2.5.1 Portable antiquities from the Iron Age to the Late Medieval

Figure 38
Figure 38: Distribution of PAS Iron Age finds

Figure 39
Figure 39: Kernel density plot of Iron Age finds

Figure 40
Figure 40: Distribution of PAS Roman finds

Figure 41
Figure 41: Kernel density plot of Roman finds

Figure 42
Figure 42: Distribution of PAS Early Medieval finds

Figure 43
Figure 43: Kernel density plot of PAS Early Medieval finds

Figure 44
Figure 44: Distribution of PAS Late Medieval finds

Figure 45
Figure 45: Kernel density plot of Late Medieval finds

Figures 38-45 show the individual period datasets from the Iron Age through to Late Medieval by general point distribution and kernel density, and Figures 46 and 47 show the same data quantified and charted. Combined, these give an overview of the changing distributions of portable antiquities through time. The broad distributions for all periods (Figs 38, 40, 42 and 44) all show similar attributes to the national distribution (Fig. 3) with the widest distribution of material in the east and south, becoming sparser the further west and north travelled. The Iron Age data (Figs 38 and 39) show some variation, with an obvious dearth of finds from the West Midlands northwards, and the Early Medieval data (Figs 42 and 43) become sparse towards the west and north-west, and little has been found in the central Midlands. These observations are supported by comparison with the quantified data by region (Fig. 46), which show most finds in these areas, and highlights the dearth of Iron Age and Early Medieval finds noted previously. A number of areas in the country where there are gaps or oddities in the distributions or densities on a large scale will be discussed as case studies in 2.5.2, or in Section 3 if they relate specifically to the Early Medieval period.

Approaching the data slightly differently brings out more subtle differences. Figure 47 shows the quantified period data as a proportion of the regional assemblage from the Iron Age to the Late Medieval. This is a variation of the quantification used in 2.4.2, which used all PAS data. By excluding other periods, especially the earlier prehistoric where the results of field-walking have dramatically biased reported assemblages (see, the control datasets can be compared more favourably. This shows clearly the relative importance of each period within the region's assemblage. Most striking is the nature of the Iron Age and Early Medieval assemblages (Fig. 47). The levels of portable antiquities lost in south-east England in the Iron Age outstrips any other region by an average of nearly 3:1, and must be a reflection of the importance and wealth of this part of England as seen through both archaeological and documentary sources (Cunliffe 2001, 402-7). The relative dearth of material north and west is also highlighted. Early Medieval portable antiquities show a different pattern, with eastern areas along the North Sea of relatively more importance. This probably represents the growing dynamism of the North Sea littoral as compared to the more isolated Atlantic and Irish Sea coasts (Loveluck and Tys 2006). These variations are important, and show the complex interplay between varying densities of settlement and population through time, and changing material culture use around the country.

This broad picture can be clarified even more by examining the kernel densities produced for each period (Figs 39, 41, 43 and 45). These show a range of intra-regional variations. The restriction of Iron Age finds (Fig. 39) to the south-eastern corner of the country is most apparent, with even Norfolk, North Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, all early PAS recording areas, producing little material. The concentrations of finds in the southern and central Midlands follows the national pattern, probably reflecting the evolution of the PAS recording areas.

Roman portable antiquities follow the national trends (Fig. 5), although given the size of the dataset this is unsurprising. It can, in part, be interpreted within the remit of the PAS organisation, although there are some discrepancies. In Kent, relative density is low away from the east coast, unlike in preceding or subsequent periods. Elsewhere, Norfolk provides a much lower density of finds than expected, with relatively few seen in the eastern part of the county, and south-western and north-western England are similar. Although Norfolk has a slightly different relationship with the PAS than other areas, the kernel densities produced here are more comparable with the Wirral than adjacent areas, and south-western and north-western England are comparably lower than in the Late Medieval period, which has produced similar numbers of finds. This requires some explanation, and must be seen within the context of the centre of gravity of Roman Britain, based around urbanisation and the villa economy in lowland England (Faulkner 1997, 40-2). Hingley's (1989) map showing villa densities in Roman Britain is certainly instructive. This mirrors the kernel densities of portable antiquities in Norfolk, and also the reduction in northerly and westerly areas, and perhaps illustrates something of the marginality of communities away from the most productive regions of the ancient world.

The concentration towards eastern regions seen in Figure 47 is more precisely located in the North Sea coastal zone for Early Medieval portable antiquities (Fig. 43). The high kernel density of material in Lincolnshire is greater than the preceding periods, and of even greater coverage than in the Late Medieval period and must attest to the importance of the east coast, and of coastal zones in this period (Naylor 2004). The dearth of material north and west is almost as marked as for the Iron Age, and the lack of material in the Midlands compared with other periods must reflect differences in the use of material culture between east and west. This is especially apparent in 5th- to 8th-century burial, and the increasing isolation of these communities once the North Sea economic system came to the fore in the 7th century (Holbrook 2005, 87; Loveluck and Tys 2006). Further discussion of the Early Medieval material can be found in Section 3.

The subsequent expansion of material culture use in Late Medieval England and Wales is clear in Figure 45 although, like the Roman material above, there are obvious concentrations that also reflect the evolution of the PAS. Nonetheless, the overall density also reflects medieval settlement patterns that were consolidated in the post-medieval and modern periods.

On the national scale, these analyses have highlighted a range of factors within the datasets. While undoubtedly influenced and affected by the evolution of the PAS recording areas, variations within them as a whole can only be explained by recourse to consideration of the underlying historical and archaeological paradigm. The usefulness of these datasets becomes obvious when explored on a period-specific basis and, once the nature of the dataset is considered, trends in the use of, and access to, portable antiquities through time can be examined. Although the importance of the level of population cannot be ignored, these analyses have shown that from later prehistory through to the later medieval, western and northern regions became isolated and marginalised from the main thrust of communication and trade across the English Channel and around the North Sea. For example, the south-west peninsula appears to have been densely settled throughout the first millennium BC and into the Roman period, but this is not reflected in the patterns of portable antiquities recovered. Certainly in this case it is clear that the region became increasingly marginal throughout the period, with a lack of material culture and raw materials reaching it from the Solent ports further east (Cunliffe 2001, 349-50).


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