Barbarians to Angels: The Dark Ages Reconsidered

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9780393060751: Barbarians to Angels: The Dark Ages Reconsidered

A surprising look at the least-appreciated yet profoundly important period of European history: the so-called Dark Ages.

The barbarians who destroyed the glory that was Rome demolished civilization along with it, and for the next four centuries the peasants and artisans of Europe barely held on. Random violence, mass migration, disease, and starvation were the only way of life. This is the picture of the Dark Ages that most historians promote. But archaeology tells a different story. Peter S. Wells, one of the world's leading archaeologists, surveys the archaeological record to demonstrate that the Dark Ages were not dark at all. The kingdoms of Christendom that emerged starting in the ninth century sprang from a robust, previously little-known, European culture, albeit one that left behind few written texts. This recently recognized culture achieved heights in artistry, technology, craft production, commerce, and learning. Future assessments of the period between Rome and Charlemagne will need to incorporate this fresh new picture. 24 illustrations

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About the Author:

Peter S. Wells is professor of archaeology at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of The Battle That Stopped Rome and The Barbarians Speak. He lives in St. Paul.

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. As archeology professor and author Wells (The Battle That Stopped Rome) points out, the only texts available on the cultures of "Dark Age" Europe (roughly A.D. 400-600) were written by those educated in the Roman tradition. The only unbiased evidence, therefore, is the material evidence. Covering five decades of excavation in western Europe (including London, Copenhagen, the outskirts of Stockholm, Cologne and Trier), Wells chronicles a revolution in the understanding of Europe after the Western Roman Empire's collapse, ostensibly at the hands of "barbarian hordes." Evidence accounts for vast trade networks that ranged from Byzantium and the Black Sea through the Baltic to Ireland, and across the Alps and Pyrenees; artifacts from as far away as India have been uncovered in Scandinavia. Buildings, metalworking and gem-cutting sites, and evidence for continuous occupation of many modern European cities, also provide rich proof that, contrary to the Roman-centric collapse-of-civilization narrative, the post-Roman world pulsed with robust, vital activity. Wells's aim is obviously a wide audience of armchair historians and archeologists; they won't be disappointed, and they'll have a fine reading list in Wells's sources and suggestions.
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