The Plague of Terms: The ‘Anglo-Saxons’


DSCN1840 The wonderful replica of the helmet from Mound 1, Sutton Hoo, on display at the National Trust Visitor Centre at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk. The iconic image of the ‘Anglo-Saxons’ in popular literature and images.

As an archaeologist of the mid- to late first millennium AD, I have to be familiar with lots of jargon.

Archaeologists of this period – the Early Middle Ages – have inherited and still use a wide range of problematic and often anachronistic chronological, geographical, cultural, religious, linguistic and (let’s be honest) racial terms (including ‘the Middle Ages’!).

Let’s be clear. Using these terms is inherently problematic…BUT…. To use these labels need not express adherence to their original, and often derogatory, inflammatory or political uses. A critical understanding of these terms, how they are applied and how we explain them is essential for academic and public archaeology and their lazy use and misuse can lead to all manner of…

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