Edington (Ethandune)

Most agree that Ethandune was Edington in Wiltshire. This photograph was taken from a slight rise in the claimed Roman road between Old Sarum and Bath that ran down a hollow in the escarpment of Salisbury Plain. Edington lies at the foot of the slope. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle it was here that the King ‘fought with all that raiding army’. But this little phrase begs too many questions. Was Guthrum with the Danes who were there, or was he, at the time, twelve miles to the north, at his command centre in Chippenham palace? And where might this ‘fight’ have taken place? The photo is taken looking south. Alfred, according to the Chronicle had come out of Selwood Forest, which lay immediately to the west, or from the high hills of the Plain, to the south. Is it at all likely that Guthrum would lead a frontal attack across the pasture in the foreground, across a marshy stream, and then climb the escarpment to meet Alfred’s mighty numbers at the top? Or was it the case that Alfred swept down upon an unsuspecting gang of Guthrum’s men occupying his erstwhile hunting lodge?

For this and many other questions I hope we can deduce some answers in this blog.

The Knowledge Straightjacket

Few people are challenging the prevalent attitudes in archaeology. Despite its subject matter, the profession itself is very young – and some might say immature. According to Research Report 93-2011 of English Heritage, A Look in the Rear View Mirror: Twentieth...

Viking Age Geometry

I have heard it said that it was possible to build the longships with no knowledge of geometry or drawings. As a practical man, who, as a child, sat on the end of his father’s workbench watching him make things, I have much sympathy with this theory. But it cannot be...

Dark-Ages Instability

I have recently discovered Domesday England, edited by Professor Henry Clifford Darby, with contributions from  I.B. Terrett, Eila M.J. Campbell, I.S. Maxwell, R. Welldon Finn and G.R. Versey, first published by the Cambridge University Press in 1977. This was the...

What no women?

I am sure I have read somewhere that it was the superior place of women in the Christian religion that made the crucial difference between its acceptance or rejection. Well, I’m not sure at all about that – surely the underpinning philosophy had more to do...

Cursive Text and Christianity

A young Danish soldier, stepping from a ship onto the shore of East Anglia in 866 would probably never have seen a book. He would equally never have seen or touched a page of skin bearing ink markings of cursive script. He will have been familiar with runes, slashed...

Belief Rituals

Whilst the writings in the Eddas and Sagas present a jumble of romantic (and perhaps) metaphorical ideas, the material finds of archaeologists, and the recordings of monks and other contemporary writers provide evidence of a slightly more certain kind. In Chapter 18...

What no maps?

The map I have created here might have been in the head of an extremely widely travelled Dane in 890 – someone like Othere or Wulfstan (see: The Voyage of Othere and Wulfstan ) the merchant adventurers who King Alfred employed. The record of their verbal reports...

The ‘Viking’ invention

The word ‘Viking’ was invented around the year 1800 by the antiquarian, Sharon Turner ( a male person). It was not listed in the Oxford English Dictionary until 1807. Turner was a writer at the time of Napoleon and tapped into a nationalistic English fervour against...

Roman influence

Mention has been made in another post on Rivers and Roads of the importance of the remnants of the Roman road system. An interesting paper I found on the internet by chance was An Archaeological Resource Assessment and Research Agenda for the Early and Middle...

The 9th Century Danish Empire

The map above is derived mainly from The Viking World, an invaluable tome edited by Stefan Brink, Professor of Scandinavian studies at the University of Aberdeen, and Neil Price, professor in the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University. The...

Danish Viking Moralities

At a conference held by the University of Copenhagen in 1979, Niels Lund decried the absence of good evidence concerning Danish medieval society and implied that we were wrong to accredit too much to the writings of Saxo Grammaticus in his twelfth century Gesta...

Angle-Dane Relationship

According to Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the Angle People) which was written in 731, the British Isles had been invaded in the fifth century by: … Saxons, Angles, and Jutes. From the Jutes are descended the people of Kent,...

Life expectancy

King Alfred was 50 when he died in 899. He was therefore 22 when he fought and allegedly put the Danes to flight at Ashdown, and was 29 when, in 878, he made a peace treaty with Guthrum. But what can we deduce of the age of Guthrum – say when he led his ‘army’...

Army size

Mention has been made in other posts of the excavations at Repton. (Martin Biddle and Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle (1992). Repton and the Vikings. Antiquity, 66, pp 36-51). This work is particularly important because it reveals the extent of the fortification built by the...

Rivers and Roads

It’s well established that travellers carry in their minds a perception of the world dependent upon the ease by which they may travel. These mental maps are coloured by the risks involved. Today, in the UK, the risks are usually of cost and time, few worrying...
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