My research and publications focus on the archaeology of rural communities in early medieval Europe, particularly in the North Sea Zone. I am especially interested in the impact of the establishment of kingship, monasteries and towns on rural producers and on the early medieval countryside. My publications in this area include two books, Rural Settlements and Society in Anglo-Saxon England (OUP 2012) and Early Medieval Settlements: The Archaeology of Rural Communities in Northwest Europe AD 400-900 (OUP 2002). More recently, I have been working on well-furnished female burials of seventh-century England (but also of the Frankish world) and what these can tell us about the role of women in the Conversion period.
I am also PI of a four-year ERC-funded project, ‘Feeding Anglo-Saxon England. The Bioarchaeology of an Agricultural Revolution’ (FEEDSAX). The aim of the project is to trace the emergence and spread of a package of three key innovations that enabled the farmers of early medieval England dramatically to increase cereal yields. The use of crop rotation, the widespread adoption of the mouldboard plough, and the extensification of cereal production, revolutionized medieval farming, enabling post-Roman populations to grow to unprecedented levels. Using preserved cereal remains, weed seeds, animal bones, pollen, and the excavated remains of farms, ‘FeedSax’ aims to generate the first direct evidence of medieval cultivation regimes.
I have also been involved in investigating the formation of the kingdom of Wessex, whose origins lie in the Upper Thames Valley. This has led to a project (‘The Origins of Wessex’) that is deploying a range of archaeological evidence to investigate the British contribution to West Saxon identity and explore how the leading families of the Gewisse (a group that came to be known as the West Saxons) used material culture and the landscape itself to consolidate their position.
I am co-Director of excavations at the Roman small town of Dorchester-on-Thames and PI of the AHRC-funded Novum Inventorium Sepulchrale, an on-line database of Anglo-Saxon graves and grave-goods from Kent. I am Editor of Anglo-Studies in Archaeology and History and General Editor (with John Blair) of the OUP series, ‘Medieval History and Archaeology’. I also serve on the Editorial Board of the Oxford Journal of Archaeology, am a Vice-President of the Royal Archaeological Institute and a Trustee of Oxford Archaeology.
Feeding Anglo-Saxon England: The Bioarchaeology of an Agricultural Revolution
Modelling Urban Renewal and growth in Britain and Norh-West Europe, AD800-1300
Novum Inventorium Sepulchrale
The Origins of Wessex