Introduction to a day of ‘post-ex’, research and education

I’m taking part in the Day of Archaeology to demonstrate that there’s more to archaeology than digging. I’m current involved in archaeological  research, although I also teach archaeology (primarily within the Adult Education sector, but I have taught workshops in schools). At present, I am preparing to teach a workshop on Derbyshire in the Roman period and early Middle Ages, writing up research I undertook whilst at the University of Sheffield, and completing post-excavation analysis on the late pre-Roman Iron Age (LPRIA), Roman, and early medieval activity at Crickley Hill, Gloucestershire, in order to write volume 6 in the series of site reports in this series. For more information on this work, I’ve started a website, but I’ve provided a summary of the site here.

Crickley Hill: Romano-British and Early  Medieval (‘Dark Age’) reoccupation of an Iron Age hillfort

Aerial view of Crickley Hill in Google Earth

Crickley Hill is a limestone promontory fort located on the limestone Cotswolds Escarpment. It has several phases of settlement and ritual activity, that begin in the Neolithic (‘New Stone Age’: 8000-2500 BC). In the late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age (c. 2500 BC), a monument now called the ‘Long Mound’ was built, and later extended (Roman period – during the 1st and 4th centuries AD – ritual activity was also found at this monument). Ramparts were built during the late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age (c 650 BC), enclosing an area of more than 4 ha. / 10 ac., with successive settlements built within this hillfort. After a final attack, the hillfort was abandoned at the end of the early Iron Age (around the middle of the first millennium BC).

The hillfort remained unoccupied until the very end the first millennium BC – around the turn of the first century BC to AD (activity, in the form of a hearth, has been accurately dated, using a technique called archaeomagnetic analysis, and pottery that is likely to belong to this date was also found). But this activity – near to the entrance – was limited and seemingly sporadic. There is evidence for early Roman period activity (and possible settlement during this time) in the area of the entrance, in the form of a Roman hobnail from sandals or shoes and a type of early Roman pottery called ‘samian’ ware. At some point, the wall collapsed, burying this evidence.

During (or, less probably, after) the Roman period, huts were built upon the silted up ditch outside the hill fort – one near to the main entrance, and one near to a probable post-Roman settlement inside the fort. Possibly during the Roman period (but more likely in the early Middle Ages), the tumbled main entrance was also occupied. Either during or after the Roman period (I believe in the 5th century), a smaller version of the ‘Long Mound’ (the ‘Short Mound’) was built near the western tip of the hill, on top of a path that led to the valley below. It lay above a nearly complete locally made bowl (dating to the 2nd – 5th century), which copied a well-known type of Romano-British pottery (made in Dorset, but widely distributed) known as Black Burnished ware.

The main reoccupation comprised of two settlement zones. One was an unenclosed settlement behind the ramparts (where there was also evidence for bronze- and iron-working) – consisting of small sub-circular and sub-rectangular buildings (some of which may have been made of turf, others of clay with thatched roofs), with floors scooped into the earth. The other, an enclosed settlement of circular (and one rectangular) timber buildings lay c. 200m uphill to the northwest. This settlement also contained a granary – itself further enclosed by a fence. The central (rectangular) building of this settlement had been built near to the end of the ‘Long Mound’, which was now practically enclosed by the shape of the hill and the palisade fence. Similar pottery was found in both settlements, suggesting that they co-existed; and both settlements burnt down twice – after the second time, the hill was again abandoned. The main piece of dating evidence is a worn military type buckle, dating to the late 4th century, which lay on a path in the unenclosed settlement. However, some of the pottery was of a type (‘organic-tempered’ ware) that is found within 5th – 6th century contexts in the region. Some other finds are also similar to those found on regional site within contexts dated to the 6th century (see post 4: ‘Roman and early Medieval Crickley Hill: post-excavation analysis’, for another discussion of finds).

Sporadic activity during the Middle Saxon period was dated by the presence of 8th – 9th century finds; it’s possible that settlement in the entrance area belongs to this period.

I’ve written a post explaining and why I came into archaeology, and why I went into the field of early medieval archaeology (‘2. Getting started in Archaeology and studying as a part-time mature student’). But for those who don’t wish to read that post, I’ll provide a brief summary of my background and research interests:

I studied for my BA in Archaeology (1997) and MA in Archaeological Research (1999) at the University of Nottingham, and my PhD (Thesis: ‘Ethnic, Social, and Cultural Identity in Roman to post-Roman Southwest Britain’) at the University of Sheffield (2010). I have taught archaeology at the University of Nottingham, Keele University, and for the WEA. I specialise in the archaeology of Roman and Early Medieval Southwest Britain, and am undertaking research on Roman and Early Medieval Derbyshire, early 20th century housing, and late 20th century East Midlands.

I’ve written a number of posts – backgrounds to my work and Roman and Early Medieval Crickley Hill, as well as descriptions of a days work in archaeology. As I’m dyslexic (and it takes me quite a while to write), I’ve had to write much of my post text in advance – although where I am describing my ‘day of archaeology’, I will be doing all that I describe I’m doing on the day.

I’ve provided a general outline explaining the organisation of Crickley post-excavation work (3: ‘Crickley Hill: an outline of post-excavation analysis’), and a more specific outline explaining how I’ve approached the post-excavation work on Roman and early Medieval phases of activity at Crickley Hill (4: ‘Roman and early Medieval Crickley Hill: post-excavation analysis’)

I’ll start my day by finishing an interim summary report of the Roman and early Medieval activity at Crickley Hill, which I shall be making available online today (5: ‘Interim publication: Roman and early Medieval Crickley Hill’). I’ll then work on some diagrams of the site stratigraphy (6: ‘Roman and early Medieval Crickley Matrices’), and end the day by finishing some volunteer instructions on how to digitise plans within a GIS programme, doing some digitising in the process (7: ‘Digitising Crickley plans and using GIS’). If I have time, I’ll continue with research for and preparation of my workshop on local archaeology (8: ‘Preparing to teach a Community Education workshop’), and with writing up a paper for an academic journal (9: ‘Writing and publishing Academic and independent research’) – this will depend on how smoothly work goes earlier on in the day! If I’m unable to complete these tasks in one day, I’ll hopefully continue recording over the following day(s), so that readers can still get an idea of the different things archaeologists do outside field archaeology.