the Lex Salica, for example, refers to some ten different categories of pig! (Wickham 1985). Some Carolingian charters, furthermore, refer to the relative values of different animals; those for the estates of Werden, for example, state that a cow was worth 8 denarii, as much as a ewe with a lamb, and so on (Wulf 1991).

Keywords:   Codex Amiatinus, Danelaw, Einhard, Geest, Germania, Hundorf, Leeuwarden, Mainz, Pesse, Roman Britain

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