Archaeology South-East


Recent Research at Archaeology South-East

17 May 2017

Archaeology South-East will be holding a session presenting recent commercial work and research undertaken by our staff, to be held at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL in room 209.

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Programme and Abstracts

  •     14:00 - James Steele: Research Committee Business
  •     14:10 - Dominic Perring & Jim Stevenson: An Introduction to ASE Research Agendas
  •     14:20 - Matt Pope, Lesley Blundell & Beccy Scott: Written in Chalk: Understanding the Landscape Records of Prehistory in the La Manche Region

Recent research drawing together the results of commercial archaeological projects undertaken by ASE in southern Britain and comparing it with Northern France is starting to highlight how long term changes in the Cretaceous landscape has acted as a powerful control on landscape use in the past and through to the present. Of more urgent importance is what this data is also telling us about the scope for big variations in preservation of the archaeological record, underpinned by medium and long terms processes of landscape formation. Research, in early and late prehistory, now needs to address these variations more widely and sensibly, putting geomorphology and landscape process first and foremost in our approaches to understanding, interpreting, managing and protecting the archaeological record.

  •     14:50 - Kristina Krawiec: The Challenges of Environmental Archaeology in the Near Shore and Offshore Zones: A Case Study from the Selsey Peninsula

The challenges establishing a chronology within offshore and near shore sediments, including the marine reservoir effect are well known.  Similarly, the preservation of environmental proxies and the taphonomic pathways that lead their deposition are also complex. This paper aims to explore these issues with particular reference to the Selsey peninsula and examine novel approaches which are designed to address some of these challenges.

  •     15:20 - Anna Doherty: Special Iron Age Pit Deposits from Sussex

Following the recent publication of Archaeology South-East's new monograph on excavations at the former Eastbourne College of Arts and Technology, this paper focuses on the important Iron Age site located on the crest of St Anne's Hill. Although the site is perhaps best known for its Early Anglo-Saxon cemetery, the Middle/Late Iron Age remains are unique amongst non-hillfort sites in Sussex, both in terms of the scale of grain storage in pits and the richness of finds and environmental assemblages. Many of the artefacts - including coins, iron agricultural tools and querns - were apparently deliberately placed as part of religious offerings, probably strongly connected with the agricultural cycle. Interestingly more recent excavations by ASE in 2014-15 at Pocock's Field, Eastbourne show a very different tradition of pit deposition involving special animal deposits. This may hint at co-existing but separate communities using structured deposition with a different focus and different goals in mind.  The paper uses the two sites as case studies, highlighting how commercial practice has evolved over the two and half decades since protection for archaeological sites was introduced through the planning system.

  •     15:50 - Andy Margetts: A World of Summer and Autumn: The Significance of the Weald's Early Medieval Landscape

It was Belloc (1910) who wrote: 'Unless a man understands the Weald, he cannot write about the beginnings of England'. Recent developer funded projects have, over the last decade or so, begun to fill a void in our knowledge of one of the most archaeologically under-researched areas in Britain. It is becoming clear that rather than being a marginal landscape beyond more habitable zones, the region was actually one which experienced significant and widespread periods of colonisation. This talk will explore the area's early medieval landscape which is beginning to show degrees of continuity from Roman and even prehistoric times.

  •     16:20 - Paola Ponce & Lucy Sibun: The Queens Chapel of the Savoy in Life and Death: A Historical Insight into an Archaeological Population

Excavations in the burial ground attached to the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy were carried out by ASE during 2011 and 2012. The excavations recovered over 600 skeletons of post-medieval date. The Chapel was originally constructed as part of Henry VIIs hospital for the poor at the beginning of the 16th century and the associated burial ground came into use at this time. Over the next 300 years the buildings were used as a military hospital and later barracks and prison, before returning to a residential area in the 19th century. The burial ground remained in use until the middle of the 19th century, under the ownership of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Detailed post-excavation analysis was carried out on the 612 skeletons recovered from a portion of the burial ground. The data recorded during this process is of interest in its own right, but enhanced by the abundance of historical records available for consultation. These have enabled comparative studies (involving the use of GIS) to be carried out between the archaeologically excavated and historically documented population providing the opportunity to see how representative the one is of the other. It has also been possible to examine how particular pathological manifestations may reflect aspects of historically recorded lifestyle factors.  Additional historical sources have added specific detail to the individual lives of those interred in the burial ground as well as figures associated with the different stages of the site's development.

  •     16:50 - Michael Shapland: Capturing the Spirit of Singular Places: The Research Value of Historic Building Recording

ASE undertakes dozens of records and assessments each year of a wide variety of historic buildings, from medieval manor houses to 20th century football stadia, as part of its development-led archaeological brief. These projects can often find themselves overshadowed by the unit's large-scale excavation and landscape work, due in part to their typically small scale and the perception that buildings are passively recorded rather than actively interpreted according to a formal research agenda.

This seminar will explore these issues, both in terms of 'classic' research outputs that arise from the study of individual buildings and how they inform our understanding of past societies and social practices, and in terms of the less classifiable research value of attempting to capture the 'spirit' of a building prior to its demolition or conversion. Whilst the former is prioritised in guidance literature and methodologies, in practice the latter overwhelmingly comprises the majority of what we do, arguably as part of an actively interpretative engagement with a building rather than a passive recording exercise.

This seminar will showcase a variety of evocative spaces, of a type that very few members of the public (other than squatters and 'urban explorers') are ever permitted to see. It will then meditate on the role of the buildings archaeologist as, often, the last person ever to experience a building prior to its demolition or conversion. We are like priests reading the last rites to the terminally ill, or condemned men frantically trying to set their lives on paper before sunrise brings the hangman's noose. What is the 'research value' of this work, and can it be quantified? Or should we see it as an equally worthwhile attempt - such as has long been undertaken by students of prehistoric monuments - to gain insights into the sedimented meanings of some very singular places?

  •     17:20 - Concluding Discussion: ASE and Research at the IoA