Anglo-Saxon landscape and economy: using portable antiquities to study Anglo-Saxon and Viking England

Project start date: 2004-10 Project end date: 2007-09
More is known of the location and density of English settlements AD 700-1000 from the activities of “treasure hunters” than from archaeological fieldwork. The VASLE project used the rich database of coins and metalwork to illuminate Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age landscape and economy. Its objectives were to (a) investigate the national visibility of metal-detected sites, (b) study settlement hierarchies by defining characteristic assemblage ‘fingerprints’ for type sites, (c) use targeted and controlled metal-detecting on a small number of sites to study their development and settlement morphology, (d) chart ethnic identity and change, and economic development.
Subject domains: 
Methods usedCategory
Cataloguing and indexingData structuring and enhancement
Coding and standardisationData structuring and enhancement
CurationStrategy and project management
DocumentationStrategy and project management
Geo-referencing and projectionData structuring and enhancement
Interface designData publishing and dissemination
PreservationStrategy and project management
Resource sharingData publishing and dissemination
Spatial data analysisData analysis
Statistical analysisData analysis
Use of existing digital dataData capture
VisualisationData analysis
Funding sources: 
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Software tools used: 
  • MS Access
Source material used:  
Two primary data sets were used within the VASLE project. Firstly, a 'National dataset' was derived from the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) database, in order to examine the national and regional distribution of portable antiquities c.700-1050. Secondly, a 'Sites dataset' was developed in order to compare artefact fingerprints for individual 'productive sites'. The data which forms the basis of the 'National dataset' was downloaded from the PAS on 3 October 2005. This required cleaning and checking for accuracy, standardisation and enhancement to make it suitable for VASLE (Naylor and Richards 2005).
Digital resource created:  
The digital archive available from the Archaeology Data Service at is a major outcome of the VASLE project. Access is provided to two datasets: a national database for finds dated to AD c.700-1050; and a sites database providing further information about finds recovered from over 65 so-called 'productive sites'. The archive should be used in conjunction with the report of the VASLE project, "Anglo-Saxon landscape and economy: using portable antiquities to study Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age England", published in Internet Archaeology 25 (2009). Our intention in making the full digital data available is to allow others to test our conclusions and to continue working within this fruitful field of research.
Access to digital resource:  
Open Access
Metadata standards employed: 
Dublin Core, qualified (DC)
Richards, J.D. and J. Naylor (forthcoming) “Settlement, landscape and economy in Early Medieval Northumbria: the contribution of portable antiquities”, in D. Petts and S.Turner (eds) Early Medieval Northumbria: Kingdoms and Communities, Studies in the Early Middle Ages, Brepols.

Richards, J.D. and Naylor, J. (2010) “The metal detector and the Viking Age in England”, in D.O’Corrain, J.Sheehan (eds.) The Viking Age: Ireland and the West. Proceedings of the 15th Viking Congress, Four Courts Press Cork, 338-52.

Richards, J.D., J.Naylor,and C.Holas-Clark (2009) “Anglo-Saxon landscape and economy: using portable antiquities to study Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age England”, Internet Archaeology 25,

Richards, J.D. and J. Naylor (2009) “The real value of buried treasure. VASLE: The Viking and Anglo-Saxon landscape and economy project”, in P.Stone and S.Thomas (eds.) Metal Detecting and Archaeology: the relationships between archaeologists and metal detector users, Heritage Marketing Publications, 167-80.

J.D. Naylor & J.D. Richards (2006) 'Viking and Anglo-Saxon Landscape and Economy' Project, p.275-278, in H. Geake (ed.) Portable Antiquities Scheme Report Medieval Archaeology 50, 274-294.

J.D. Naylor & J.D. Richards (2006) Detecting the Past: interpreting early medieval settlements through portable antiquities, Medieval Settlement Research Group Annual Report 20 (for 2005), 19-24.

J.D. Naylor & J.D. Richards (2005) Third-party data for first class research, Archeologia e Calcolatori 16, 83-91.

Institutions affiliated with this project: 

UK HE institutions involved:
University of York

Project staff and expertise: 

Principal staff member:Julian Richards
Other staff:Postdoctoral researcher(s) / Research assistant(s)
External expertise:

Metadata on this record
Author(s) of recordJulian Richards
TitleAnglo-Saxon landscape and economy: using portable antiquities to study Anglo-Saxon and Viking England
Record created2010-07-02
Record updated2011-01-14 17:25
URL of record
Citation of recordJulian Richards: Anglo-Saxon landscape and economy: using portable antiquities to study Anglo-Saxon and Viking England. <> created: 2010-07-02, last updated 2011-01-14 17:25
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