Published with the support of English Heritage
The Anglo-Saxon monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow were amongst the most sophisticated centres of learning and artistic culture in seventh- and eighth-century Europe. As home to the great scholar Bede, their intellectual legacy was felt throughout the medieval world.
But Bede's works are by no means all that has survived from the 'Golden Age': almost miraculously – given the intense industrialisation of the surrounding landscape over the last two hundred years – large parts of the original churches survive at both sites and archaeological research has demonstrated that much more lies buried around and beneath them. This unparalleled body of evidence makes Wearmouth and Jarrow two of Europe's most important early medieval sites.
This book presents the results of new research on the monasteries and their churches. The authors examine the long-lasting effect of their buildings and estates on the surrounding region from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present day. They trace these relationships back through time with new studies of the changing landscape, the monastery precincts, and the surviving structures themselves. The historical archaeology of Wearmouth and Jarrow reveals how the churches and their communities were rooted in the landscapes of Northumbria, but flourished through links with other parts of Britain and Europe.
The project involved researchers from many different backgrounds, including archaeologists, historians, archivists, geographers, environmental scientists and geologists. The landscape between the Rivers Tyne and Wear was analysed by integrating information from historic maps with evidence from aerial survey and archaeology through digital mapping. The open areas around the two churches were studied using geophysical, geoarchaeological and palaeoenvironmental surveys to help model ancient land surfaces and understand the changing natural environment. New research on the surviving early medieval structures combined results from digital survey and detailed analysis of the building stone. The project not only revealed the links between the churches and the region's political and economic history, but also showed how their cultural significance for local people in north-east England has changed over time.
Sam Turner is Professor of Archaeology in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Newcastle University. He researches the historic landscapes and early medieval archaeology of Britain, Europe and the Mediterranean.
Sarah Semple is Reader in Archaeology in the Department of Archaeology at Durham University. Her work focuses on religion and belief in early medieval Europe, with particular reference to the role of landscapes and the ideological use of ancient remains.
Alex Turner is Research Associate in Archaeology in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Newcastle University. With over 30 years' experience in archaeological survey, a major strand in his research is the development of an holistic method using techniques such as GIS, laser scanning and geophysical prospection to enable better understanding of historic buildings.
ISBN 978-1-909291-13-3, November 2013, Paperback, 256pp