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Durham e-Theses
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Crossing Britain: The British 'High' Cross in Context and Development, AD 600-1100

SMITH, CHRISTINA,EMILY,COWART (2023) Crossing Britain: The British 'High' Cross in Context and Development, AD 600-1100. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

Full text not available from this repository.
Author-imposed embargo until 29 November 2026.


This thesis examines the archaeological contexts and development of the monumental, free-standing, cruciform stone sculpture (‘high’ cross) in Britain, in the period between AD 600 and AD 1100. High crosses are a phenomenon unique to Britain and Ireland in the early medieval period and are found from Davidstow to Drainie and from Canterbury to Canna. Yet, Britain’s high crosses—and the individuals who commissioned, produced, and used these monuments—should not be viewed in isolation from wider post-Roman, pre-Romanesque Christendom.

This project is distinct from previous high cross studies in two main ways. First, it offers a pan-British engagement with the material. Its appendices (Vol. II) likewise invite cross-border interaction with the data and its Scottish catalogue of high crosses and their fragments (Appendix B) is the first of its kind in the modern era. Second, unlike many art historical studies which privilege those high crosses with figural carving, this thesis raises the visibility of the non-figural fragments. These fragments constitute most of the extant evidence in Britain.

The core of the thesis is its four chapters on different facets of high cross archaeological context: reuse contexts, excavated contexts, assemblage contexts, built environment contexts, and landscape contexts. By focusing on archaeological contexts and engaging with the material on a cross-border level, a more nuanced, complex picture of the role and locations of high crosses in Britain emerges. In doing so, the thesis challenges a number of assumptions made about the monument form and its function(s). Through interrogating the archaeological data, it shows gaps in current understanding, draws conclusions from what is known, and offers venues for future research. In all, the thesis demonstrates how an archaeological understanding of the monuments is essential to unpacking layers of engagement, from the medieval to the modern.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Sculpture; monumentality; landscape archaeology; early medieval Britain; CASSS; stone sculpture; high crosses; early medieval Britain
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:29 Nov 2023 16:12

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