Tag Archives: Pillar of Eliseg

Exploring Offa’s Dyke with Dr Natalie Fryde

Recently, it was my pleasure to meet for the first time, and introduce to Offa’s Dyke, medieval historian Dr Natalie Fryde.

Natalie now lives in Ireland following a long career as a University professor in Germany. She is best known as a researcher for her work on the 13th and 14th centuries, including a tome on Edward II. Yet, the particular circumstances of our recent communications via email has been to facilitate the reproduction of a revised version of a chapter Natalie had co-edited as one of the ‘classics revisited’ articles due to appear in the Offa’s Dyke Journal. This is because, in 2009, Natalie co-edited with Dirk Reitz a collection called Walls, Ramparts and Lines of Demarcation: Selected Studies from Antiquity to Modern Times which featured a chapter on Offa’s Dyke by eminent early medieval historian Ann Williams. Through dialogue with Natalie and Ann, we have now received a fresh version of Ann’s 2009 study for the ODJ.

By way of thanks I promised to show Natalie some sections of Offa’s Dyke and, together with University of Chester doctoral researchers Brian Costello (investigating early medieval grave-goods) and Liam Delaney (exploring Offa’s Dyke), we met at the Offa’s Dyke Centre before walking along two key sections of Offa’s Dyke south of Knighton: Hawthorn Hill and north of Yewtree Farm, Discoed.

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I’ll write about my impressions regarding these sections of the Dyke in a later post. Here, I would say that we discussed with Natalie the construction, design and landscape placement of the Dyke in some detail, as well as its broader historical context. Using the two stretches, we considered how the Dyke navigates hillsides, but also the approaches to river valleys. Furthermore, we also addressed its shifting preservation along these stretches. Furthermore, we talked about its heritage interpretation, its signposts and gates and stiles.

Here are some pics of us exploring with Natalie.

While the scale and character of the Dyke was impressive, so was this awesome oak tree we encountered.

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We also came across this wonderful old wooden gate post, preserved within a far newer fence, on Hawthorn Hill.

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Mention must also be made of some fabulous Offa’s Dyke ewes and lambs.

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Offa’s Dyke Centre

I’ve posted previously about why the Offa’s Dyke Centre is so awesome. 

We enjoyed the new Offa throne. Here’s Brian imagining himself a Mercian despot.

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We also got to meet Offa himself. Brian introduced him to mobile technology and he didn’t look at all impressed. He also didn’t really enjoy reading Wikipedia entries about the 9th century, narked off he most certainly was regarding the fate of Mercia. He also made clear he thought Brexit was the stuff of nightmares and created by weaklings and imbeciles.

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It was great to see the small part of ‘Welsh resistance’ to the dyke-focused narrative in the form of the Pillar of Eliseg.

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Finally, it was exciting to see the July weekend activities organised by Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust are being advertised!

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So here’s to meeting a super-bright and lovely lady and thanks to her for helping Liam and I with the first volume of the brand-new Offa’s Dyke Journal.

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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

Placing the Pillar of Eliseg

I’m very pleased to announce my latest publication: a collaboration between 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 this blog but here it is in its final published form.

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’. This includes a discussion of the patterns of visibility from Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke, and so it is directly connected to discussions of the relationship between the British and the Anglo-Saxons in the 8th and 9th centuries along the Mercian frontier.

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.

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