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The Scale and Impact of Viking Settlement in Northumbria

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JournalMedieval Archaeology
DateAccepted/In press - 13 Apr 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 20 Dec 2018
Issue number2
Number of pages29
Pages (from-to)322-350
Early online date20/12/18
Original languageEnglish


Recent archaeological research, notably at the Viking winter camp at Torksey, has indicated that the armies that invaded Anglo-Saxon England in the late 9th century were much larger than has often been assumed and that a literal reading of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’s assessment of the size of Viking fleets may, after all, have been correct. Furthermore, study of the Torksey metalwork assemblage has allowed the identification of the archaeological signature of the Viking Great Army and, when applied to Cottam, it confirmed the identification of an initial phase of raiding by an element of the Army, followed shortly thereafter by settlement represented by the development of a hybrid Anglo-Scandinavian culture. Taken together, over 25 categories of non-ferrous artefacts are diagnostic of Viking or Anglo-Scandinavian activity in Northumbria. Applying this model to over 15 sites, largely known only from metal-detecting, we can observe a common pattern. At the majority of sites, a large and fairly standardised Middle Anglo-Saxon finds assemblage is succeeded by just a few Viking finds, which we attribute to raiding following Halfdan’s return to Northumbria with part of the Great Army in AD 876. At a much smaller number of sites there are also assemblages of Anglo-Scandinavian finds, relating to the establishment of new settlements by the new landowners. The overall picture is of major settlement disruption and dislocation of existing land holdings and populations in the late 9th century. This demonstrates, for the first time from archaeological evidence, the scale and impact of Viking activity in Northumbria.

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