The dynamic processes of knowledge production in archaeology and elsewhere in the humanities and social sciences are increasingly viewed within the context of negotiation, cooperation and exchange, as the collaborative effort of groups, clusters and communities of scholars. Shifting focus from the individual scholar to the wider social contexts of her work, this volume investigates the importance of informal networks and conversation in the creation of knowledge about the past, and takes a closer look at the dynamic interaction and exchange that takes place between individuals, groups and clusters of scholars in the wider social settings of scientific work. Various aspects of and mechanisms at work behind the interaction and exchange that takes place between the individual scholar and her community, and the creative processes that such encounters trigger, are critically examined in eleven chapters which draw on a wide spectrum of examples from Europe and North America: from early modern antiquarians to archaeological societies and practitioners at work during the formative years of the modern archaeological disciplines and more recent examples from the twentieth century. The individual chapters engage with theoretical approaches to scientific creativity, knowledge production and interaction such as sociology and geographies of science, and actor-network theory (ANT) in their examination of individual–collective interplay. The book caters to readers both from within and outside the archaeological disciplines; primarily intended for researchers, teachers and students in archaeology, anthropology, classics and the history of science, it will also be of interest to the general reader.
During the writing of this book, an interesting question was raised for Anglo-Saxon scholars to consider: ‘Is the term Anglo-Saxon racist?’ This question was made international when the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists (ISAS) voted to change its name following accusations of racism, elitism, sexism and bigotry. BBC History Magazine (December 2019), British Archaeology 170 and several pieces in The Times covered this in the UK. In the United States in particular, the term Anglo-Saxon has been associated with white supremacists, who have been known to build identity around early medieval mythology and imagery, with a particular fascination for the Vikings as well as the Anglo-Saxons. I have witnessed this first-hand when rather unpleasantly I received death threats for writing popular articles about the biological diversity evident within early medieval peoples.
As archaeologists, our prehistoric colleagues might describe the study of the Anglo-Saxon period as ‘culture-historical’, because it appears to take its name from the name of a people. Importantly, however, the people themselves did not think of themselves as Anglo-Saxons, and the term describes a cultural and political situation. Nether Gildas, writing in the sixth century, nor Bede in the eighth century, used the term. In the ninth century, Alfred the Great described his unified realm as ‘Anglo-Saxon’ in opposition to the Dane Law, which was made up of people from Scandinavian countries, Ireland and Britain, as well as others from further afield. However, the Anglo-Saxon regions also consisted of a complex mix of people, and ancient DNA evidence points to that diversity. Importantly, the post-Roman people did not define themselves in biological terms; that is a more modern phenomenon and manifest from colonialism, apartheid and racial segregation. As Howard Williams pointed out in British Archaeology 170, ‘abandoning the term Anglo-Saxon would not help us reach an audience beyond academia, and it would concede intellectual and historical territory to extremists and fringe narratives.’
This book does not use the term Anglo-Saxon to describe a race; it uses it to describe the cultural phenomenon of furnished burial that occurred in the fifth to eighth centuries AD across regions of England, a phenomenon related to a comparable Merovingian practice. Most importantly, this book is not about race; it is about cultural diversity, and this can be seen in the variations evident in localised expression of gender, status and identity in these burials.