The social and economic interactions of early medieval societies around the North Sea form the focus of my research. Following MA degrees in Leuven and York, where I studied the Viking expansion in the North Atlantic and the origins of medieval coastal urbanism in Northumbria, my PhD (VUB, 2014) focused on the early medieval occupation of the coastal plain of northern France, western Belgium and the Dutch province of Zeeland. In addition to reconstructing the resettlement process, this study also considered the social and cultural position of coastal dwellers in relation to the interior and to coastal communities in the wider North Sea region.
Throughout these studies, I have studied the natural and cultural landscapes of coastal regions, even including settlement names. However, most of my recent research has utilized (portable) material culture as its main source of information for understanding the social organisation and connectivity of early to high medieval communities bordering the North Sea. From this respect, I have studied the extensive finds collections from the early medieval trading settlement of Walichrum (Netherlands), resulting in a new understanding of the biography of that long-overlooked site. Further pursuing my interest in early medieval ‘North Sea culture’, I am currently involved as a postdoctoral researcher in the Northern Emporium project (Aarhus University), which aims to shed new light on social and economic exchange in the North Sea area during the 8th and 9th centuries AD through a high-definition excavation at the trading settlement of Ribe (Denmark).
Non-ferrous metalwork from the collections of hobby detectorists in Flanders, Denmark and beyond has formed an important body of evidence in my research. In response to the difficulties I encountered in accessing metal-detected material, I set up the MEDEA project (2014-2017) which aims to collect and publish metal detected finds data from Flanders through a publicly accessible web platform (www.vondsten.be). In the course of this project, I have taken a keen interest in the complex issues surrounding this often-controversial hobby. Together with colleagues from other recording schemes, I founded the European Public Finds Recording Network (https://www.helsinki.fi/en/networks/european-public-finds-recording-network). Its aim is to instigate debate at an international level and to work towards unified approaches in research and outreach. As most countries that take a liberal stance to detecting are situated around the North Sea, the implications for my principal research topic are evident.
Five key publications
Tys, D. & Deckers, P., forthcoming. Economic Objects, in J. Lund & S. Semple (eds.) A Cultural History of Objects in the Medieval Age. Bloomsbury.
Dobat, A.S., Deckers, P., Heeren, S., Lewis, M., Thomas, S., Wessman, A., forthcoming. Beyond dogmatic and pragmatic: towards a cooperative approach to hobby metal detecting. European Journal of Archaeology.
S. Croix, P. Deckers, C. Feveile, M. Knudsen, S.S. Qvistgaard, S.M. Sindbæk & B. Wouters (2019) Single Context, Metacontext, and High Definition Archaeology: Integrating New Standards of Stratigraphic Excavation and Recording. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 1-41. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10816-019-09417-x
P. Deckers (2018) Cultural Convergence in a Maritime Context: Language and Material Culture as Parallel Phenomena in the Early-Medieval Southern North Sea Region, in J. Hines & N. IJssennagger (eds.) Frisians and Their North Sea Neighbours: From the Fifth Century to the Viking Age, Woodbridge: 173–92.
P. Deckers (2017). Een vergeten tijd gedetecteerd. Metaalvondsten uit de Vlaamse kuststreek, 600-1100 n.Chr. (West-Vlaamse Archaeologica 22), Roeselare (117 pp.).