It will be a great pleasure to welcome the following speakers to present aspects of their work relating to the Early Christian Archaeology of the British Isles. Details are given here of the papers which will be presented during the Early Christian Archaeology in Britain Conference, 8th July, 2015, at Winchester University.
Dr. Ken Dark, Director, Research Centre for Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, University of Reading
East and West: problems and possibilities in the archaeology and history of the early British Church
Although the outlines of the organization, theology and practices of the fourth- to seventh-century British Church have become better understood over the previous 30 years, many problems and questions remain. For example, if – as generally accepted – there were fifth- and sixth-century British bishops, where were these based? What is the significance of our apparent inability to find convincing churches of this period in Britain, when churches are commonplace elsewhere in the archaeology of the world of Late Antiquity? What should we make of textual hints of British purity laws, and are these archaeologically visible? Was there, as often claimed, a dichotomy between a Christian British West and a pagan ‘Anglo-Saxon’ East before Augustine? What significance, if any, did overseas contacts have for the development of fifth- and sixth-century British Christianity? These and other questions will be introduced and explored, primarily with reference to archaeological material, but using where appropriate place-names and textual sources, as possible ways of opening-up new avenues of research in the archaeology and history of the early British Church.
Dr. David Petts, Lecturer at Durham University
Roman Christianity in Northern Britannia AD300-500
Although the bulk of the evidence for Christianity in Roman Britain comes from the south and east of England, there is also a solid corpus of material from the military zone of northern England, including objects and structures. Drawing on recent discoveries from sites such as Binchester, Vindolanda and Maryport this paper will explore the evidence for the emergence of the church along the northern frontier, particularly its relationship with the army, as well as thinking more widely about how Christianity served to mediate the transition from the Roman to early medieval period in Northern England and Southern Scotland.
Dr. Niall Finneran, Reader in Early Medieval Archaeology at the University of Winchester
The socio-cultural context of early Christianity in southwestern Britain: a case study from the Tintagel Region Archaeological Landscape Project (TRALP)
Within the post-Roman Kingdom of Dumnonia (Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset) the impact of the legacy of the Romans is felt most strongly in the east. West of Exeter (Isca) the Romans essentially allowed a late iron age age society to remain and flourish. After their departure, the site of Tintagel in north Cornwall became arguably one of the most important political centres in western Britain. Since 2007 I have been conducting research on the wider context of Tintagel and will discuss what light this throws on the development of early Christian society in south-western Britain.
Revd. Mark Laynesmith, Anglican Chaplain at the University of Reading.
The Cult of St Alban at Verulamium (St Albans)
In his paper Mark will be speaking about the earliest evidence concerning the cult of St Alban at Verulamium (St Albans). Mark will briefly introduce previous archaeological study into Alban’s late fourth-century devotion before outlining his own research into the textual form this cult took. Mark will introduce the earliest known passio, an account of Alban’s martyrdom, and explore connections between this text and other western European martyr narratives. He will also consider the question of a possible link between the cult of Alban and the theology of Pelagianism, and the wider issue of how martyr cults were used by Christians bishops to convert their pagan neighbours.
Nancy Hollinrake, Contract Archaeologist
The Excavation of an early Christian site at Carhampton
While working for Somerset County Council Heritage Services on the archaeological evaluations for a new by-pass around the village of Carhampton, we soon began to suspect that we were dealing with a previously unidentified Dark Age monastery. This presented two problems: how do we investigate and, hopefully, confirm this theory and how do we interpret the site on the basis of limited evaluation trenches? This presentation follows the story starting with the excavations on the site and recovery of the dating evidence in the form of Mediterranean imported pottery and radiocarbon dates. A variety of different types of features were recorded including ditches, pits and postholes signalling domestic occupation, a cemetery with accompanying structures and the largest Dark Age iron smelting complex discovered in the south of Britain. The site was scheduled on the basis of the iron working site alone. Following the completion of the archive reports, we undertook private research into the interpretation of the site, including research into St. Carantoc, the Welsh saint to whom the parish church was formerly dedicated. Testing out Bowen’s method of comparative analysis of churches dedicated to the same early missionary saint led to the recognition of the cult of St. Carantoc in churches based in Ceredigion, Cornwall, Brittany and Ireland. Carhampton itself is one of the best documented settlements in Somerset, with references in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Alfred’s will as well as the usual sources. It proved necessary to take a masters degree in Early Celtic Studies at Cardiff University in order to learn how to interpret this body of material. The publication is currently with the editor of the Journal of the Society for Church Archaeology.