Tag Archives: memorials

New Publication: Placing the Pillar of Eliseg

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 9thcentury monument known as the Pillar of Eliseg is interrogated here for the first time with GISbased 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.

Reference

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

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Hawthorn Hill

Take a short diversion off the Offa’s Dyke path to the south of Knighton, one can encounter the beauty of Hawthorn Hill. In a previous post I’ve discussed the adjusted-segmented arrangement of the dyke as it navigates the western edge of this hill. Many of those exploring the hill might stick to the dyke and miss out on a very special place just adjacent to it.

I don’t know of any archaeological traces from the hilltop, but when I visited this spring, I was wondering over the difference in viewsheds from the dyke itself and from the hilltop it circumvents.  Walking up to the hill does not prepare you for the experience: the views are staggering and contrast markedly to the west-facing perspective from the dyke itself.

The hill affords views over the landscape west towards Radnor Forest, but also extensively east towards Presteigne. Significantly, one can also see for long distances south along the line of Offa’s Dyke to Rushock Hill and Herrock Hill and Hergest Ridge beyond.

In this regards, the hill possesses many of the features I discussed for the Offa’s Dyke monument’s immediate environs at Bronygarth south of Chirk. The hilltop must surely must be a contender for a beacon and/or lookout point relating to Offa’s Dyke since from here one can see multiple points along the dyke north and south, but also far behind the dyke to forewarn of any infringements of its line.

What about modern memorialisation? In the low evening sunlight, spider’s webs spun between blades of grass were visible, and there were discrete bunches of daffodils. There were a few pine trees, affording the hilltop a distinctive landmark from all directions. At the very top of the hill there is a solitary picnic bench. It was here that I noticed a modest memorial dimension is manifest in a solitary poppy appended to the bench. Undoubtedly this is a popular place for walkers and perhaps also for ash-scattering and memorialisation… For whom was the poppy placed?