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The Australian National University

Seminar | Adventus Saxonum: Material Culture, DNA and Identity in the Migration Period


Tuesday, 24 October 2017 - 4:30pm - 5:45pm


Sir Roland Wilson Building Theatrette


Dr Duncan Sayer (University of Central Lancashire)


person icon Penny Brew
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British population history has been shaped by a series of periods of immigration, including the early Anglo-Saxon migrations which are assumed to start around AD 410, after the disappearance of Roman administration. By the end of the twentieth century two theoretical narratives have emerged, a historical perspective saw migration by large numbers of immigrant ‘Anglo-Saxon’ who replaced the incumbent population. An alternative archaeological discourse described cultural transition at the hands of a smaller journeying elite who assimilated the autochthonous peoples. This paper will explore these ideas by looking at recent aDNA evidence alongside artefactual evidence. Specifically DNA from two recent Nature Communication papers will be discussed alongside the aDNA from Oakington early Anglo-Saxon cemetery, a site which also revealed a curious enamelled cruciform brooch. Enamelling is usually associated with ‘Celtic’ art, and the identification and Microfocus XRF analysis of this object, and an investigation of the wider corpus of enabled artefacts, point to a more nuanced, multi staged ethnogenesis which eventually led to the formation of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms.

Duncan Sayer is Associate Professor of archaeology at the University of Central Lancashire, author of Ethics and Burial Archaeology and editor of Mortuary Practice and Social Identity in the Middle Ages. Duncan is an active field archaeologist and has run major excavations focused on Oakington early Anglo-Saxon cemetery and Ribchester's later Roman fort. He interests include migration, identity, metalwork and mortuary archaeology.

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