Some years ago, I found myself beside a cornfield in southern England full of bristling, ripening, swishing, swaying barley. It was vivid, vibrant, beautiful – from that moment on, cereals have held me spellbound.
Many years before that, I began to develop a fascination with the Anglo-Saxon period – that portion of English history running from the early 5th century AD to the Norman Conquest in 1066 – and above all with its archaeology. That fascination, first articulated through the medium of fancy dress, later yielded a doctoral thesis about the archaeology of Anglo-Saxon farming, which remains a major research interest of mine to this very day.
In this blog, join me on my jolly jaunts through Anglo-Saxon archaeology and my further forays into the wonderful world of wheat, barley, rye, oat and their cereal cousins through the ages, within and beyond the beautiful English countryside.
By corn, do I mean maize?
No. I mean corn in a broader sense, and much the earlier sense in British English. The Oxford Dictionaries website gives the definition “the chief cereal crop of a district”, to which I would add a single letter: “the chief cereal crops of a district”, which may or may not include maize.
Why do I use the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’?
Although it is imperfect (and sometimes controversial), ‘Anglo-Saxon’ is a standard term in UK academia to denote the archaeology, history, culture and language of England between the early 5th century AD and the Norman Conquest. Just ask this department at the University of Cambridge.
Who am I?
My name is Mark. In 2014 I completed a doctorate on the archaeology of Anglo-Saxon farming at Oxford University, then worked in administration and software development before returning in 2017 to Oxford, where I currently research archaeobotany and medieval English agriculture, as part of a project called FeedSax.
Does some of this blog seem eerily familiar?
It may well do. In 2012, I started a blog about agricultural archaeology called Farming Unearthed. The website you’re now looking at is the direct successor to that blog, and followers of that earlier blog will now find that they are following The Corn Lore instead. I have also migrated several posts from the old site to this new one. Anything dating from 2012 to 2018 comes from Farming Unearthed, and may be quite different in tone and content.