The Medieval period

Our next layer of time is the Medieval period. Medieval comes from two Latin words meaning middle age, and it is the time in the middle between classical (Roman) times and the modern world. It lasted for about 400 years, between 1066 AD, when the Normans arrived, and 1500 AD.

Castle cartoon Europe grew up during this time and we begin to see the appearance of the modern world that we know now. We would recognise many of the objects in everyday use but others would seem strange. Unlike the Early Medieval period before it, we have lots of sources of evidence for life in medieval times. Records of all sorts were kept and have survived in large numbers. Around us we can still see many Medieval buildings like churches and castles but it is the finds being recorded by the PAS that tell us how people actually lived, as they are the things that people used in everyday life.

The PAS has recorded thousands of finds from the Medieval period. The most common ones are connected with trade and how people dressed. Buckles and brooches are common finds from this period as both became a fashion accessory as well as a useful way of joining two pieces of fabric or leather. Coins, weights and jettons (counters used in keeping accounts) all help tell us how the economy worked. Also, as chance finds, they can tell us the sites of Medieval fairs, markets and roads.

Heraldic mount
Heraldic mount

The most important things in Medieval England were the King or Queen and the Church. The PAS records finds that tell us a lot about both. Below the King or Queen were Nobles and we see things like horse harness fittings decorated with heraldry that can tell us which Noble the object belonged to.

An ampulla (front and back)The Christian church was at the centre of people’s lives providing hospitals, looking after the poor and giving comfort in a dangerous world. The PAS records a lot of finds relating to the Church. Ampullae were little lead bottles that contained holy water, which was kept ready for use in an emergency, like an illness, when the help of a saint was needed. Some people believe that ampullae were left in fields to help bless the crops and help them grow better.

Bullae were lead seals that were attached to documents sent out by the Pope in Rome. You can have a look for these on the PAS database!

A bulla

© The British Museum 2012 | Credits