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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Staff

Publication details for Dr Andrew R Millard

Hughes, Susan S., Millard, Andrew R., Chenery, Carolyn A., Nowell, Geoff & Pearson, D. Graham (2018). Isotopic analysis of burials from the early Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Eastbourne, Sussex, U.K. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 19: 513-525.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

The transition from Roman Britain to early Anglo-Saxon England, traditionally described as the Adventus Saxonum and associated with a large-scale invasion by Germanic peoples, has been the subject of much debate. The archaeological record does not support a replacement of the local Romano-British population with Germanic incomers, and alternative explanations for the transition argue for a much smaller contribution of Germanic immigrants. As a contribution to this debate and to address the question of the number of immigrants, we have applied strontium and oxygen isotope analysis to study residential mobility in a sample of 19 individuals from the early Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Eastbourne, Sussex, on the southern English coast. Local variation in bio-available strontium isotope ratios was established by sampling soils from different geological substrates within 19 km of the cemetery and from a small sample of domestic animals recovered from the graves. Four individuals are likely continental immigrants, three others could be, but could also originate elsewhere in the British Isles, and two women are likely immigrants from nearby communities. The identified immigrants at Eastbourne show a temporal spread and lack of wealth expressed as grave goods. This pattern is not consistent with simple models of mass invasion, elite takeover or acculturation. Our results, together with other recent findings, imply that the Adventus Saxonum involved diverse migratory and demographic processes.