Anglo-Saxon Ritual Landscapes

Principal investigator: Jeremy Taylor
Level: Personal research project

My paper titled A Ritual Landscape Considered : Cosmography and Anglo Saxon ship burials is about to be published shortly following nearly 10 years of research into the Anglo Saqxon landscape of the Suffolk Sandlings. Ostensibly there is evidence of a solstitial landscape alignment on a summer solstice sunrise, winter solstice sunset axis that connects the three intact Anglo-Saxon ship burials in Suffolk with the original site of Leiston Old Abbey, whose chapel it is believed was dedicated to St Nicolas, patron saint of sailors. The four famous Royal roads of Watling Street, Ermine Street, the Icknield Way and Fosse Way, singled out by King Belinus the Great, the legendary King of the Britons who reigned 399-364 BC singled out as prime examples of the Celtic system as each road represented one of the four British Solstice bearings and may have informed the locations of the 6th century boat-burial practices in Suffolk. I later learnt that at least two other authors had spoken of this Celtic system in the landscape of East Anglia who citeda surveyed network of sites that included a Saxon shore fort, large tumuli and other earthworks which were located and constructed in an elaborate network of solar alignments according to a complete system of archaic observation posts and bearing lines. The landscape alignment I have discovered is accurate to approximately 0.054 degrees and measures the bearing of the three sites above at 49.78 degrees, with the summer solstice sunrise at the time of Raedwald's death (625 AD) measured at 49.37 degrees azimuth, celestial North. In order to further pursue my studies and research I am desparate please to have my account upgraded.

I have been fortunate enough to have received the support of numerous Professors across globe coming themselves from a diverse range of disciplines, including Architecture, Humanities and Medieval Archaeology, Mechanical Engineering, Germanic Languages and Linguistics. For my paper I have been able to get the Archaeoastronomy section of the Sohland Observatory in Germany to independently validate my findings corroborated with the support of precision landscape mapping software from an Emeritus Professor in Landscape Architecture.

Raedwald who was buried at Sutton Hoo was himself aWuffinga, meaning the 'people of the wolf' and the Wuffingas from Sweden claimed in their genealogies to be direct descendants of Odin. The eightfold directions of the solar calendar were used to divide the horizon to obtain the main wind directions and was central to the orientation of and planning of Roman temples and towns, orientating them to the cardinal directions and the sunrise and sunset at the summer and midwinter solstices. It transpires that it was deemed favourable for both King and country for a new reign to start at mid-winter, formally the celebration of the Unconquerable Sun, a festival of light leading to the winter solstice. East-West axial alignment, considered now to be one of the features of high status Anglo-Saxon settlements, also included non-architectural features such as wells, crosses, cemeteries and old ritual sites.

Boat burials were an attempt to align the local elite with the ritual-cosmology of the Scandinavian's and the boat, which like its masculine counterpart the serpent also stood for regeneration and both symbols are enshrined in the mythic grave goods at Sutton Hoo which includes the royal standard, believed to be a symbol of Roman gromatic technology for surveying. Like their Celtic predecessors, Anglo-Saxon heathen worship seems to have taken place in open-air sanctuaries. They connected with distinct features in the landscape, supporting the pre-Christian belief in an "ensoulled" landscape and may even have been an expression of ongoing Romano-Celtic beliefs. East-West axial alignment, considered now to be one of the features of high status Anglo-Saxon settlements, also included non-architectural features such as wells, crosses, cemeteries and old ritual sites and such monuments were built to influence the way people experienced the landscape and how they were configured serving to structure the ways that people understood both space and time. The place below the horizon where the sun disappeared to and rose from - was the underworld and was important in the cosmological sense : being the abode of the gods. So, if you are interested in connecting with an alternative view of the Anglo Saxon past amongst the East Anglian landscape, dive in and explore with us.

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  • Created by: Sam Moorhead

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