For archaeologists working on the wealth of material culture that emerges from early medieval (5th- and 6th-century) cemeteries of southern and eastern Britain, markedly regional distributions of artefact types are immediately familiar. Early medieval Cambridgeshire is particularly interesting in this regard, with cemeteries producing evidence of a mixture of distinctive artefact types and dress fashions typical of both Norfolk-Suffolk to the east and the midlands and Thames valley to the west.
The traditional view has been that artefactual distributions can be used to write cultural histories, largely concerned with migration and population displacement. Today, however, the question of early medieval ethnicity is approached from a much more nuanced perspective. Equally, cutting edge advances in archaeological science are now being marshalled to investigate the question of migration, independent of the traditional reliance on grave-goods as indicators of origin. There remains an important place within early medieval archaeology for using material culture on a regional scale to think about questions of community and connectivity.
Based on data from Cambridgeshire and surrounding counties, this paper will reconsider the distribution and use of key artefact types, including small-long brooches and beads, as a means to examine the kind of regional networks and connectivity that emerged during the fifth and sixth centuries, the contexts of production and exchange of this material culture, and its active use in the construction of identity.