Friday, September 25, 2009

That so-called "Anglo-Saxon" treasure could have been of genuine British-manufacture

I'm going to stick my neck out here. Who's to say that the fabulous hoard of gold and silver craftwork, unearthed by that bloke with the metal detector in Staffordshire, was produced by Johnny-Come-Lately Anglo-Saxon settlers?

 Just 9 of some 1500 so-called "Anglo-Saxon" artefacts - a stupendous find,  regardless of provenance

OK,  so we are supposed to be proud of our admixture of Anglo-Saxon and other genes. We are supposed to take pride in being an allegedly mongrel race  (hybrid vigour an' all).

But have your read your Stephen Oppenheimer?  He's the Oxford scholar who analyses modern DNA to trace our genetic roots. I blogged about his claims some 3 years ago.  Oppenheimer rejects the idea that Anglo-Saxons supplanted the native Brits, sending us scurrying to the Celtic fringes. Oppenheimer reckons that the native Brits pre-dated the Celts, and indeed resisted numerous waves of invasion - the Celts, the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Normans, stubbornly staying put, and surviving - either by putting up resistance, or by assimilating the invaders.

Oppenheimer reckons that native Brits are derived from Basque migrants who recolonised Britain some 15,000 years ago after the last Ice Age, crossing the then still existing land bridge between the Continent and England.

So why is the treasure being described as Anglo-Saxon? Who's to say it is not native British - or, less probably, Celt?

OK, so it was discovered in a Staffordshire field, in central England, and is reckoned to be 7th century, when that part of England was in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.  But that does not mean that it was Anglo-Saxon treasure. It may have been of native British manufacture, possibly from the era (mythical or otherwise) of King Arthur, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table. It may have been taken from our dead warriors on the battlefield  as war booty - or maybe our knights buried their finery (purely for show!) before facing the invader in battle wearing the equivalent of combat fatigues.

What's the evidence that Anglo-Saxons ever produced such exquisite artwork? I thought they were practical types, more concerned with clearing forest, ploughing, agriculture and animal husbandry? Their efforts went into producing axes and ploughs - not fine gold filigree ornamentation.

Yep, I'll put my head on the block. The "experts" have got it entirely wrong. It's not Anglo-Saxon treasure. It's British treasure. And no, I don't mean Celtic treasure - although that gifted if mercurial folk did produce fine arts and crafts - and are arguably more highly regarded in that respect than the Anglo-Saxons.

Nope, I reckon the treasure was produced by native "aboriginal"  Brits,  of Basque-derived stock  according to Professor Oppenheimer - the true Brits - the ones who re-settled the British Isles, and who have managed to survive and prosper despite waves of immigrants seeking a better life. Britain's geography permitted co-existence within probably quite confined geographical areas - a few hundred square miles for example - which could be a little as 20m x 20m-  thanks to our varied topography, the (then) more abundant forest cover, and, dare I say it, mutual tolerance and/or respect between native and newcomer. There was room for everyone who was prepared to work, and to "live and let live" - the British way.  Britain was, if you like,  the "New World" of the first millennium, once the Romans had left.

I repeat: the experts may have got it wrong. One cannot assume it is Anglo-Saxon treasure. It could well have been the exquisite handiwork of native Brits who  succeeded in maintaining their genetic, ethnic and cultural identity over thousands of years - standing firm and finally expelling - or assimilating-   the Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons,  Danes, Vikings and Normans.

Update  Sat 26 14:31 : See the Telegraph article with its 23 comments - at the time of writing.

The "Staffordshire  Hoard" now has a wikipedia entry

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