At the inaugural Collaboratory workshop in Shrewsbury in April 2017, I presented the key findings of work conducted by Dr Patricia Murrieta-Flores and myself stemming from the Past in its Place ERC-funded project. I’ve discussed various elements of this paper before on on my blog but the final publication is now out in the journal Medieval Archaeology.
Placing the Pillar of Eliseg explores movement and memory through the landscape around this unique 9th-century monument, helping to explain how the monument was positioned, its possible function and its significance as a feature in a volatile and fluid ‘frontier zone’.
THE LANDSCAPE CONTEXT of the early 9th–century monument known as the Pillar of Eliseg is interrogated here for the first time with GIS–based analysis and innovative spatial methodologies. Our interpretation aims to move beyond regarding the Pillar as a prominent example of early medieval monument reuse and a probable early medieval assembly site. We argue that the location and topographical context of the cross and mound facilitated the monument’s significance as an early medieval locus of power, faith and commemoration in a contested frontier zone. The specific choice of location is shown to relate to patterns of movement and visibility that may have facilitated and enhanced the ceremonial and commemorative roles of the monument. By shedding new light on the interpretation of the Pillar of Eliseg as a node of social and religious aggregation and ideological power, our study has theoretical and methodological implications for studying the landscape contexts of early medieval stone monuments.
While principally about the Pillar of Eliseg, this is key to understanding Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke as successive and related linear frontier works. This is because the Pillar is the most notable surviving monument built by the rivals of the Mercians along their western frontier. Raised by Cyngen son of Cadell, it honours his great grandfather Eliseg.
Moreover, our study makes a series of points regarding how the linear earthworks operated to control movement and visibility at the eastern entrance to the Vale of Llangollen.
Murrieta-Flores, P. and Williams, H. 2017. Placing the Pillar of Eliseg: Movement, Visibility and Memory in the Early Medieval Landscape, Medieval Archaeology 61(1), 69–103. DOI: 10.1080/00766097.2017.1295926 http://hdl.handle.net/10034/620515