‘Tasting Misery Among Snakes: Smiths and Kingship in Early Medieval Europe’

Join Dr Duncan Wright for an archaeological Lunchtime Lecture

During the earliest medieval centuries, precious metalworkers were highly prized members of society who came under the protection of kings and were integrated into the royal courts of northern Europe. Although mistrusted for their mysterious and restricted knowledge, the most skilful artisans acted as literal 'crafters of kingship' in a period when elite power was rooted in gift-giving of valuable items.

Yet, by the ninth century, smiths had apparently assumed a less prominent social position and appear in the laws of Alfred as normal tradespeople going about their business. So why were metalworkers at one time highly-prized, and how did they come to lose their status? With archaeological, documentary and topographic evidence, this paper will demonstrate how the evolving significance of the smith was the product of fundamental changes to the character of early medieval kingship. The findings from high-status settlements prove particularly revealing, and show how the industry and activity of metalworkers was carefully curated by elites in order to consolidate their power.

Dr Duncan Wright is Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at Bishop Grosseteste University.

This talk is part of our ongoing 'Lunchtime Lectures' series. It will be held in the auditorium at The Collection, starting at 12.30 and lasting for approximately 30 minutes.

Tickets cost £3 per person, available from the museum reception desk.