2. Previous Work

Cottam B, East Yorkshire (NGR 49754667), was one of the first productive sites to be examined by controlled metal-detecting and by archaeological methods. Excavation from 1993-5 revealed that a concentration of Anglian finds recorded by metal-detector users coincided with a Butterwick-type enclosure. It also provided the first archaeological glimpse of Halfdan's land partition, as the Anglian enclosure was abandoned in the late 9th century and replaced by a new form of Anglo-Scandinavian farmstead, some 100m to the north, with droveways and rectangular paddocks sitting behind a grand earthen rampart and timber gateway. The interpretation that there had been a horizontal shift in settlement focus was further reinforced by the distribution of the datable metalwork recovered through metal-detecting, and by the concentration of Anglo-Scandinavian Torksey-ware pottery logged in field-walking in 1993 (Richards 1999a, 9-15).

The artefact assemblage from Cottam B was first published by the lead detectorist in a series of papers in the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal (Haldenby 1990; 1992; 1994). The excavations were published in the Archaeological Journal (Richards 1999a) and via an early experiment in e-publication in Internet Archaeology (Richards 2001a). The associated digital archive was deposited with the Archaeology Data Service (ADS), including a full catalogue of the known finds, with basic photographs of many of the objects (Richards 2001b). The fine dating provided by the settlement break in the late 9th century also allowed new observations about artefact typology (Haldenby and Richards 2009) and the Anglo-Scandinavian bullion economy (Haldenby and Kershaw 2014).

Further metal-detecting in the Cottam area also led to the investigation of a smaller productive site at Cottam A where the Anglo-Saxon farmers had watered their livestock in the pond left by a Romano-British farmstead, and of a second Butterwick-type enclosure and productive site on the other side of the dry valley at Cowlam. Both these excavations, and some overall conclusions about the wider Anglo-Saxon landscape and estate, were published in the Archaeological Journal (Richards 2013), with the digital archives again made available via the ADS (Richards 2011a; 2011b). Meanwhile Haldenby and Richards (2010) considered the wider implications of the project and other metal-detected sites for the study of ploughzone finds, demonstrating that there is little horizontal movement of artefacts in the ploughsoil. Richards also incorporated the site-based studies in a wider analysis of the national distribution of early medieval metalwork, as catalogued by the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and Early Medieval Coinage (EMC) databases, in the Viking and Anglo-Saxon Landscape and Economy (VASLE) project (Richards et al. 2009).

However, the excavation at Cottam B had only investigated a fraction of the site and, with ongoing disturbance of the buried features by modern agriculture, controlled detecting has continued to the present day, with logging of the position of all finds. This has led to a doubling in the number of known finds, and a refinement of the horizontal chronology of the site. Although still broadly supporting the initial interpretation of an Anglian site replaced by an Anglo-Scandinavian farmstead to the north, the new finds and refinement of the artefact typology allow us to define additional stages in the settlement development, as well as to draw some fresh interpretations about artefacts and coins that have wider implications for society and economy at this transitional moment between Anglo-Saxon and Viking England. These results are presented here, alongside the full database and a new photographic archive held by the ADS (Haldenby and Richards 2016). It is only with the close study and plotting of the metal-detected artefacts and their contextualisation through excavation that we are able to draw these conclusions, so the project further emphasises the tremendous potential of collaboration between archaeologists and metal-detector users and the fine dating resolution that can result from the plotting of finds.


Internet Archaeology is an open access journal. Except where otherwise noted, content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY) Unported licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that attribution to the author(s), the title of the work, the Internet Archaeology journal and the relevant URL/DOI are given.

University of York legal statements