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Life before the Minster: the Social Dynamics of Monastic Foundation at Anglo-Saxon Lyminge, Kent

  • Gabor Thomas (a1)

Anglo-Saxon monastic archaeology has been constrained by the limited scale of past investigations and their overriding emphasis on core buildings. This paper draws upon the results of an ongoing campaign of archaeological research that is redressing the balance through an ambitious programme of open-area excavation at Lyminge, Kent, the site of a royal double monastery founded in the seventh century ad. The results of five completed fieldwork seasons are assessed and contextualised in a narrative sequence emphasising the dynamic character of Lyminge as an Anglo-Saxon monastic settlement. In so doing, the study brings into sharp focus how early medieval monasteries were emplaced in the landscape, with specific reference to Anglo-Saxon Kent, a regional context offering key insights into how the process of monastic foundation redefined antecedent central places of long-standing politico-religious significance and social action.

L'archéologie monastique anglo-saxonne a été entravée par l'ampleur limitée des recherches passées et par l'importance prépondérante qu'elles ont accordée aux bâtiments principaux. Dans cet article, l'auteur s'appuie sur les résultats d'une campagne de recherche archéologique en cours qui tente de rétablir l'équilibre au moyen d'un programme ambitieux de fouilles en aire ouverte mené à Lyminge, dans le Kent, site d'un double monastère royal fondé au VIIe siècle. Les résultats de cinq saisons complètes de travail sur le terrain sont évalués et contextualisés sous la forme d'une séquence narrative qui souligne le dynamisme de Lyminge en tant que colonie monastique anglo-saxonne. Ce faisant, l'étude montre clairement comment les premiers monastères médiévaux étaient implantés dans le paysage en faisant spécifiquement référence au Kent anglo-saxon, un contexte régional qui offre des aperçus importants sur la manière dont le processus de fondation des monastères a redéfini des lieux centraux antérieurs à l'importance politico-religieuse et à l'action sociale anciennes.

Die angelsächsische monastische Archäologie war durch das geringe Ausmaβ früherer Untersuchungen und deren bevorzugtem Schwerpunkt auf bedeutende Gebäude eingeschränkt. Diese Abhandlung stützt sich auf die Ergebnisse einer laufenden Kampagne archäologischer Forschungen, die nunmehr über ein ambitioniertes Programm freiflächiger Ausgrabungen in Lyminge, Kent, einem im siebten Jahrhundert gegründeten Doppelkloster, das Gleichgewicht wiederherstellen. Die Ergebnisse fünf abgeschlossener Feldforschungssaisonen werden bewertet und in narrativer Abfolge kontextualisiert, mit besonderem Augenmerk auf den dynamischen Charakter von Lyminge als eine angelsächsische monastische Siedlung. Dabei richtet die Studie die Aufmerksamkeit ganz besonders darauf, wie die frühmittelalterlichen Klöster, mit spezifischem Bezug auf das angelsächsische Kent, in die Landschaft gesetzt wurden, wobei der regionale Kontext wichtige Einblicke dazu vermittelt, wie durch den Prozess monastischer Gründungen einstmals zentrale Stätten langjähriger politisch-religiöser Bedeutung und sozialen Aktivitäten neu definiertwurden.

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