The next stage was to establish how, without individual examination of each record, a broad period date (i.e. Middle Saxon, Late Saxon or Middle/Late Saxon) could be assigned to each object. 'Sub-period' dates were available for some of the objects in the PAS database itself, but as these were not available for all records, they would not have provided a consistent guide and would, in any case, have only been a partial solution. The period assessments for the VASLE 'Sites dataset' were therefore created using specific criteria identified for each source.

Figure 93
Figure 93: 'Date range' analysis of PAS 'early medieval' metal artefacts

Figure 94
Figure 94: 'Start-date' analysis of PAS 'early medieval' metal artefacts

Figure 95
Figure 95: 'End-date' analysis of PAS 'early medieval' metal artefacts

The PAS data was particularly complex, so several different analyses were necessary to establish the best way to attribute a period to each record. Firstly, the length of the date range associated with the artefacts was analysed, as presented in Figure 93, to check what proportion of the data could be clearly identified as either Middle or Late Saxon. The major peaks, at 100 and 200 years, indicate that the majority of the PAS data was quite closely dated. In fact, 84% of the artefacts filtered by the first four criteria above had a date range that was less than 250 years and so could probably be assigned to a specific period.

Having established that most records could probably be identified as Middle or Late Saxon, it was necessary to identify the most appropriate date to use as a boundary between the two. This was done by analysing the filtered records by the start- and end-dates of their date ranges, as presented in Figures 94 and 95. Initial estimates of 700-850 for the Middle Saxon date range and 850-1000 for the Late Saxon date range seemed reasonable with the start-date analysis illustrated in Figure 94, which shows clear peaks at 700, 800, 850, 900 and 1000, suggesting that most of the Middle and Late Saxon artefacts had been entered into the database with a date range starting with one of these dates. However, the end-date analysis, presented in Figure 95, showed that while there was a small peak at 850, there was a much larger peak at 900. This implied that 900 was more commonly used as a boundary by those inputting Middle and Late Saxon artefacts, i.e. many more had been assigned an end-date of 900 than 850.

The clear implication of Figure 95 therefore was that objects whose date ranges ended 900 should be classified as Middle Saxon, while the peak at 850 in Figure 94 suggested that a smaller, but still significant, number of Late Saxon objects had been input with a start date of 850. The following principles were therefore used to assign a VASLE period to each record:

  1. If the object's date range ended at or before 850, it was dated as Middle Saxon
  2. If the object's date range started at or before 850, it was dated as Late Saxon
  3. If the object's date range ended at or before 900, and was greater than or equal to 125 years, it was dated as Middle Saxon
  4. All remaining objects were dated Middle/Late Saxon as their date range was either too long to be assigned specifically or was located too close to the boundary in the 9th century to be definitively assigned to either period.

The first two criteria are historically intuitive, placing the boundary between the middle and late Saxon periods at AD 850. The third is a response to the likely dating of many middle Saxon objects with an end-date of 900 in the PAS; the requirement for the object to have a date-range of longer than 125 years ensures that objects that have been securely identified as basically 9th century are not misleadingly described as 'Middle Saxon' in the VASLE dataset. The fourth criterion assigns Middle/Late Saxon to all records not covered by the previous three criteria for the reasons noted above.


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