Trees were of fundamental importance in Anglo-Saxon society. Anglo-Saxons dwelt in timber houses, relied on woodland as an economic resource, and created a material culture of wood which was at least as meaningfully-imbued, and vastly more prevalent, than the sculpture and metalwork with which we associate them today. Trees held a central place in Anglo-Saxon belief systems, which carried into the Christian period, not least in the figure of the cross itself. Despite this, the transience of trees and timber in comparison to metal and stone has meant that the subject has received comparatively little attention from scholars.
Trees and Timber in the Anglo-Saxon World constitutes the very first collection of essays written about the role of trees in early medieval England, bringing together established specialists and new voices to present an interdisciplinary insight into the complex relationship between the early English and their woodlands. The woodlands of England were not only deeply rooted in every aspect of Anglo-Saxon material culture, as a source of heat and light, food and drink, wood and timber for the construction of tools, weapons, and materials, but also in their spiritual life, symbolic vocabulary, and sense of connection to their beliefs and heritage. These essays do not merely focus on practicalities, such as carpentry techniques and the extent of woodland coverage, but rather explore the place of trees and timber in the intellectual lives of the early medieval inhabitants of England, using evidence from archaeology, place-names, landscapes, and written sources.
List of illustrations
1: Michael D. J. Bintley and Michael G. Shapland: An Introduction to Trees and Timber in the Anglo-Saxon World
Timber in Anglo-Saxon building practice
2: Michael G. Shapland: Meanings of Timber and Stone in Anglo-Saxon Building Practice
3: Mark Gardiner: The Sophistication of Late Anglo-Saxon Timber Buildings
4: John Baker: References to Timber Building Materials in Old English Place-Names
Perceptions of Wood and Wooden Objects
5: Martin G. Comey: The Wooden Drinking Vessels in the Sutton Hoo Assemblage: Materials, Morphology and Usage
6: Jennifer Neville: The Exeter Book Riddles' Precarious Insights into Wooden Artefacts
7: Michael D. J. Bintley: Brungen of Bearwe: Ploughing Common Furrows in Exeter Book Riddle 21, The Dream of the Rood, and the Æcerbot Charm
8: Pirkko Koppinen: Breaking the Mould: Solving the Old English Riddle 12 as Wudu 'Wood'
Trees and Woodland in Anglo-Saxon Belief
9: Clive Tolley: What is a 'World Tree', and Should We Expect to Find One Growing in Anglo-Saxon England?
10: John Blair: Holy Beams: Anglo-Saxon Cult Sites and the Place-Name Element Beam
11: Michael D. J. Bintley: Recasting the Role of Sacred Trees in Anglo-Saxon Spiritual History: the South Sandbach Cross 'Ancestors of Christ' Panel in its Cultural Contexts
12: Della Hooke: Christianity and the 'Sacred Tree'
Michael D. J. Bintley studied a BA in English and an MA in Medieval Literature at UCL, before writing an interdisciplinary PhD thesis on Trees and Woodland in Anglo-Saxon Culture (2009). He lectured at University College London, Birkbeck College, and Corpus Christi College, Oxford, before being appointed Lecturer in Medieval Literature at Canterbury Christ Church University in 2012. His research is interdisciplinary, and focuses primarily on landscapes, religion, and society in early medieval England and Scandinavia.
Michael G. Shapland recently completed his PhD thesis at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, entitled Buildings of Secular and Religious Lordship: Anglo-Saxon Tower-Nave Churches. He has a background in field archaeology, is an excavator and buildings specialist, and lectures part-time at the University of Winchester. His research focuses on Anglo-Saxon churches and aristocratic practice.
"a fascinating collection, and the editors are to be congratulated on bringing together such an interdisciplinary group of scholars, and maintaining such a tight focus throughout"
– Stephen Rippon, Medieval Settlement Research
"extremely wide-ranging volume [...] presents many intriguing aspects of wood in Anglo-Saxon contexts"
– Nat Alcock, Society for Medieval Archaeology
"This is an important book, nicely structured and well edited. It is fantastic to see such an interdisciplinary approach to Anglo-Saxon studies breaking new ground in our understanding of Early Medieval Britain [...] there is much here to fascinate and intrigue"
– Ethan Doyle White, Time & Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture
"This volume succeeds on many levels, not least because even its lacunae will stimulate the reader to question, squirrel and discuss."
– Graham Jones, The Antiquaries Journal
"This book successfully presents an array of well researched, thoughtful essays on the role of trees and timber in the Anglo-Saxon world. Determinedly interdisciplinary, the volume brings together archaeologists, literary scholars, historians, comparative mythologists, and historical geographers to give multiple perspectives on the ways in which trees and their products influenced everyday life, ritual, and art in England during the Anglo-Saxon centuries."
– Sarah Harlan-Haughey, The Medieval Review