Catherine Estelle Johnson

My personal research/archaeology blog -

Research title

Portable Inscribed Objects from Britain and Ireland, c. AD 400-1100

Research summary

The focus of my study is the body of 260-odd inscribed portable objects from Britain and Ireland in the period AD 400-1100.  These encompass a broad range of objects ranging from personal belongings and adornments, to fragments of bone, and to grand ecclesiastical reliquaries. The diverse texts are written in Roman letters, runes, and ogham alphabets (and even one in Arabic) and in the languages of Old English, Old Norse, Latin, and the Celtic-languages of the Picts, Scots, and Irish. My aim is to cut across the traditional, linguistically based epigraphic disciplinary boundaries to compare and contrast traditions of inscribing portable objects cross-culturally within early medieval insular worlds. In contrast to monumental inscriptions, inscribed personal belongings reflect a more intimate personal relationship. Often they declare ownership, sometimes even speaking in the first person (‘X owns me’, ‘X made me’). They present an ideal avenue through which to explore aspects of cultural and material identity, the power of writing and cultural attitudes towards text, as well as material ownership, possession, object biography, and agency.



  • Nordic Research Network, University of Glasgow, 4 May 2016
  • Anglo-Saxons 2016, Edinburgh University, 9-10 June 2016
  • Early Medieval Archaeology Student Symposium, University of Glasgow, 19-21 April 2018
  • European Association of Archaeologists, Barcelona, 5-9 September 2018