Expressions of the Elites
Expressions of the Elites
From the Later Sixth Century to the Later Seventh
Because both Gildas and Bede wrote of mutual antipathy between Britons and Anglo-Saxons, it used to be thought self-evident that their hostility was expressed by the cultural differences that appear so obvious in the formers’ Christianity, Celtic speech, hillforts, and unfurnished graves, and the latters’ cremations, furnished inhumations, sunken-featured buildings, great squareheaded brooches, and the like. Different ideas about the adaptations that had to be made to meet changing circumstances have led to reappraisals of extreme positions about racial exclusiveness, however, and emphasis is now placed on the ways that people created new identities rather than on how they inherited one of two alternative dichotomies. The spread of furnished graves westwards and northwards in the second half of the sixth century could be taken as evidence of further waves of immigrants from the continent, but at least as likely is that existing populations were changing their practices as new conditions developed. In the west and north, the most visible change in the archaeological record after the middle of the sixth century is the disappearance of Mediterranean imported pottery from hillforts and other sites, replaced by southern French wares, implying that wine and olive oil shipped in wooden casks from the Loire valley and Bordeaux replaced Greek and African supplies sent in clay amphoras. As with the earlier bowls and dishes, the assumption is that much of the pottery was ‘associative’, sought after because it was seen as appropriate to use at feasts when luxuries were offered by a host. Unlike the earlier imports, however, in the seventh century there were also open-topped jars that seem to have been used as containers, presumably for dry goods as liquids would have slopped out. Some were used for cooking. The French seventh-century pottery, now called E-ware, is a little more often found than are the earlier wares; its absence from South Cadbury is good evidence that that site went out of use c.600, despite its former importance—a sign of the continued instability of the period. Just as none of the Mediterranean imported pottery had reached places far from the west coast, so too the French wares did not pass inland, or up the English Channel. Imports of glass have a broadly similar distribution, although dating is more difficult.
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