CA Letters 395 – January

Your views on some of the latest issues raised in CA.

Don’t forget the Frisians

I read with interest Sherds’ suggested replacement of the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ with ‘Anglo-Frisian’ (CA 393). This would seem to be supported by the contemporary, if geographically distant, Byzantine historian Procopius (History of the Wars Book VII, xx.7) who notes that the island of Brittia (Britain) was inhabited by three very numerous nations, namely the Angili, Frissones, and the Brittones – no mention of the Saxons there!

Intriguingly, one potential etymology of Dumfries is ‘fort of the Frisians’ – if correct, this would indicate a much wider Frisian span of impact. Perhaps now is indeed ther time to recognise their probable contribution to early medieval ‘England’.

Rod Staples

Migration matters

What a pleasure to read Chris Catling’s informed and balanced opinion in CA 393. Forty years ago, very much under the influence of Margaret Ursula Jones and Tom Jones’ migration speculations, I ventured the opinion that south-east Essex (Barstable and Rochford Hundreds) may have been ‘tribal lands’ offered to mercenaries. I don’t know whether the ‘King of Bling’ helps support this or not, but now I am debating just how many (modern Belgian/Dutch/Danish) tribesmen may have already been in eastern Britain long before Honorius’ rescript. For example, Carausius was a Menapian. With the withdrawal of Auxilia from the northern stations over so many years and into retirement there might have been many more by c.AD 400. Just a thought.

Arthur Wright
Chelmsford, Essex

Lauding the University of Leicester

I’m just catching up with my reading after COVID and I’m pleased to say that I managed to take in the fascinating articles about aDNA in CA 392. Extraordinary. Regarding Richard III, I don’t know whether I shall see The Lost King, especially since it seems biased in one of three directions and apparently misrepresents the Registrar of the University of Leicester, which is my alma mater. I have always kept in close touch, and I was fortunate to be one of the last to view the King’s coffin before the interment service. There is one absolutely crucial element to the Richard III identification that even the University has underplayed: the development by Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys (above) in 1985 of genetic fingerprinting. Why that achievement did not merit a Nobel Prize is baffling. It is moving to note that the University has maintained a relationship with the family in Leicestershire of the victim of the very first murder solved using the technique. The University of Leicester also has the distinction of finding the first physical evidence of Julius Caesar’s landing point [CA 337], surely at least as historically important as finding Richard.

IMAGE: Jane Gitschier

Dr Martin J P Davies
Langton Green, Kent


The caption to the coin image on p.50 of issue 393 (pictured below), ‘If Ee’n I gain my liberty my Earliest Flight shall be to thee’, seems wrong and I suggest this in case you agree.

IMAGE: Museum of London

‘E’en’ makes no sense, but ‘E’er’ would make perfect sense, as in ‘If ever I gain my liberty’ – and looking at the inscription you will see that the ‘r’ in the word ‘liberty’ is exactly the same as what I believe is an ‘r’ in ‘E’er’, and very similar to the ‘r’ in ‘Earliest’.

Ian Dickson
Dunbar, East Lothian

Edible archaeology

Dr Mike Hodder leads monthly History and Archaeology Taskforce (HAT) sessions in Sutton Park (West Midlands), and is the world expert on its archaeology. Earlier this month, it was his birthday, and at our December HAT session (where we do work to preserve the archaeological features in the park) we presented Mike with a cake inspired by the 16th-century bank and ditch boundaries that go around the various hursts (woods) in the park. You’ll see the HAT team doing some surveying of the bank and ditch (surveying is another regular thing we do), and the stag is a nod to the park’s history as a medieval deer park.

Zoe Toft
HAT volunteer

CA Online

Exact Editions @exacteditions
50 years ago, @CurrentArchaeo published its 35th issue.
In this issue: The Department of the Environment is planning to set up a series of regional archaeological units to coordinate the preservation of our past. #ThisMonthInHistory

The Past @read_the_past
Through the combined efforts of @SPRenewables and @MA_LTD, with support from @HistoricEngland, a wrought-iron anchor, possibly dating from the Roman period was successfully raised from the North Sea in June of last year. @CurrentArchaeo takes a look:

David Vargyas @trajanking60
Kind of surprising how anchor shapes are still the same. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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