About

coastalmarkWelcome to the blog of Dr Mark McKerracher.

I’m an archaeologist specializing in Anglo-Saxon England and agricultural history – sometimes, but not necessarily, at the same time. This blog documents my rambles through these fascinating topics. It includes book and article reviews, and occasionally serves as an informal platform for my own research.

For more information on my research and other writings, please see my Academia profile and all-purpose website.

MJM 14/07/2014

2 thoughts on “About

  1. So, about these corn dryers then. Having grown up in New Zealand I didn’t get dragged around all those Roman ruins, so the idea of corn driers is fairly new to me and as such I’m about to ask what is possibly a dumb question, but “What about the malt?!” I’m currently researching a small booklet on medieval brewing practices, about which we know far too little, and even less for the Anglo-Saxon period, which is how I came upon these malt driers. I’ve now read a few reports on them, and it’s all about drying the grain before storage or grinding, in places were the weather is rarely co-operative. yet the spread of corn dryers seems to be much much wider than that, without explanation. Why is no-one point out that these things are absolutely prefect, if not essential to malting grain for brewing? Because they are! I’ve done some malting myself, and these are fantastic! I want one! Given how important ale was, culturally, to the anglo-saxons and the medieval English I’m very surprised that people aren’t all over this topic. Is “malt” a dirty word or something? So please, please when you are looking at those grain deposits, check for halted germination of the grains, a sure sign of deliberate malting! You might also want to talk to Merryn and Graham Dineley http://merryn.dineley.com/ about ancient brewing.

  2. Hi Belinda, thanks for visiting Farming Unearthed, and thanks for your insightful comments. You’re right that malting is seldom discussed – indeed, the ovens themselves are seldom discussed. In a recent short paper, I’ve proposed calling them ‘grain ovens’ to allow for functions other than drying (McKerracher 2014), and gratifyingly I’ve since heard the term used in work on Roman Britain. But malting hasn’t been entirely overlooked: interestingly, Peter Reynolds’ experimental replica Roman ‘corn-dryer’ at Butser Ancient Farm proved to be far more effective for malting than for drying grain (Reynolds 1981 pp.36-43). For an Anglo-Saxon example where there are signs of malting (germinated barley grain), see the excavation report for Higham Ferrers (Hardy et al 2007, pp.48-54); it’s also featured in my paper. Hope that’s of interest!

    McKerracher, M. (2014). ‘Landscapes of production in Mid Saxon England: the monumental grain ovens’, Medieval Settlement Research 29, pp.82-85.
    Reynolds, P.J. (1981). ‘New approaches to familiar problems’, in Jones, M. and Dimbleby, G. eds. ‘The Environment of Man’ (Oxford: British Archaeological Reports), pp.19-49.
    Hardy, A., Charles, B.M. and Williams, R.J. (2007). Death and taxes: the archaeology of a Middle Saxon estate centre at Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire (Oxford: Oxford Archaeology).

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