The area around the Solent, stretching into the Winchester area, is an area of high finds density for most periods. However, it also coincides with one of the PAS's earlier recording areas, coming into being in 1999. The interpretation of the densities of finds on the national scale showed that the areas of highest density coincided well with these earlier recording areas as well as those areas where good relations had built up between the detecting community and heritage professionals, often working for local museums. As a result, it would seem that the concentration seen is a factor of modern recovery rather than ancient reality. However, there is also a very high number of finds reported from the Isle of Wight, one of the last PAS areas instigated in 2003. The vast majority of these have an Isle of Wight PAS finds code, indicating they were reported in the Isle of Wight rather than Hampshire. This suggests that there may be more to this region that modern recovery suggests, and so a closer examination is warranted.

Interactive map
Figure 50: Interactive map of PAS finds in the Solent region

Figure 50 shows the distribution of portable antiquities along the central southern coast of England. Within this pattern, there is a generally high number of finds in Hampshire to the north of Portsmouth and Southampton, and fewer to the west. This could be interpreted within the context of the evolution of the PAS, as outlined in 2.4.1. In this more westerly area, however, there are some major constraints on data recovery with the New Forest in Hampshire, and the urban area of Bournemouth/Poole and a military zone all in neighbouring Dorset. Even given these constraints, the overall kernel density is higher here than in northern Dorset, Devon or much of Somerset. The evolution of the Solent region from the Bronze Age must provide the answer.

Figure 50 shows a limited distribution of Iron Age finds. This is probably owing to patterns of Bronze Age and early Iron Age trade focusing on the Atlantic routes into the Irish Sea (Cunliffe 2001, 327-9). The Solent region only appears to have become a major point of exchange in the Late Iron Age with the port at Hengistbury Head (Cunliffe 2001, 402-7). The importance of the area as a node in the international exchange networks continued into the Roman period with a shift 30km eastwards into the Itchen Valley to the port of Clausentum, Hamwic in the Early Medieval period and, subsequently, Southampton in the post-Conquest period. Throughout the period, the range of imported materials did not travel far. Cunliffe (2001, fig. 9.27, 445) shows a tight distribution zone around Hengistbury Head, and the 3rd/4th century AD ceramic à l'éponge is rarely found more than 80km from Clausentum. Pottery imported into Hamwic was also not distributed widely, and Late Medieval wares from the Mediterranean found in Wessex tend to be restricted to within 120km of Southampton (Brown 1997, 108-12; Gutiérrez 2000). This shows both the importance of the region for international trade, but also the importance of the contact zone outside of the ports through which materials and traders moved, no doubt exchanging or selling as they went. As a result, it is likely that portable antiquities became more common in these areas than elsewhere. Further east, the cross-Channel contacts were strong both along the coast and via the Thames, with similar results. However, further west, communities and their populations became more isolated, providing raw material for export through the Solent ports but, for the main, outside of the main economic impetus, thus resulting in diminished access to other goods and materials.


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Last updated: Tues Apr 21 2009