Sites of Power and Assembly in the Thames Valley

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Abstract

This paper will examine three key sites of power in the Thames valley in the Middle Ages: Kingston upon Thames, Westminster and Runnymede. They are all well-known for a variety of reasons; Kingston upon Thames and Westminster as places of coronation and Runnymede as the place where the Magna Carta was signed. Very little is, however, known about the archaeology and history of these sites and how they came to be selected for such significant purposes, and an evaluation of this will therefore be attempted in this paper.

The background to this investigation is the research into Viking and medieval assembly and inauguration sites in Scandinavia, carried out as part of the Assembly Project, a topic on which I am currently completing a monograph. One of the most important results of this study is that assembly and inauguration sites were constructed by the elite at carefully selected places in the landscape. Many of these sites have very long biographies with evidence of gatherings going back to the early Iron Age, or even the Bronze Age, and remained in use until in the 13th or 14th century. A key point is that these sites were not randomly chosen, but hand-picked on account of their specific features, which all had different roles to play in the ever-changing rituals performed at the sites.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology & History
EditorsHelena Hamerow
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxbow Books
Pages114-131
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

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