Clip to Evernote    Print this page

The Kings of Kent page 2

Previous page: The Kings of Kent page 3 

 

During the dark and violent times of the fifth century, pagan warrior kings ruled southern Britain. At Lyminge, current archaeological research is now making it possible to retrace the village’s early history to Anglo-Saxon settlers, just a few decades after the fall of Roman Britain. The recently discovered Anglo-Saxon hall, which researchers believe dates to about 600, would have been an essential feature of any important early Saxon settlement. In Old English poetry the hall is often the scene of royal feasts and banquets. In the story of Beowulf, the hero is tasked with slaying the monster Grendel, who has been terrorizing the famous hall of Heorot.

The royal feasting hall in Lyminge remained undisturbed for nearly 1,400 years, just a few inches below the surface of a village green that lies at the center of the modern town, and within view of the monastery site. It is the first of its kind to be discovered in England in more than 30 years. “Excavating large open areas in villages of medieval origin can be an extremely successful strategy in uncovering the evolution of the Saxon village,” explains Knox. “No large building was visible on the geophysical survey, so it was a great surprise to the team to uncover the full floor plan of such a significant structure.”

Large royal halls such as the one found in Lyminge are known to be associated with local elites and played a central role in early Anglo-Saxon society. The king and his guests would gather to socialize, celebrate victories, or listen to performances. The hall not only hosted legendary feasting parties, sometimes lasting days, but was also a key multipurpose assembly space for early Saxon communities. These halls were the site of essential political, social, religious, and legal activities. Since the feasting hall at Lyminge was constructed from timber and other perishable materials, only the foundation trenches and postholes remain visible. Its rectangular plan measures approximately 69 by 28 feet, making it comparable to the grandest Saxon halls ever discovered, such as those at Yeavering in Northumberland and Cowdery’s Down in Hampshire.

While halls of this type have generally yielded very few significant artifacts, in the case of Lyminge, archaeologists found one important object—an exquisite gilt copper-alloy horse-harness mount was discovered in one of the wall trenches. The quality of its design, style, and craftsmanship indicate that it most likely belonged to an important Anglo-Saxon warrior, adding archaeological support to the stuff of legends. According to Knox, “This artifact is a direct link to the warrior ideal embodied in Beowulf.” Artifacts such as these are often seen in horse and warrior burials of the fifth and sixth centuries. “The Anglo-Saxon hall,” Knox adds, “provides clear evidence that elite individuals, most likely the kings of Kent, were staying at Lyminge in the pre-Christian period.”

 Next page: Lindsey

 

 

 


Previous page: The Kings of Kent page 3
Next page: Lindsey