University of Leicester
2023FathyB_PhD.pdf (10.42 MB)

New Materialist Approach to Understanding Post-Roman Urban Emergence: A Study of Ipswich, AD 600-900

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posted on 2023-08-09, 10:36 authored by Brandon H. Fathy

The question of how the earliest medieval towns emerged is often framed around a false dichotomy of top-down versus bottom up. To better appreciate the complex dynamics of early urban history, this thesis critiques simple narratives of urban foundation and linear causality to incorporate complexity into a narrative of urban emergence. Starting from the under-published archaeology of the key trading site of Ipswich (Old English: Gipeswic), my thesis collates grey literature from 71 site reports and explores a wide range of historicised ‘agents’ that exerted influence and change, c. AD 600-900, presenting a detailed chronology and cartography for early medieval Ipswich. Two key aspects are explored: the process of becoming urban from the unfolding of various components, and how the town was manifested through the interactions of various agents.

My research has interpreted the features at Ipswich into eight approximate temporal phases. A horizontal discourse is evident by the gradual settlement of cemeteries and the informal appearance of blacksmithing areas along a flood control channel. By the late 9th century, legitimate authorities were directing parts of the town’s expansion, including metalling existing roads and occasionally replacing existing taskscapes. Specialised pottery and metalworking zones are evident by this century. I conclude that the town emerged from a 7th-century gathering and funerary place, and was catalysed by material and human agents so that Gipeswic, in its earlier phases, was already distinct from contemporary East Anglian sites.



Deirdre O’Sullivan; Neil Christie

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Archaeology and Ancient History

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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