Study Group for Roman Pottery

National Research Framework: North of Britain

Rural Sites

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Edited by Jeremy Evans & Steven Willis on behalf of the SGRP, Northern Regional Group. October 1997; selectively revised 2002


7.1 Sample bias

The investigation of rural sites is vital for our understanding of the processes of 'Romanization'. The imbalance of past research input recognised here (cf. Table 1), and now more widely, should inform our future strategies. The nature of assemblages from rural sites requires a qualitatively different approach to that adopted for the larger groups of material often recovered from urban and military sites. Very few rural sites have seen recent excavation in the region and those that have been tend to be mainly concentrated in the Tees Lowlands and East and West Yorkshire. These sites are of considerable importance because something in the order of 90% of the civilian population lived in them and their consumption patterns (of which pottery provides an important strand of the evidence) must have a major bearing on the functioning of the regional economy. Yet rural sites currently tend to be regarded as a low priority for excavation; this is despite the fact that they often suffer badly from plough damage.

7.2 Research Questions

There are a number of questions with regard to the supply of pottery to rural sites which warrant attention. There appear to have been differing patterns of consumption at rural sites in different parts of the region (cf. Evans 1995a). These patterns may be closely related to the functioning of urban centres and their economic integration and articulation to a rural hinterland or otherwise. These possibilities need to be delineated, and explored further. Rural sites, on which all material evidence may be rather slight, are also places where integrated approaches to examining the finds assemblage as a whole may offer some of the best prospects of retrieving more data from apparently unpromising material. Chronological patterns in the appearance of material on northern upland rural sites may also flag general phases of supply. (cf. Going 1992).

7.3 Hinterland projects

Hinterland projects may well offer a rewarding strategy for examining rural sites (cf. Hanson & Breeze 1991, 73). It is hoped that useful methodologies for these will be developed by the current study of the Wroxeter hinterland (White & van Leusen 1997), as well as the East Yorkshire project, undertaken by Durham University and the East Riding Archaeological Society (Millett & Halkon forthcoming). Rural sites are best examined in their landscape and excavations should be combined with fieldwalking of their surroundings. Similarly the potential of data from old collections in museums is often under-estimated and they are well worth review when landscapes are being examined.

7.4 Garton and Wetwang

Given the lack of excavated rural sites in the region it is particularly regrettable that no action seems to have yet been taken to properly publish the extensive excavations at Garton and Wetwang Slack, East Yorkshire, the results of which are potentially of a great asset.

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