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1 - Archaeology and the Origins of Brittany

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2021

Caroline Brett
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Fiona Edmonds
Affiliation:
Lancaster University
Paul Russell
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

This chapter surveys the archaeological evidence for the period of the settlement of Brittany from Britain. The absorption of the Armorican peninsula into the land-based Roman Empire in the first century BC ended its long-standing role in prehistory as an important bridge for trade and cultural communication between the Atlantic Archipelago and the Continent. It was further marginalised by the concentration of resources in frontier zones under the late Empire. However, the political and economic decline of late-Roman Armorica was apparently gradual, in contrast with the sudden disruption of the relatively prosperous lowland zone of Britain in the early fifth century. Differences such as these may partly explain the absence of direct archaeological evidence for migration. The absence from Brittany of the high-status material culture seen in Britain outside the zone of English settlement in the fifth to seventh centuries (hill-forts, decorated metalwork, imported pottery) may reflect Brittany’s relative poverty but also the extreme diffusion of political power there, and a lesser degree of conflict. More modest, newly discovered archaeological evidence indicates Brittany’s continued connections to the wider world of north-western Europe in more basic developments in agriculture and rural settlement forms.

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Chapter
Information
Brittany and the Atlantic Archipelago, 450–1200
Contact, Myth and History
, pp. 32 - 67
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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