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Practice, power and place: southern British perspectives on the agency of early medieval rulers’ residences

Thomas, G. and Scull, C. (2021) Practice, power and place: southern British perspectives on the agency of early medieval rulers’ residences. Norwegian Archaeological Review, 54 (1-2). pp. 1-28. ISSN 1502-7678

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/00293652.2021.1910337


This paper advances understanding of rulership over the fifth to the ninth centuries AD, drawing upon a category of elite settlement from southern Britain known as the great hall complex. Guided by a practice-based conceptual framework, we connect these sites with the embodied regimens, rituals, habits, and activities through which rulership was constituted in the early medieval world. Harnessing recent expanded datasets, we generate insights in three key areas. First, by documenting the significant and sustained antecedent occupation attested at great hall sites, we reveal how rulers exploited the complex multiple pasts of these places to advance symbolic and worldly agendas. Second, we reframe understanding of hall construction as a strategy of elite legitimation by focusing attention on the agency of the skilled practitioners who created these innovative architectural statements and, in doing so, recognise these hitherto neglected specialists as ‘crafters’ of rulership equal in significance to contemporary goldsmiths. Third, we use proxies from recently investigated great hall complexes to reconstruct the networks of dependency and interaction which enmeshed these centres. A concluding comparative discussion of southern Britain and Scandinavia contributes shared perspectives on rulers’ residences as a prime arena for the orchestration and creative renewal of early medieval sovereignty.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Social Archaeology
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:95463
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


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