The Ipplepen project

The context of Ipplepen

Unlike the rest of lowland Britain, the South West peninsula remained relatively un-Romanized: there are just a handful of villas, most of which lay close to the single town (Exeter), and where rural settlements have been excavated they typically produce relatively little in the way of material culture such as pottery and coins (Todd 198; 7 Rippon 2012; 2014). Ipplepen is remarkable in that both metal detecting and excavations have produced an unusually large amount of material, suggesting that the site may represent more than just a typical rural community.

In the early medieval period, the South West region once again had a very distinctive character within southern Britain (Higham 2007). It lay beyond the area of Anglo-Saxon colonisation and the landscape continued to be settled by native Britons. A distinctive feature of the archaeological record during this period is its inhumation cemeteries (Pearce 2004; e.g. Kenn, not that far from Ipplepen: Weddell 2000). Relatively few settlements of this period are known from Devon (but see Simpson et al. 1989; Mudd and Joyce 2014).

During the 5th to 7th centuries the landscape of Devon appears to have evolved gradually, although from the 8th century a change in the pattern of agriculture may have formed part of a wider restructuring of the landscape. Nevertheless, unlike neighbouring Dorset and Somerset, there was no widespread settlement nucleation of the creation of open fields: Rippon et al. 2006; 2013). Once again, communities in the South West appear to have retained their distinctive character, with patterns of animal husbandry and arable cultivation quite unlike those further to the east (Rippon et al. 2014).