Ancient Wessex News and Information
Ancient Wessex News and Information

Origins of Wessex Research

The School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford is engaged in a research project “The Origins of Wessex” focusing on the kingdom, of the West Saxons. The aim of which is to identify places in the landscape where people would regularly have come together along the Thames and its tributaries during the fifth to mid-ninth centuries.

“The Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex is popularly assumed to have originated around its later capital, Winchester. In fact, its origins lie in the Upper Thames Valley (stretching roughly from Lechlade to Reading), with the emergence of a people referred to in early sources as the Gewisse, who, by the end of the 7th century, had come to be known as the West Saxons. Yet the process by which Anglo-Saxon polities formed following the collapse of Roman authority in Britain in the early 5th century remains obscure. While written sources for this period are practically non-existent, archaeological evidence for the 5th and 6th centuries is constantly increasing and has enormous potential to illuminate the process by which supra-local communities formed, providing the basis of numerous small kingdoms by the 7th century.”

A pilot project funded by the John Fell Fund is being carried out on a stretch of the river Thames between Abingdon and Dorchester-on-Thames, an area with a major concentration of early to mid Anglo-Saxon sites. The second phase of the pilot will involved new campaigns of fieldwork and survey.

Research team: Prof. Helena Hamerow (PI), Dr. Chris Ferguson, Dr. John Naylor.

More information

Anglo-Saxon building under excavation at Long Wittenham, Oxon. Photo: A. McBride.

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