4.1.1 Defining 'productive sites'

In essence, a 'productive site' can be described as any rural location where large quantities of metalwork and/or coinage have been discovered, generally through the activities of metal-detector users. The term says nothing about whether the site is a production site for metal artefacts although this is sometimes a source of confusion for non-specialists. The term was first employed by numismatists in the 1980s, and was used regardless of period or function. Since then, the term has also entered the academic vernacular, mostly in relation to sites of a Middle Saxon date, with numismatists being the first to use the data provided through metal-detecting (Pestell and Ulmschneider 2003, 2). Archaeologists and historians have followed suit, although some feel that the term has outlived its usefulness, masking the range of sites present. Richards (1999a, 79) argued that 'there is nothing special about "productive sites", other than the way in which they have been discovered'. However, no satisfactory alternatives have replaced the term, especially when discussing types of recovery, and it persists in the literature (e.g. Hutcheson 2006; Naylor 2007). It is used here to describe a site found by metal-detecting, and from which larger amounts of metal artefacts and/or coinage have been discovered than is normally expected in the local area.

In addition to the broad nature of the terminology, there has also been no real consensus on what constitutes a 'productive site' quantitatively. The level of 'productivity' is no doubt affected by the length of time detector users may have been working at the location and how much material found is subsequently reported. Naylor (2004, 23) has previously argued that a lower limit of ten coins should be maintained for quantitative analysis but there are a range of factors that should be considered. Given the definition produced above and the distribution of 'productive sites' (Fig. 100), it is clear that there is a complex situation regarding regional and chronological variation. As a general rule of thumb, the further west travelled, the lower numbers of Anglo-Saxon finds are being made. As a result, a site such as Bidford-on-Avon (Warwickshire) while producing far more finds than anywhere else in the West Midlands, would barely register as important if we quantitatively defined a site using criteria suited to East Anglia.

Ulmschneider (2000a, 63-8, fig. 6) mapped all finds, but only quantified coinage in this way, preferring to discuss 'productive sites' as 'very', 'medium' and 'lesser', with the first category including all sites with more than ten coins. Naylor (2004, 23) set a lower limit of ten coins for analysis of 'productive sites' for statistical reasons. Hutcheson (2006) takes a broader definition, a 'productive site' being any location where four or more coins have been discovered, leading to 22 sites in Norfolk and 15 in Suffolk, including Ipswich.


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