Medieval Domesticity: Home, Housing and Household
25th Annual Medieval Studies Conference
Saturday March 12-Sunday March 13, 2005
The Role of Archaeology in Changing Interpretations of the Domestic Sphere: a Rural Case Study from England

Jane Grenville, University of York

Almost all medievalists will be familiar in some degree with the site of Wharram Percy in Yorkshire. This contribution will track the genesis and output of this major project from its inception by Maurice Beresford and John Hurst in 1951 to the publication of the most recent volume of the report (Volume 9: The North Manor Area and North-West Enclosure (2004)). It will look at the changing foci of research, from the original question (when and why was the village deserted?) to the multiplicities of current interest. How did this site develop from the prehistoric period onwards? How are we to understand the relationship between the high status manor sites and the lower status peasant housing? Were the peasant houses flimsy structures, built to last only one generation or were they more substantial? And what do the answers to that question tell us about medieval attitudes to property and inheritance? What was the general level of health in the Whararm population? How mobile were they? And there are many more questions. In a brief overview, I will be tracing not only some of the many separate strands of research that Wharram has engendered, but also thinking about how this long-term project reflects the development of the discipline of medieval archaeology and its relationship to documentary history.

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