4.1.3 The distribution of 'productive sites'

In Section 3.3 the distribution of early medieval portable antiquities was charted across the country, and compared against those regions where finds might be expected, given the distribution of metal finds of all periods. This revealed that there are very few Anglo-Saxon finds in Wales and the northern half of west central England, few in the south-west, and few in northern England, west of the Pennines. On the other hand there is a fairly dense distribution of early medieval finds across east central England, East Anglia, and the south-east. There is also a spread along the south coast as far as Hampshire and Dorset, and up into the southern half of west central England, including Gloucestershire, Hereford and Worcester, Oxfordshire, and Warwickshire.

While incomplete, the distribution of 'productive sites' considered in Section 4 (Fig. 100) is not at all coterminous with the known distribution of early medieval portable antiquities. East Anglia, Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire are the counties with most of the classic productive sites. There is a concentration of sites on the north and north-western coasts of Norfolk, on the Fen edge, and around the Wash. There is another concentration in the Sandlings area of Suffolk. There are some examples from Kent, but they tend to have large numbers of coins and fewer objects. A number of sites are known from the Isle of Wight and there are a few examples along the south coast, but these do not extend into Hampshire and Dorset. There are none from Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Hereford and Worcester. None are known from the Upper Thames Valley from Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Further north, there is also an apparent gap in Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.

Some of these absences might in part be explained by the fact that the global distribution of early medieval finds includes late Saxon and Anglo-Scandinavian artefacts, whereas productive sites are Middle Saxon. However, this cannot be the complete answer, as Middle Saxon artefacts and coins have been found in most of these counties. Clearly, therefore, productive sites do not appear in all regions where the overall pattern of finds recovery suggests that they would be found, if they ever existed. The 'productive site' phenomenon, as discussed in Section 4.5 is peculiar to particular regions, and is not found throughout the ploughzone. On the other hand, there is a better match with the distribution of specific classes of finds. In particular, there is a reasonably good fit between 'productive sites' and the known distribution of pins, strap-ends and stycas (see interactive maps). Each of these artefact types enjoyed a major period of use in the late 8th and 9th centuries, which is also the main period of use of 'productive sites'. It seems reasonable to argue that pins and strap-ends were two of the most easily lost but durable items that were traded at these sites, and that stycas often provided the means of exchange.


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