Research based on Scheme data

Geoff Egan teaching about small findsThe Portable Antiquities Scheme is currently developing its potential as a tool for "lifelong learning". The Scheme's database now holds nearly 700,000 objects and about 300,000 images. The records of these objects that our staff, volunteers and the public contribute, are quite often the only chance we will get to document their existence. The database provides us with a record of their attributes and an image (if available.)

We make our data available freely, under a creative commons licence, for the academic and lay communities to use for their research. We also have a team of finds specialists (the National Finds Advisers) who are available to answer queries on specific periods/ object types.

This section of our site documents the areas that we believe could benefit from structured research. If you are interested in taking on one of our proposed research topics, then please contact the relevant National Finds Adviser. We also provide a list of who has been using our data for research and to what level. This is an important part of justifying our funding, and if you do decide to use our data, we would really like to be appraised of problems you find etc.

Within this section, you will be able to learn about many different aspects of the scheme, how you can get involved in the scheme's activities, how to take grid references, where you can study archaeology, what could be researched on the scheme, and much, much more. The menu on the left, and highlighted text, will take you to the specific sections.

Medieval Markets

The PAS records archaeological finds discovered by the public on its database (, which 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.


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.


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.

Our contact details:

Project Leader

Dr Michael Lewis

Research Assistant

Dr Eljas Oksanen