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Anglo-Saxon ‘Great Hall Complexes’ elite residences and landscapes of power in Early England, c. AD 550-700

Austin, M. H. (2017) Anglo-Saxon ‘Great Hall Complexes’ elite residences and landscapes of power in Early England, c. AD 550-700. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

This thesis presents the first detailed and systematic examination of Anglo-Saxon ‘great hall complexes’. Characterised by their architectural grandeur and spatial formality, these rare and impressive sites represent a distinct class of high-status settlement that were primarily occupied during the later sixth and seventh centuries AD. Though their existence has been known to archaeologists since the mid-twentieth century, a series of recent and high-profile excavations has reignited the debate about these sites and necessitated the provision of a comprehensive study. Following an introductory account, the thesis begins with an archaeological review. This considers sixteen great hall complexes that are known from across the Anglo-Saxon realm. From this, a definition and broader characterisation of the great hall phenomenon is advanced. A series of four regional case studies represent the analytical core of the thesis. Focused on specific great hall complexes, and underpinned by comprehensive regional gazetteers, these investigations utilise a wide-ranging and multiscalar programme of spatial and chronological analysis in order to model the data. Particular emphasis is placed on the landscape context of sites, as is their interaction with wider hinterlands. The results are contextualised within a broader archaeo-historical framework, with original interpretations offered for each of the great hall complexes under consideration. It is concluded that great hall complexes likely operated as administrative centres and nodes of governance within broader socio-economic and politico-religious networks. It is also maintained that they fulfilled a range of social and symbolic functions – as emblematic displays of political authority that were emplaced within landscapes of power designed to legitimise and institutionalise emergent political hegemonies. Ultimately, it is argued, great hall complexes are to be understood as archaeological manifestations of the more overtly hierarchical society that was emerging in the sixth century.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Thomas, G. and Astill, G.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Archaeology, Geography & Environmental Science
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:74851
Additional Information:The appendices are contained in a CD in the hard bound copy and are not available to download from CentAUR

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