But until recently the archaeology seemed to be saying something rather different. I summed up the state of knowledge here back in 2103:
The earliest Saxon cemeteries, dating to the mid fifth century and found in the Thames Valley and Essex, seem to be of ordinary farmers. These are poor people, buried without weapons. Their settlements are undefended, and they seem to have existed side-by-side with equally undefended settlements of ordinary Romano-British farmers. There is also considerable evidence for contact between the two peoples: hundreds of British place names survived, the genetics seems to show substantial intermarriage, many old community boundaries were maintained. The culture we call Anglo-Saxon seems to have emerged gradually from the mixing of British and barbarian elements, and not until nearly a century later do we have much evidence for Anglo-Saxon warriors, especially warrior aristocrats.
There were always problems with this model; for starters, what peasant people has ever peacefully welcomed several thousand interlopers from overseas? And if the violent conflict between Saxons and Celts actually developed very gradually over a century or more, why did all of our written sources say something completely different?announced this week:
A wealthy pagan burial ground, dating from the first years of the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain during the fifth century A.D., has been uncovered near London ahead of a high-speed rail project, known as High Speed 2 (HS2). The new discoveries, which include more than 100 skeletons, are among the most important archaeological finds made along the HS2 route. . . .
As well as the human remains, which include a young man who appears to have been killed by a spear, the archaeologists have unearthed the rich grave goods interred with them, such as brooches and rings of silver and other metals decorated with gold.
The Anglo-Saxons buried at Wendover were definitely armed — the grave goods included an iron sword, 15 spearheads and the remains of seven shields, Wood said. A metal point, probably the tip of a spear, was found in the spinal bones of one man and seems to have killed him; reconstructions suggest it came from a blow to the front.
But to imagin thate tens of thousand of Germans from the continent settled in Britain without violence, or imposed their language and culture without violence, is just silly. This was a warrior age, and war determined who held the land, and who held the power. The increasing cemetery evidence of early warriors in the Saxon population is only what I expected.
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