Medieval Archaeology issue 67.2 now available

Posted On: December 7th, 2023

I’m very pleased to announce that issue 67.2 of Medieval Archaeology has now been published online and the print copy should be arriving with members shortly. The content in this issue includes seven original articles focusing on new research from Britain, the Czech Republic, Italy, Denmark and Finland, covering both the early and late medieval periods.

The issue starts with an article by Jane Kershaw and Stephen Merkel on the mining and export of lead in early medieval England. Focusing on isotopic analysis of lead from 9th-11th century contexts in Coppergate, York, the authors demonstrate how this raw material, mined in the North Pennines, was exported to Continental Europe and Peninsular Scandinavia. Lead was traded through and at times consumed in emporia such as Kaupang, Ribe and Hedeby, and it is evident that artisans in southern Scandinavia relied, to a large extent, on lead from England. They shed new light on an otherwise poorly known facet of international trade in early medieval north-western Europe. This article is also the winner of the 2023 Editor’s Award,

Brian Costello’s article looks at graves containing deposited swords from Kentish cemeteries dating to the 5th-7th centuries. Adopting a detailed contextual and object biography approach to Buckland Grave 96B (Dover) and Saltwood Tunnel Grave W3779, Costello highlights that scabbards were older than their depositional context or buried individuals. He makes a case for recognising these as heirlooms deposited using specific curation strategies. At the graveside such objects would have functioned as mnemonic devices for communal social remembrance. He concludes the deposition of heirloom swords within burials was a specific act chosen by families and kin groups to affect their political relationships with neighbouring groups at funerary gatherings.

Tomáš Vlasatý, Petr Dresler, Vojtěch Nosek and Jiří Macháček present a detailed study of the first Carolingian helmet from Central Europe to be discovered within a settlement during a conventional excavation. Its fragmentary remains were found in 2015 at Pohansko near Břeclav in the Czech Republic, one of the most important central places of the early medieval polity known as Great Moravia. The authors provide a detailed account and reconstruction of the helmet, as well as an analysis of its context. The helmet, dated to the last third of the 9th century, was found in a building interpreted as a high-status residence, perhaps an early form of manor. It can be compared to examples from other parts of the Czech Republic, Slovankia and Russia, all of which were most probably derived from workshops situated at the eastern edge of Frankish territory.

Anna Doherty and Andrew Margetts consider the identity of three buildings discovered at Patcham (Sussex) in 2013, dating from the 10th to 13th centuries. Following a detailed discussion of their archaeological traces, they tentatively define these structures as barns. Reviewing the evidence for regional and diachronic shifts in barn design across north-western Europe, Doherty and Margetts argue the buildings at Patcham are similar to identified barns both in terms of their design and location. The size of the buildings at Patcham is interpreted as potentially reflecting the centralised organisation of harvesting and grain storage.

Roberta Mentesana and Jaume Buxeda i Garrigòs consider the archaeological evidence for sugar production in Sicily, one of the main regions manufacturing this foodstuff in the medieval period. Their data derives from the SPotEU project, as well as from a review of existing research. They develop a new typological classification based on sugar-pot shape and size, estimated from their rim diameters. These are divided into two broad phases: the 11th –13th centuries and the 14th –16th centuries, and the authors note a temporal tendency towards a more elongated conical shape. The majority of the cones produced in Sicily were medium-sized, which can be connected to raw sugar production, with less evidence for the product’s refinement on the island.

Mette Højmark Søvsø’s article provides an updated survey of late medieval pilgrim badges and other objects associated with pilgrimage from the area of present-day Denmark. The number of objects discovered in this region has more than doubled over the past two decades, and this paper outlines the diversity of finds, their geographical distribution, evidence for mobility, manufacture, their use and significance. Artefacts relating to pilgrimage were multifunctional objects with innate power that derived from their origin, designs and symbolism. As practical objects for everyday ritual use, they were sometimes handled roughly. This is reflected in secondary traces of wear and their depositional contexts.

Finally, Sonja Hukantaival, Auli Bläuer, Maija Helamaa and Kari Uotila explore deposits of animal remains found in pits in the garden of Kärsämäki manor in Turku, Finland. No human remains were recovered from these pits which could be dated to the 15th century, but some contained the bones of cattle, horse and pig. Adopting a taphonomical and contextual approach, the authors note that complete, partially complete skeletons and associated bone groups reflect their deliberate deposition, rather than waste from butchery or manufacturing. They identify a range of depositional practices, suggesting the site was the location for different ritual activities connected with animals. Perhaps these were a response to a specific crisis during a relatively short-lived period.

The articles are followed by two core sets of reports linked to medieval archaeological work in 2022: finds and analyses relating to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and related research reports; and site-specific discoveries and reports in medieval Britain and Ireland, with a selection of highlighted projects. There are also over 30 book reviews of recent publications on medieval topics from across Europe, which will help readers keep up to date with the newest research in the field. I hope you all enjoy this volume and the editorial team look forward to bringing you the next one in the summer of 2024.


Aleks Pluskowski, Honorary Editor of Medieval Archaeology