Analysis of the Crickley archive:
This post outlines my approach to the Crickley archive in examining the Roman and early Medieval activity on the hilltop, discussing some of the problems encountered during this work, as well as some of the exciting findings!
My involvement with post-excavation analysis of the Crickley Hill archive has consisted of examining and interpreting the plans, context records, finds and their records, and any other associated documentation (such as excavation notes), to determine the extents and forms of Roman and post-Roman activity on the hill. I began by seeing what others had written about the site, and familiarising myself with the archive (which was enormous!). Over a period of 25 years, aided by several thousand volunteers, the hilltop (which covered over 10 acres) was almost entirely excavated, mostly within a 10m grid system, although a number of cuttings were also placed across significant features (such as the hill fort ramparts). This extensive excavation uncovered much material!
I examined the context records, to see how the features related to one another, and build up a picture of the Period 4 settlements – this was helped by the creation of Harris Matrix diagrams (schematic plans showing strategraphic relationships). I went through the finds, to see if there were any Romano-British or later artefacts that had not been dated as such within the records – which helped me understand some of the features for which the dates were uncertain. During and after this process, I illustrated and photographed a number of important finds belonging to Period 4, and created plans of Period 4 settlement features.
I analysed many of the finds in detail, to consider the technologies used on site (comparing these with material from other parts of Britain, and from the Continent). This required having the composition of some of the metalwork analysed (using XRF analysis), which told me a great deal about late- and post-Roman technological changes in Britain. After discussing this with a specialist in ancient metalworking technology, and reading metallurgical analyses of finds from other sites, I found that the composition of the worn late 4th century buckle found with a settlement at Crickley was very similar to the only stylistically comparable buckle so far found within Britain (from Catterick), which suggests that both may have been made in the same workshop in the Rhineland.
My studies at both Nottingham and Sheffield provided me with a background on the Roman and Early Medieval archaeology of Western Britain and beyond, but it has been necessary to keep up to date with recent discoveries by attending and presenting research at conferences and reading new publications, as well as talking to other specialists in this field. I have found that both academic writing, and teaching, has reminded me as to what I don’t know, and need to investigate further, in order to understand a particular subject more clearly! In comparing the Crickley settlements, ritual activity, and artefacts to the evidence from other contemporaneous sites (in the Cotswolds and across the Southwest and west, as well as some site elsewhere in Britain), it’s been possible to develop a chronology for the Roman and Early Medieval activity at Crickley. My studies in theoretical archaeology at Sheffield have provoked me to ask a number of additional questions of the archaeological evidence from Crickley, and encouraged me to consider the Crickley landscape during the Roman and early Medieval periods, examining the social significance of material culture (the whole range of archaeological remains) and asking what the evidence from Crickley might say about political and social developments within the region after the Romans had left Britain.
There have been quite a few difficulties during post-excavation analysis. In trying to find comparisons for a particular ceramic manufacturing technique – the addition of organic temper (material incorporated within clay to reduce cracking, shrinkage, and shattering during the heating and cooling process) to clay during the manufacturing process – I read a number of archaeological reports and articles that indicated the presence of similar wares at other sites in the Southwest. However, when I visited museums to examine these sherds (pottery fragments), the curators were unable to locate these finds within their stores – which suggests that someone had beat me to it, and borrowed them for analysis! I’ll hopefully be able to see them on future visits.
There have been various technological problems. Technical failure has resulted in the loss of some of my work (in the absence of accessible CD storage during the late 90s, large files were stored on Iomega Zip Disks, which unfortunately developed a fault commonly known as the ‘click of death’ – not helped by my IT inexperience at the time!). Consequently, I’m having to redo much work. Also changes in technology since I began this research has caused problems, and led to work having to be redone – programmes such as G-Sys (which was used to integrate database information within plans created in AutoCAD) no longer work with my current equipment. In combination with corrupted data, this means that digital versions of plans (including the digital distribution of finds) have to be recreated within current systems. This is one of the jobs that I am doing at the moment, which I’ll be talking about in another post…
As it’s going to take me a while to finish this work, I’ve made a database, and a number of photographs, available online of some of the interesting finds from the late Iron Age to the early Medieval period, have a blog to update progress on this research, and have begun to develop a website to outline the findings (although due to changes by the web-host, with the help of a volunteer I’ll be creating a new website later on this year). After being asked for a summary interpretation of the material from this phase, I’ve also created a report which I hope to make accessible today, which I’m hoping can be accessed through the CBA SW website.