RESEARCH

THE PORTABLE ANTIQUITIES SCHEME

The PAS records archaeological finds discovered by the public on its database (www.finds.org.uk), and as such is a unique academic resource in terms of its size and chronological extent. Over one million finds have been recorded to date, of which about 13 per cent are medieval. To date no comprehensive analysis of the medieval data has been conducted, although the pilot project ‘Placing Medieval Markets in their Landscape Context through PAS Data’ (initiated in May 2015 with grants from the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Society for Medieval Archaeology), has shown the potential of PAS medieval finds data.

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THE PILOT PROJECT

Through GIS mapping we have analysed finds data associated with medieval market sites and travel routes. We have investigated differences between finds assemblages at rural or at commercially actives sites, and analysed the dating and chronological breakdown of objects in the database. This shows that there is an apparent correlation between the PAS finds distribution and commercial sites, with 19.3 per cent of medieval objects being found within approximately 1 km of a known market. A major research goal has been to develop methodologies for examining economic developments at a local level through interdisciplinary approaches that combine PAS archaeological material with documentary sources. We have conducted several case studies of major find concentrations near market settlements, and have shown that, for example, variations across time of single coin finds in the PAS database can correlate with changes in local economic patterns suggested by the record evidence.

 

FUTURE PLANS

The pilot project is now approaching its conclusion, and we are currently looking for further funding options and research partners to continue this work. Our aim is to develop techniques for analysing the PAS data in relation to urban and commercial centres, and the networks of trade and exchange that supported them. The research questions we intend to address include the spatial relationship of market sites with settlements and the local landscape, links between commercial sites both locally and across long distances, geographical shifts in commercial activity as evidenced by the PAS data, and regional differences in economic activity. Local commercial centres were integral components to the economic life in the Middle Ages, but written sources often provide only the sparsest indication of their existence. The use of PAS data, however, offers major new avenues of research in understanding urbanisation, commercial growth and the emergence of trade and communications networks both on the national and local levels.