The Anglo-Saxons invaded and colonised East England during the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries before moving west and north into the rest of Britain. They initially came from Denmark and northern Germany. Initially they were different peoples with different traditions who gradually amalgamated into the tribe known as Anglo-Saxon.
When the Romans abandoned Britain in the 5th century the Anglo-Saxons took over with their tribal chiefs and pagan customs. In some ways civilisation seemed to take a backwards step and this period has often been referred to as the Dark Ages. Certainly, little was known about how these new tribes lived until some significant archaeological discoveries were made such as the ‘ship burial’ at Sutton Hoo and the Cemetery and Village in the Lark River Valley at West Stow.
Luckily the area had been covered with a sand dune since the 13th century, giving the archaeologists a unique opportunity to study an entire Anglo-Saxon village. Most of the timber had rotted away, but there was enough evidence to plot the changes in the c. 420-650 AD village.
Amazing finds were uncovered proving that the Angles from Denmark and Saxons from north Germany had lived together in tight-knit farming communities, practising animal husbandry and cultivating cereal crops. They were not uncivilised at all and passed on their history orally with feasting and story-telling conducted in a hall specially built for the purpose.
Groups of houses were clustered around a community hall. Sixty-nine houses, 7 halls and 7 other structures were discovered at West Stow.
The archaeologists were divided on interpreting how the original houses were built so at the end of the excavation it was decided to test their theories by reconstructing the village using the tools and techniques available to the Anglo-Saxons.