RESEARCH FRAMEWORK FOR THE STUDY OF ROMAN POTTERY IN THE WEST OF BRITAIN
Edited by Paul Booth & Steven Willis on behalf of The Study Group for Roman Pottery, Western Regional Group October 1997; selectively revised 2002
7. MAJOR RESEARCH ISSUES: RURAL ASSEMBLAGES
7.1 An Existing Imbalance within Fieldwork
Rural assemblages are still under-represented in our overall sample (as is emphasised by the recent literature review, see 1.4 above). Less than 25% of excavations in the region noted in Britannia between 1969 and 1989 were on 'rural' sites other than villas. Excavations on sites of the latter type were almost as common as those of other types of rural settlement. These data reflect an imbalance in excavation away from rural settlement as a whole, and within rural settlement in favour of high status sites. While the former imbalance may reflect the pattern of excavation as dictated by pressures of development this is unlikely to be the case with villa excavations. There is thus a strong a priori case, in examination of rural sites, for positive discrimination in favour of lower status settlements, both for ceramic and other aspects. The pottery from such sites may be comparatively difficult material to work with and may lack the chronological definition of some other assemblages, but is nevertheless vitally important for establishing the social, economic and functional aspects of sites, as well as (often) forming the only dating evidence.
7.2 Sampling Rural (Lower-Status) Sites
In some areas, such as parts of Shropshire, Herefordshire, Wales and the South-West lower-status rural sites tend to yield only very small groups of pottery even where sites have been extensively excavated. This low level of occurrence may be socially and economically significant, but more work needs to be done on these sites to determine the extent to which it is a function of poor preservation (e.g.. by comparison of pottery with other artefact/ecofact classes), artefact discard practices, supply, etc. Project planning for such sites needs to take account of the relatively low incidence of pottery and other objects and maximise recovery, eg. by excavation of above-average proportions of feature fills such as enclosure ditches (where present).
7.3 The Context of Rural Assemblages
The principal importance of rural assemblages, particularly where they are relatively small, is through comparative study, as representative of a class or classes of site and assemblage which may be situated within a region with considerable diversity of site/assemblage type. This links to topics such as status (cf. Section 11 below).
7.4 Exploiting Information from 'Evaluations'
In some parts of the region post-PPG 16 evaluations are adding significantly to the database of material from rural sites (eg. for Herefordshire and Worcestershire), and it is suggested that syntheses of this material would go some way towards providing insights into the rural pattern of pottery use.
7.5 Publication Priorities
In the light of comments on the imbalance in publication between rural and other sites (Section 1.4 above) attention is drawn to the need to publish outstanding reports on rural assemblages. One of the most significant of these is that from Beckford (Worcestershire).
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