In summary, the fieldwork at Cottam has revealed a shifting and evolving early medieval settlement pattern. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the sub-rectangular enclosures at Cottam B represent Anglian and then Anglo-Scandinavian farmsteads, whilst the more traditional ladder-pattern farmstead at Cottam A is confirmed as Late Iron Age and Romano-British. This work may therefore allow a reassessment of the typology of crop mark enclosures and the re-examination of the large number of undated enclosures known from the Yorkshire Wolds recommended in the RCHME survey (Stoertz 1997, 87). It is anticipated that far more may turn out to be of early medieval rather than of Iron Age or Romano-British date.

Although the research described here has been on a relatively small scale it has demonstrated the value of combining evidence derived from a number of different strands, including metal detecting, aerial and ground-based survey, as well as excavation. It allows us to propose one possible model for the development of Anglian and Anglo-Scandinavian settlement in the region.

It is tentatively proposed that the Anglian settlement at Cottam has to be understood in the context of a royal vill centred in the Driffield area, and that Cottam may have been a specialised upland farming and hunting community within the Driffield estate, owing allegiance to the Northumbrian royal family. As such it was a relatively wealthy settlement but lacked the exotic trading contacts seen at sites such as Flixborough. Nonetheless, alongside Riby in Lincolnshire (Steedman 1994) it provides a relatively early example of the appearance of trackways and enclosures. Towards the close of the ninth century the traditional landholding patterns were disrupted and the vill fragmented into its constituent parts. At Cottam this was accompanied by a localised settlement shift and a change in character of the farmstead. A rather grand enclosure was constructed to reflect the new found independent status of the local lord. Whether or not he was Scandinavian the new lord adopted a number of Anglo-Scandinavian fashions, demonstrating a cultural allegiance which looked towards the Viking kingdom of York. The establishment of the new site was also accompanied by the opening up of trade and exchange and a switch from a tributory to an exchange economy. Within the century, however, the growth in status of the new lord necessitated a further shift and the laying out of a planned village. This in turn survived into the medieval period as the settlement at Cowlam.


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Last updated: Tue May 15 2001