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The generally sparse distributions of the EMC and PAS datasets are broadly comparable, except in the region of the Somerset levels (Fig. 89). Here no artefacts have been found but 19 coins are known, spread across the area. These are predominantly late but do include 8th-century finds. All but two were recorded by the EMC prior to 1997 and it may be that access to land for metal-detector users is now constrained. There are few finds in the overall PAS database for this area of north Somerset and it maybe that the appearance of coin finds in this area represents the start of land reclamation in the Somerset levels described earlier. There generally is a higher proportion of coins to artefacts in most areas of south-west England, although this may partly reflect the constraints on metal-detecting. Many of the finds follow the Roman road system, which still affects the transport network. There are also a few coins from Cornwall, although these are mainly coastal finds.

There are some striking differences between the pattern of early medieval finds and the overall distribution (Fig. 30). The distribution of finds in the east of the region, in Wiltshire and Dorset, is comparable, but as one moves west there is a dramatic decline in early medieval artefacts. There is no trace of the concentration of finds of other periods seen in Somerset, and very few finds in Devon and Cornwall. Both the early medieval and overall distributions are subject to the same constraints on detecting created by the national parks and upland zones, but there are real gaps in the early medieval pattern. The apparent absence of settlement from east of Exmoor to the Glastonbury region is particularly striking.

Figure 90
Figure 90: Chart showing proportion of PAS finds in south-west England categorised by broad period

Figure 91
Figure 91: The artefact 'fingerprint' for south-west England

Figure 92
Figure 92: The coinage 'fingerprint' for south-west England

It is unwise to draw any firm conclusions from the chart of PAS data broken down by broad period sub-divisions (Fig. 90) for this region, as the overall sample size is relatively small, although the low number of Middle Saxon finds is notable, and must reflect relatively few activities resulting in artefact loss in the Middle Saxon rather than Late Saxon period.

One must also be cautious in interpreting the artefact fingerprint (Fig. 91). There are reasonable numbers of coins, and pennies outnumber sceattas by 110 to 73; stycas are almost completely absent. There are low numbers of the other usual artefact categories but stirrup-strap mounts form by far the largest group.

The coinage fingerprint (Fig. 92) generally follows the national pattern, despite comprising relatively low numbers, although the late 10th and first half of the 11th centuries are represented by larger quantities than usual.

In conclusion, there are far fewer early medieval artefacts from south-west England than the rest of the country, although there was clearly human habitation here, in this and other periods. The lack of the common categories of find must relate to cultural identity, as well as to the absence of 'productive sites' and the types of activity they represent.


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Last updated: Tues Apr 21 2009