Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 4-2 (April 2013)Annet Nieuwhof: Anglo-Saxon immigration or continuity? Ezinge and the coastal area of the northern Netherlands in the Migration Period.
6. Discussion

6.1 The introduction of the Anglo-Saxon style

The Anglo-Saxon style was introduced to the northern Netherlands during the 4th or 5th centuries, the Migration Period. While it is generally believed that the new style came with immigrants from the Anglo-Saxon homelands in the 5th century AD, the pottery studies of Ezinge as well as Midlaren-De Bloemert show that the Anglo-Saxon style already occurs in the northern Netherlands in the 4th century. Since the evidence for continuous habitation is convincing, the introduction of the Anglo-Saxon style must reflect contacts between different settlements in different regions, rather than migration.

Strong resemblances between the pottery of Ezinge, Midlaren-De Bloemert and the coastal area of north-western Germany indicate that northern Drenthe and Groningen were both part of a socio-cultural network that extended far to the east (Nieuwhof 2011). This was so from the early Roman Iron Age onwards, when the so-called Wierum style was adopted from neighbouring Niedersachsen in Groningen and in northern Drenthe (Taayke 1996, V, 175). It continued during the middle Roman Iron Age, when both the Groningen terp region and northern Drenthe shared the pottery style of the Nordseeküstennahen Fundgruppe with northwestern-Germany (Taayke 1996, V, 177; Schmid 2006, 38-39 ). The network apparently still functioned in the 4th century.

Despite the similarities, the pottery assemblages of Ezinge and Midlaren-De Bloemert differ. Both places clearly went through their own development and history. Although it might be expected that these settlements in the northern Netherlands had more in common than either of them with the Feddersen Wierde, there rather appear to be similarities as well as differences with each of the other settlements. The comparison indicates that the settlements in the northern Netherlands did not all come into contact with pottery in Anglo-Saxon style in the same way. Moreover, other influences, for instance from the south, also must have played a role.

The results from these three settlements need to be compared to better understand the differences between them. For the purpose of the comparison, all finds have been divided in four groups, related to form and probably function: large pots, Dr. K4-beakers, Schalenurnen, and bowls and dishes (Table 2). Large pots are further divided in local G7-pots and specific Anglo-Saxon style pots (usually narrow-mouthed Plettke-types, some without rim). An additional category, consisting of unidentified and exceptional pots, has been left out because their number for the Feddersen Wierde is unknown. This category consists of 35 specimens in Ezinge and 49 in Midlaren-De Bloemert.


Table 2 Ratio of pottery forms (MNI) from the 4th and 5th centuries in four settlements: Ezinge, Midlaren-De Bloemert (both based on data from the author’s research) and the Feddersen Wierde (after Schmid 2006 ). AS: pottery in Anglo-Saxon style; type codes are from the northern-Drenthe typology ( Taayke 1996 ).

* Numbers from the Feddersen Wierde come from the Tafeln in Schmid 2006, probably based on rim sherds. For Ezinge and Midlaren-De Bloemert, MNI is based on rim sherds as well as identifiable wall sherds from AS pots, Dr. K4-beakers and Schalenurnen. Miscellaneous and unidentified forms (35 in Ezinge, 49 in Midlaren) have been omitted since their number for the Feddersen Wierde is unknown.

** In particular narrow-mouthed, decorated pots in Anglo-Saxon style.

Table 2 shows that large pots are most numerous in all three settlements, but the percentage for Ezinge is significantly higher than for the other settlements (percentages of G7 and large AS combined sum to 63% for Ezinge, 46% for Midlaren-De Bloemert and 50% for the Feddersen Wierde). This ratio is contrasted by the percentage of bowls and dishes, which is low for Ezinge, but rather high for both Midlaren-De Bloemert and the Feddersen Wierde. This preference for bowls (this group mainly consists of bowls) may have been caused by influences from the south, where bowls were more numerous. Where they occur in large numbers, for instance in Wijster in southern Drenthe (Van Es 1967, type VIIB2), bowls often served as cooking pots (Taayke 1996, III, 63). In Ezinge, wide-mouthed G7-pots were apparently preferred for the same function. Within the category of large pots, type G7 is most numerous by far in Ezinge and Midlaren-De Bloemert, to the cost of pots in Anglo-Saxon style. At the Feddersen Wierde, there are as many G7-type pots as narrow-mouthed pots in Anglo-Saxon style. The difference may be related to a traditional preference for narrow-mouthed pots on the Feddersen Wierde, for example as containers for liquids. In Ezinge and Midlaren-De Bloemert, narrow-mouthed pots were apparently not thought useful during this period, although they had been part of the common repertoire of the middle-Roman Iron Age (type Ge6).

The sum of the percentages of Schalenurnen and Dr. K4-beakers in all three settlements is around 30% (31% in Ezinge and Midlaren-De Bloemert, 27% on the Feddersen Wierde).[14] In this case, Midlaren-De Bloemert stands out: not many Schalenurnen have been found there, but there is a striking number of Dr. K4-beakers. In Ezinge and on the Feddersen Wierde, the situation is reversed: many more Schalenurnen than beakers were in use there, although the percentage of Dr. K4-beakers is higher in Ezinge than on the Feddersen Wierde. Both Schalenurnen and beakers were probably used to serve food and drinks. In each settlement, a different choice was apparently made from the contemporary forms that could be used as tableware. The rest of the household pottery consisted of large cooking pots and storage vessels, narrow-mouthed pots, bowls and dishes in various ratios, depending on local preferences and customs, and external influences.

The pottery assemblages described here come from settlements, except for two complete pots found in a small cemetery during the excavation of the settlement of Midlaren-De Bloemert (a K4-beaker and a Schalenurne (88A/79, fig. 10). In the cemeteries near Midlaren-De Bloemert, pottery in Anglo-Saxon style is dominant, almost to the exclusion of indigenous forms. If these were considered in isolation (as they were before the settlement was excavated), it would be self-evident that these pots had come here with immigrants from the Anglo-Saxon area. The early dates of some of the cremation urns (fig. 14) indicate that the people of Midlaren became acquainted with the forms and decoration of the Anglo-Saxon style in the course of the 4th century. The pots in Anglo-Saxon style were either taken to the settlement, perhaps as gifts from visits or by visitors, or they were made in the settlement itself by foreign potters. As was already argued for earlier periods in Midlaren-De Bloemert (Nieuwhof 2008a, 295), female potters probably came to the settlement as marriage partners from elsewhere. The pots in Anglo-Saxon style hardly occur in the settlement itself. What was adopted was the decoration, to be applied especially on the Dr. K4-beakers. Although some exotic beakers were found in the settlement (e.g. find no. 2705, found together with AS-pot no. 2725, fig. 10), most decorated beakers belong to the common local repertoire.

A cemetery from this period has not been found near Ezinge; large pots in Anglo-Saxon style are rare in this settlement. Here, it can be inferred from associated pottery types that the Anglo-Saxon style was probably introduced in the 4th century in the form of Schalenurnen. This type became popular in Ezinge to the cost of Dr. K4-beakers, which did not develop into a common indigenous type here. Many of the beakers found in Ezinge have uncommon characteristics, either in decoration, shape or size, indicating that these beakers were not made locally. Nicely decorated pots may have been common gifts in exchange relations with other settlements. It is noticeable that a number of Schalenurnen in Ezinge is of Schmid’s variant 3. On the Feddersen Wierde, this wide Schalenurne is far less common than the variants 1 and 2 (only 37 out of 625 Schalenurnen in this settlement). Finds of this type are concentrated in the area of the so-called Herrenhof and the associated assembly hall, which probably was the socio-political centre of the settlement (Schmid 2006, 60). It is possible that such Schalenurnen were specifically used as tableware in ceremonial meals, which took place in the assembly hall. They may have come to Ezinge via political contacts.

The early dates of the pots in Anglo-Saxon style found in Midlaren-De Bloemert and Ezinge show that the socio-cultural network of which these settlements were part, enabled the rapid spread of new stylistic elements. However, the forms available in the Anglo-Saxon home area were not adopted indiscriminately, as the differences between Ezinge, Midlaren-De Bloemert and the Feddersen Wierde show. In particular large, narrow-mouthed pots, which are very common on the Feddersen Wierde, hardly occur in the settlements of Ezinge and Midlaren-De Bloemert. The ordinary household ware for the preparation of food in these settlements barely changed under the influence of the Anglo-Saxon style, apart from the general development of forms that occurred everywhere in the inhabited parts of the northern Netherlands and north-western Germany during this period. The Anglo-Saxon style in the northern Netherlands was specifically adopted for pottery with special functions, such as tableware and cremation urns.