Hamwic (Saxon Southampton)
Hamwic Location Plan
Fig 59 from Brisbane, M., Hamwic (Saxon Southampton): an 8th century port and production centre in Hodges, R. and Hobley, B (1988), The Rebirth of Towns in the West AD 700 – 1050 CBA Research Report no 68
Hamwic was an important port and trading emporium, and finds of pottery, glass, coins, stone and metalwork point to trading connections with Scandinavia, France, the Low Countries and the Rhineland.
Excavations have also shown that many crafts and industries, including pottery making, iron working, lead making, weaving and bone working were practiced in Hamwic. We can picture Hamwic as a busy, densely settled town of merchants and craft’s people.
Hamwic declined towards the end of the 9th century, presumably as a result of economic and political changes brought about, in part, by Viking activity. The excavations at Hamwic have resulted in one of the best collections of Middle Saxon finds in Europe.
Reconstructed drawing of the Six Dials area
Brisbane, op. cit., Fig 62
The Six Dials Area
Excavations in the Six Dials area, were originally expected to show less dense occupation, as the area lay towards the northern boundary of Hamwic However, the area produced evidence of dense occupation and a uniformity of size (4 – 5 m wide and up to 12 m long). None of the building were sufficiently large to be seen as higher status, and some buildings showed evidence of being workshops.
Hamwic – General view of the excavations
image: David Beard
Hamwic reconstruction drawing
image: Exploring Southampton: The Anglo-Saxon Settlement of Hamwic
The above charts have been prepared by David Beard using statistics provided by Jennifer Bourdillon, MA, MPhil, MIFA (pers. com.)
The Animal Bone from Hamwic
The pits, wells and other contexts at Hamwic produced prodigious amounts of animal bone. The relatively short occupation span of the settlement, coupled with the fact that there was no contamination from earlier material, meant that these bones could be examined statistically as a coherent whole.
The findings from the sheep and cattle bones were interesting. If they had simply represented animals for food, the major age at death should have been juvenile – when the animal has reach major meat weight. However, in both cases the major count (c. 40% of the total) is from older adult animals. It can be seen that the pigs, which were raised in the woods where they were slaughtered and brough into the settlement as food, exhibit the expected age distribution.
This must mean that older sheep and cattle were being brought into Hamwic on the hoof, as all parts of the carcass are represented. The most likely reason for this is that they were being used to produce hides and sheepskins.