Sponsored by: Spokane Society
Presented by Dr. Brian Buchanan
The island of Great Britain witnessed dramatic changes between the 4th and 9th centuries CE due to the withdrawal of Roman authority, climatic change, migration, and cultural transmission of cultural and religious identities. This was particularly true in central Britain along the modern Anglo-Scottish border, which in the beginning of the period was the northern military frontier of the Roman Empire. After the end of Roman Britain, this contested region transformed into a series of small polities before eventually forming into the kingdom of Northumbria. Northumbria was one of the largest of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the early medieval period and at its greatest extent, stretched from the North to Irish Seas and from the Firth of Forth to the Humber Estuary. Scholars have traditionally argued that changes in dress, language, and material culture in this period reflect an abrupt change from the Roman to medieval periods. However, more nuanced scholarship over the last two decades has contended that these alterations may reflect a more gradual transition from provincial Britain into Anglo-Saxon England. This paper discusses the key archaeological and historical evidence of Northumbria and explores the author’s research on how the spatial organization of the Northumbrian landscape suggests both broad continuities as well as dramatic changes due to the complexities of culture contact and societal change of the region.