Research

Mark's research interests embrace Anglo-Saxon England, the history of farming, and environmental archaeology - especially archaeobotany, the study of plants in ancient cultures and societies.

Past and present projects are listed here, along with associated publications and reports. For a full list of publications and conference presentations, please visit Academia.edu.

For specifically archaeobotanical work, please visit the Archaeobotany page.

wheelbarrowing on a dig

Feeding Anglo-Saxon England

(pilot project 2016)

Between the 8th and 13th centuries, England's population grew enormously. This could not have happened without a corresponding growth in agricultural production. The distinctive characters of medieval English farming - above all, the 'Midland system' of open fields and nucleated villages which characterised much of central England - have long been recognised, and debated. The origins and development of this system remain disputed after more than 100 years of rigorous research. This project, led by Prof. Helena Hamerow (University of Oxford), aims to take a fresh, pioneering, bioarchaeological perspective on this critical research topic. In 2016, Mark contributed to a pilot study, assessing the volume, quality and accessibility of archaeobotanical data available for this work.

  • McKerracher, M. 2016. "Playing with fire? Charred grain as a proxy for cereal surpluses in early medieval England", Medieval Settlement Research 31, pp.63-66.

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CoCo: Corpus of Crop Ovens

(2015 - )

Ubiquitous in Roman archaeology, scarce in the early medieval period, the British crop oven has long deserved its own research project. 'CoCo' aims to create a web-based centre of data and knowledge pertaining to these intriguing agricultural ovens.

For an introduction to this obscure but compelling topic, see this blog post.

  • McKerracher, M. 2014. "Landscapes of Production in Mid Saxon England: the monumental grain ovens", Medieval Settlement Research 29, pp.82-85.

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Mid Saxon Farming

(2010-2014)

Between the 7th and 9th centuries - the so-called Mid Saxon period - England witnessed economic growth unseen since the Roman period. In a rural, agricultural society such as this, such intensification must have been rooted in the land. Archaeologists and historians have long argued that Mid Saxon England must have witnessed considerable agricultural development, but have lacked evidence for how this actually happened. In his doctoral thesis, Mark proposes a new archeological model of how farming may have expanded and intensified in Mid Saxon England, drawing especially upon recent advances in environmental archaeology.

  • McKerracher, M. (book in prep.) Farming Transformed in Anglo-Saxon England: the 7th - 9th centuries AD
  • McKerracher, M. (submitted) "Seeds and status: the archaeobotany of monastic Lyminge", Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History 20.
  • McKerracher, M. (submitted) "Saving the Bacon? Reflections on the Anglo-Saxon Pig", Association for Environmental Archaeology Newsletter
  • McKerracher, M. 2016. "Bread and surpluses: the Anglo-Saxon 'bread wheat thesis' reconsidered", Environmental Archaeology 21(1), pp. 88-102; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/1749631414Y.0000000054
  • McKerracher, M. 2014. "Agricultural Development in Mid Saxon England" (DPhil thesis, submitted at University of Oxford).

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Monastic Landholding in Anglo-Saxon England

(2009-2010)

From around the late 7th century, Anglo-Saxon England seems to have enjoyed serious economic growth. At about the same time, monasteries enter the picture as wealthy, powerful landowners. Coincidence? Scholars doubt it, but disagree over what the connection really means. Did monasteries actively fire up economic activity? Were they a more passive stimulus? Or were they simply riding the tide of growth - a symptom more than a cause? In his Masters dissertation, Mark reconsiders the "monastic stimulus hypothesis" from an archaeological perspective.

  • McKerracher, M. 2010. "Monastic Landholding and Dependency in Anglo-Saxon England" (MSt Dissertation, University of Oxford).

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Brading Roman villa

(2007-2010)

Just outside the village of Brading on the Isle of Wight (southern England) lies a Roman villa with world-famous mosaic floors. Originally excavated in the late 19th century, Brading Roman villa is today a popular tourist attraction as well as a site of academic interest.

Mark investigated the possibility of foreign investment at Roman Brading in his undergraduate research project, and later participated as a digger in Barry Cunliffe's excavations from 2008 to 2010.

  • McKerracher, M.J. 2008. "Could Brading villa provide evidence of foreign investment in Britain in Late Antiquity?" (unpublished BA dissertation, University of Oxford).

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