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Durham University

Research & business

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Worked in Stone: Completing the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture

A research project of the Department of Archaeology, part of the Visual and Material Culture Research Group and North East Research Group research groups.

Background

Funding: Funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council is now enabling the completion of the project in book and digital form. A major grant from the AHRC from 2018-2021 is also facilitating a series of workshops, a final international project conference, work with non-academic beneficiaries and a final overview volume on the complete resource. The full online release of our digital data, to be made available for posterity via the Archaeological Data Service, has also been made possible by the AHRC award.

Durham Research Team: Professor Rosemary Cramp, Professor Sarah Semple, Dr Derek Craig, Dr Celia Orsini, Dr Tudor Skinner

Co-investigators: Professor Jane Hawkes (University of York), Dr Helen Gittos (University of Oxford), Professor Julian Richards (University of York) and Professor Joanna Story (University of Leicester).

Consultants: Sarah Price [online resources], Dominic Powlesland [digital models].

Associated PhD student: Christina Cowart-Smith

Worked in Stone

In 2018 the project won substantial funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to enable the completion of the project. Across 2018 to 2021 a team of six researchers and three post-doctoral researchers are completing full coverage of every early medieval sculpture in England, bringing to press all remaining published volumes. In addition, working with the Archaeological Data Service, we are preparing the complete online release of the full catalogues for every region so 10s of 1000s of catalogue entries and images are readily accessible as a free resource worldwide for academics and the public alike.

Our digital resources are accessed and used by 1000s of people internationally as a stepping off point for often local research by the interested public on the early history and archaeology of villages, churches and cemeteries and excite people’s interests in burial monuments, Christianity, paganism, technology and art. They have been used as a basis for educational packs for schools, and experimentation with photogrammetric techniques is resulting in exceptional 3-D models that can facilitate close grained assessment of workmanship, paint and colour traces and carved details. Our social media platforms have 1000s of followers and we field enquiries from the public on a weekly basis from those keen to research these monuments in their home localities.

The aims of this final period of work are to complete the remaining three volumes in the series and release all data free and online including the many 1000s of high quality images in a searchable and accessible format. This archive will also be housed for posterity with the Archaeological Data Service ensuring it can be used by generations to come. We are feeding back our data as well to the National Monuments Database, ensuring every item recorded is logged and thus will be recognised in commercial assessments and research.

These enigmatic and often neglected monuments offer a unique way of accessing the minds, hearts, beliefs, talents and aesthetics of people living over 1000 years ago and when contextualised within the broader visual culture of the age – manuscripts, metalwork and objects – present a vivid insight into the first early medieval technological and aesthetic experiments in working in stone. In our workshops we have and are engaging with representatives from local historical and archaeological societies encouraging and supporting new recording and display projects. We are also working with those that curate these monuments as church wardens and Diocesan Archaeologists, working to provide guidelines on display, care and protection. We are working too with Ecclesiastical judges, the Church of England and the Heritage Police Unit to ensure greater awareness of the vulnerability of these monuments to theft and damage.

New Methods

Experimentation using digital photogrammetric models is offering new research insights into methods of creation, paint, colour and decoration but also is providing a new means of developing educational packs for schools, while film and audio are also being explored as ways of ‘unpacking’ sculpture in new vigorous and visual ways.

Final Conference

In 2021 will host a final celebratory conference to mark the near end of the project. 'Worked in Stone: Early Medieval Sculpture in its International Context' will celebrate the culmination of work on the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture and offer an in-depth comparative investigation of the development and deployment of sculptural work in stone as a European-wide phenomenon, situating these monuments and their production within their local, regional, national and international contexts. Speakers will bridge divides separating northern, southern and eastern European scholarship. Our aim is to develop novel and significant understandings of the arrival of monumental work in stone in early medieval societies in terms of purpose, influences, connections and meaning.

Overview publication

Finally the project team with 13 additional collaborators are working on a final synthesis publication with Oxbow Books Ltd. This multi-authored book will, for the first time, introduce the entire resource, set it within its British and European context and take stock of all aspects of sculpture, from what we know about quarrying and production, to understanding form, iconography, exploring its landscape uses and architectural purposes and reflecting on its importance and meaning for understanding the early medieval past.

Publications

Semple et al. in prep. Worked in Stone. The arrival, development and contextual use of stone sculpture in early medieval England. Oxford: Oxbow Books Ltd.

Staff

From the Department of Archaeology