Monday, November 7, 2011

Old English mierce, meaning “frontier people”

The Old English word mierce means “frontier people” [1] or “people of the marches (boundaries)” [2]. From this word the name Mercia derived. In the seventh century Mercia was a Anglo-Saxon kingdom in England [1-3], surrounded by Welsh Land (west), Northumbria (north) , East Anglia (east) and Essex and Wessex (south).

The Kingdom of Mercia (Mierce) lost its independency in the eighth century,  when Wessex became the dominant power. In later centuries the Mercians had to share their land with Danes—until the Norman Conquest in 1066. Mercia “disappeared” from the map. But the discovery of 3,500 pieces of treasure, unearthed on a Staffordshire farm in 2009, brought Mercia and its time back on the map [1]: What is now called the Staffordshire Hoard, a cache of military hardware and a few holy relics, was buried in the second half of the seventh century amidst Mercian settlements.

The Mercian's frontier was the border to Wales. Mercians and their Welsh neighbors were fighting battles and one only can speculate whether the richly ornamented weapons were buried for safekeeping, ritual reasons or in fulfillment of a disarmament agreement.

Keywords: geography, history, Britain, Anglo-Saxon authority, weaponry, gold and garnets

References and more to explore
[1] Caroline Alexander: Magical Mystery Hoard. National Geographic November 2011, 220 (5), pp. 38-60 [].
[2] Mercia [].
[3] Historical map (800 A. D.): Kingdom of Mercia (Mierce) [].

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