It is becoming clear that the Norman Conquest both initiated and intensified farreaching changes at all levels of society, including culture and identity, social structure, economy, diet, art and architecture, portable material culture, rural and urban settlement, manorial and community landscapes, religion and mortuary practice, and the management of the environment. Many of these elements are either inaccessible from documentary evidence alone or have distinct material implications, and recent archaeological research is beginning to show that they have the potential to complicate traditional historical narratives of the Conquest, or take our understanding of the period in new directions. Nevertheless, the vast majority of academic scholarship on the Conquest has been carried out without reference to the abundant archaeological evidence from the eleventh and twelfth centuries that has been recovered in excavation and still survives above ground. As a result, both academic and public understanding of the Conquest has been predicated primarily on its impact on the elite social classes, and on narratives that have been derived almost entirely from the wealth of documentary history available for the period. The comprehensive archaeology of the Norman Conquest and Anglo-Norman transition is therefore a story that is yet to be told.
This paper articulates key themes, research directions, and a new case study emerging from the project ‘Archaeologies of the Norman Conquest’, an AHRC research network led jointly by the authors. The chief objective of the project has been to create and sustain a research community linked by an interest in revitalizing archaeological research in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, in order to examine the cultural, social, and political implications of the Norman Conquest and its aftermath through an explicit focus on material culture. The network has brought together the humanistic, scientific, academic, professional and public-engagement arms of archaeology, as well as key participants from cognate disciplines, in a range of workshops focusing on themes of interpretative agendas, methodologies, international perspectives and public outreach. The central aim has been to create a materially focused research framework for the period which can be engaged with and taken forward by both archaeological and interdisciplinary audiences. This article is a first step in that direction.