Research Frameworks

Research Framework for the Archaeology of Wales

(re)Search for enlightenment

The following page contains comments on the Research Framework for the Archaeology of Wales. These have either been submitted by users of this web site or arose from discussions at the four regional seminars held in 2002.

You can submit your views by email to: research@cpat.org.uk

Your attributed comments, which will be moderated by the Steering Group, should appear here in due course.


Last updated 28/05/04


Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Archaeology

Issues raised at South West Wales Seminar

  • Rick Turner – noted that cave sites are increasingly re-visited by archaeologists. He wondered if what was now left at these sites was too valuable to do any further investigation.
  • EW (Elizabeth Walker)– proposed that all available collected data from cave sites be re-examined before looking at new research questions. Perhaps the priority should be to now look at open air sites.
  • Terry James – highlighted the problem of coastal erosion and the threat to multi period coastal deposits. The intertidal zone of Carmarthen Bay was an example.
  • Ken Murphy – asked what the coastal distribution of sites was showing?
  • EW – suggested that this might not to be a real distribution but based on recording biases.
  • Gwilym Hughes – suggested that this could be addressed by the Cadw funded Lithics Project.
  • Toby Driver – suggested that a re-evaluation of museum collections was needed.
  • EW – agreed that to date only piecemeal work had been done. There may well be new sites concealed within other assemblages.
  • Don Benson- Need to make most of opportunities. This is not happening. E.g.monitoring of coastal peat deposits lowest tide of the year - no searches arranged. No provision of air photography. Not getting our act together - problem with professional archaeology. Need amateurs to be involved.
  • Alan Lane - Problem of archaeologists not recognising Mesolithic sites?
  • EW - expertise is available to ensure that this doesn't happen. Flint should be looked at by someone who knows.
  • DA - Fieldwalking- predictive ability?
  • Charles Hill - Suggested lost opportunity with planning archaeology
  • Louise Austin - Need to put mapping e.g. areas of alluvium/colluvium etc. into SMR in order to more easily identify areas of potential.
  • Heather James - Need to have more funding made available in order to fully assess the potential of development sites.
  • Andrew Fleming - Are there forums for consultation?
  • EW - Need to expand links and link into England too.

Issues raised at East and North East Wales Seminar

  • Not all archaeologists sufficiently consider the non-structural element of the archaeological record. Developer-funding may provide one means of approaching the archaeological potential of underlying quaternary geological aspects that at the moment receive little consideration, but greater emphasis needs to be placed on education and awareness of archaeological curators in this respect.
  • The potentially useful and important role of a coherent statement by the discipline in order to foster greater awareness and the potential of the various techniques that are available.
  • One of the most beneficial things that might emerge from the Research Assessment would be to ensure that the SMRs are better designed to respond to academic and research questions.
  • Revision to be undertaken of the 'mesolithic gazetteer' might provide a good model for a dual purpose SMR.
  • Given that much development control is now undertaken by means of GIS, the mapping of significant pleistocene and holocene deposits would make the task of assessing the effects of potential developments on this resource very much easier. Some mapping of this kind has/is being undertaken in Scotland by the University of Edinburgh with financial assistance from Historic Scotland. This has involved the spot dating of the tops of deposits as a means of helping to focus resources on the study of worthwhile pollen sequences.
  • The potential value of alluvial data held by Welsh Water.
  • The potential value of amateur involvement in drawing together evidence that is already available.
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Earlier Prehistoric Archaeology

Issues raised at South West Wales Seminar

  • Tim Darvill - When pottery is found it is of exceptional importance. Need to understand deposition and distribution.
  • SB - Llanilar excavations only found pottery when looked for 8 hours a day because of difficulties in soil composition and colouration. An experienced eye is needed. More ceramic sites could be found if more effort put in.
  • GH - Need to involve more volunteers field walking etc.
  • Toby Driver - Fieldwalking extremely important in understanding distribution.
  • Terry James - More importance needs to be placed on using different techniques. APs followed by excavation. This is likely to be true for many periods.
  • GH - There is a lack of understanding of recognised sites. Chronological understanding from excavation needed. This cannot be integrated into a developer funded extensive programme.
  • Heather James - Potential for agricultural activity to provide opportunities for recording e.g. ditch digging. More could be done at Stackpole - build on good body of work - not a played out area. Steer on management of such sites needed to provide opportunities.
  • Richard Kelly - NAW statement to broaden Tir Gofal. 3 tiers - 1. Don't damage what's there. 2. Scheme [to leave] as is. 3. Landscape benefits. Research agenda process needs to relate to political and economic climate and programme, e.g. CAP reforms etc.
  • Stephen Briggs - Most work done on visible monuments now. AP work shows many now not visible - crop/soil marks. Need to ensure cosmological consideration of sites does not exclude certain types of evidence.
  • Tim Darvill - SMR data tedious. Currently endorsing status quo, only considering what we know. Cannot know what is unknown. We are getting glimpses of things going on that we don't understand. E.g. We have a Mesolithic coastline in South Pembs. that maybe extremely important on an international basis. Need to study S Pembs distribution in detail and in comparison other coasts in NW Europe.

Issues raised at East and North East Wales Seminar

  • Emphasising the Walton Basin project as a good example of an integrated archaeological approach (e.g. involving work on lipids and microwear analysis), even though the archaeological resource here is impoverished.
  • Generally disappointing results from work on flint scatters in the Walton Basin, suggesting that future work should perhaps focus on the areas in between. Attention drawn to the potential of river valley sites, covered by alluvium and hillwash. Uncertainty of whether the current distribution of valley bottom sites represent discrete concentrations or windows on a broader continuum.
  • Cross-over between conventional archaeology and environmental archaeology represented at sites such as the Hindwell enclosure, which must have resulted in extensive forest clearance for the timbers, and had a profound effect on the local environmental record.
  • Emphasised points: certain types of sites (e.g. standing stones and stone circles) about which we know very little; regional ceramic fabrics need more work; pollen work in relation to sites; many sites of potential importance that we know little about; problems of applying PPG, unpredictability, and ensuring that archaeologists are appropriately skilled.
  • Much current work in uplands limited to the identification of individual sites. Impressive results have been achieved in certain areas in terms of the landscape analysis of complexes of sites (e.g. work on Bodmin Moor and Fforest Fawr), which needs to be extended more broadly. Significant contributions in this respect could be made by amateur groups employing non-destructive techniques, though some excavation would also be needed.
  • Settlement archaeology is difficult to identify and assess in east and north-east Wales and a more proactive approach in identifying sites is needed.
  • Potentially important role of aerial photography in the discovery and analysis of prehistoric complexes.
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Later Prehistoric Archaeology

Issues raised at South West Wales Seminar

  • Barry Burnham - Massive overlap with Romano-British and Medieval. Need to work together over these periods.
  • Tim Darvill - this is also true of earlier period.
  • Rick Turner - Surprised by statement that there are no undefended enclosures. What about Skomer etc.
  • Ken Murphy - Either these are not dated or are associated with defended sites.
  • Don Benson - Although work has been done on forts still need to look beneath the defences - Need funding.
  • Heather James - Also need to look at multi-period sites. Need to ensure that monuments are considered in terms of their survival. What survives and why. Survival is not accidental. At Llawhaden the sites are still visible in the landscape. Not being actively used by not allowing others to use. Need to ask why some sites are multi-period - need to study to find out. The landscape is littered with cultural baggage, why?
  • Toby Driver - Upstanding monuments are not a dead resource. These are our biggest artefacts (stylistic dating?)
  • David Austin - Coaxial Pembs field systems?
  • KM - Need more info. - dating etc.
  • Jeff Davies - Need to consider Roman period - looking forward and back - barrows, IA burials, etc. Looking at complexes
  • Tim Darvill - How many C14 dates are needed to sort out enclosures? Need to start addressing how to use the research agenda - what is intended to be done?

Issues raised at East and North East Wales Seminar

  • Emphasised points: more analysis needed of existing information; more environmental work needed; more field walking desirable, also valuable as a means of encouraging amateur interest; the need to build models and test assumptions.
  • The good air photograph results in the upper Severn Valley area unlikely to be translated across the whole of north and north-east Wales, but the results from good areas such as this might be taken as a model and applied elsewhere.
  • The potential value of field-walking for a better understanding of settlement archaeology as shown by the Wroxeter hinterland project [though this is Roman, which is probably quite different in terms of artefact recovery etc]; field walking valuable as a means of providing background contextual information; value of field walking as a means of engendering amateur involvement; this element of work (on the experience of the Wroxeter hinterland project) perhaps best carried out through the universities.
  • Value of training amateurs, giving direction to their efforts and providing them with a methodology.
  • Unrealised potential of landscape analysis from existing sources of information such as air photo transcription and map regression analysis.
  • Need to explore broader sources of funding.

Issues raised at South East Wales Seminar

  • Mike Walker: Was in accord with the need for improved retrieval of environmental evidence and radiocarbon dating programmes as routine. He informed the speaker of recent Cadw funded environmental work undertaken at the site of the Late Bronze Age hoard at Princetown.
  • Martin Bell: Re-iterated the importance of the survival of organic material culture on the Gwent Levels, in particular noting the tool marks preserved on worked timber.
  • Mike Hamilton: Was complementary about the content of the presentation and echoed concerns with the content of the SMRs and resource audit documents.
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Roman Archaeology

Issues raised by the 2004 National Seminar

  • John Wiles - I am puzzled by Roman Archaeology 2004 National Seminar Paper - is this in fact an abdication of any intention to move forward, or question current interpretations of the Roman period in Wales? - in the light of published research agendas for England is this a tenable position?

Issues raised at South West Wales Seminar

  • Barry Burnham - British Research agenda helps advance thinking but only addresses England.
  • Toby Driver - Question of preservation of sites. e.g. Roman road heading to St. Davids etc. not scheduled.
  • Jeff Davies - Geophysics resulted in advances in knowledge of Vici in NW Wales - needs to be extended. Has shown that they do differ. Forts still not well understood. Roman archaeology not a backwater. Still more to find out - mechanism of Roman army moving into Wales - where are the marching camps?
  • Emma Plunkett Dillon - systematic AP coverage needed.
  • BB - Geophysics - good work on Hadrian’s wall.
  • Terry James - Multi-period problems - rectilinear enclosures beneath rath rampart nr. Haverfordwest. Also beneath field system. Mainly ploughed flat, just ditches left. Dispiriting destruction of Roman Carmarthen over last 10 years.
  • EPD - Need to target limited resources.
  • HJ - Much mileage left in roads. Consideration of the contemporary context - how they were set out and surveyed etc provides info on wooded nature of landscape etc. Much more to find out about the broader landscape/environment.
  • EPD - one advantage of Roman archaeology there are certainties e.g. roads - can read landscape to explore what's going on.
  • Howard Williams - SW being seen as peripheral - Part of Irish Sea World. Funding more likely from EU.
  • BB - Need to ask questions from native perspective.
  • TJ - What was going on in the High Middle Ages - Insularity. Roman Road W of Carmarthen indicated by place names.

Issues raised at East and North East Wales Seminar

  • Important to appreciate the changes that took place during the Roman period, such as the establishment of the late Roman provinces in Britain and the potential impact of new military dispositions and taxation systems at this period with a new Roman hierarchy emerging out of earlier systems.
  • Potential value of the Portable Antiquities Scheme in providing better information about finds distributions.
  • Little evidence of continuity between late Roman into early Christian period in settlement terms in the region, unlike that suggested in parts of south-west Wales. But, importance of sites such as Forden Gaer area which hold some potential for sequences from late prehistoric, early Roman, late Roman and post-Roman periods.
  • Comment that Roman studies have tended to be somewhat insular, rather than looking at broader concerns, and changes in the context of the Roman world as a whole. It will be important to look at broader questions such as the impact of man on the landscape.
  • Potential importance of further geophysical work on sites such as military vici, which have produced good results in north-west Wales.
  • Importance of cross-border studies at this period.
  • Reference to ongoing project in Severn Valley [in England] on lead isotope sourcing of Roman pottery.
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Early Medieval Archaeology

Issues raised at South West Wales Seminar

  • Stephen Briggs – Expresses doubts about stylistic dating of circular churchyards. What comparative work has been done? Tithe maps and on-ground looked at in some areas but not in south-west.
  • HJ - Period of immense popular interest. Narrative firmly embedded in people’s minds. Huge interest at local level. Specific Welsh dimension in development of language and material culture. All this is a strength and weakness - Big dilemma.
  • DA - Cultural identity. Research agenda living in current politics. Constructing political identities - Mother church along side the 'Winchesters'. Ireland have promoted these sites as part of their political agenda. Question of institutionalising the agenda.
  • AL - Have to do research excavations to improve knowledge. Blanket prevention of excavation is no good. Don Benson - Roman roads provide in sight into the landscape. Relationship between ECMs and Roman roads is striking. AP work on either side of roads may help to provide opportunity to find new sites.
  • AL - ECMs in their original sites?
  • Toby Driver - RCAHMW want to know where AAP work needed.
  • KM - Coygan Camp - not recognised for what it was when excavate. Very poor record.
  • AL - What about inland promontory forts?
  • KM - Castell Henllys has provided no evidence in this regard.
  • TJ - Place names like Carew - multivallate site.
  • JD - Earthwork castles of 11th - 12th century - need to look at these locations
  • AL - Centres of Lordship etc. too.
  • DA - Evidence equivocal
  • Howard Williams - Landscape element is missing link. More GIS integration of data might help to build on work done so far. Patterns in landscape. Ecclesiastical sites - looking at topography in more detail as it is. Potential way forward.
  • AL - Multi-period landscape work is what's needed.

Issues raised at East and North East Wales Seminar

  • Comment that many of the possible Dark Age defended sites to which mention was made all lie to the rear of Offa’s Dyke.
  • It would be important to relocate the supposed Viking skulls from Buttington in order to determine their age, though there is some question as to whether they are likely to have been of Viking provenance.
  • Mention again of potential multiperiod landscape at Forden, which also includes Offa’s Dyke.
  • In view of the difficulty in identifying early medieval sites it will probably be important to build upon what we already know, in the hope of moving from the known to the unknown.
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Medieval Archaeology

Issues raised at South West Wales Seminar

  • HJ - Not a comfortable past. Genocide, ethnic cleansing, etc. etc. Big violent changes. Huge untapped research in history to be translated into landscape work.
  • DA - Massive changes - mainly change and very little stability. Historians are shifting the agenda archaeologists haven't quite caught up. e.g. data structure (?) Have to unpack data in SMRs - deconstruction.
  • KM - Political will is not there to tackle the Medieval. It would be straightforward to investigate. Small sites haven't been tackled.
  • Charles Hill – Castles - Not addressed as part of landscape.
  • DA - Done at Carew but costs a lot. Richard Avent at Laugharne did the same. Lots of detailed survey needed. Cadw beginning to address this.
  • Peter White - Finding information in the fabric of buildings. - RR Davies 1964 -Looking for information in buildings.
  • TJ - Towns - a lot more done but still a lot to be done. Not enough Latin and Welsh speaking archaeologists to deal with the literature. Looked at in Haverfordwest. How much do we do in the rest of the towns?
  • DA - need to see how urban areas relate to the rest of the landscape.
  • TJ - will be different in English Pembs to Welsh Wales.
  • Rick Turner - Monuments in Care are not a separate agenda. Tendency to ignore the familiar. Great amounts of unexplored documentation and fabric analysis
  • DA - Large scale excavations - may have done enough on castles and monasteries. Need big sustained programmes of work.
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Post Medieval Archaeology

Issues raised at South West Wales Seminar

  • HJ- Can you prioritise any of these areas?
  • SB - No - but we need to find a way of understanding what we've got.
  • HJ - Community experience has shown that they want to know when did water and electricity get there.
  • Louise Mees - People want funding on what is relevant to them in a local context.
  • TJ - Period with much more info. Architects drawings etc. Should we not prioritise things without such drawings e.g. cottages.
  • SB - We need to know if public buildings do have drawings etc. Not necessarily so.
  • Stephen Hughes - Centre of Tinplate industry. Lechrhyd. Tudor Coal industry. All of national (Welsh) importance. Question of national and international significance. Identifiable layers and tiers.
  • DA - What is the agenda? Problem of a huge wealth of data only recently accepted. Large part of the agenda can be found in different disciplines. This needs to be addressed e.g. social and economic history. Impressed by Aberystwyth school of geography's working with communities. Critical issues for Welsh Communities is not addressed. Winning of Welsh freehold 19th-20th centuries - farmers not able to continue, suicides etc. 19th century mapping historic record.
  • KM - Should look at these sites as archaeologist. Not social historians.
  • DA - Cross disciplinary study
  • HB - Need to look at oral resources.
  • PW - What is archaeology contributing? Industrial archaeology was driven by engineers wanting to understand how we had got to modern engineering.
  • SB - National problem
  • DA - Huge task
  • Paul Sambrook - Dealing with all these issues with rapid recording projects. Trying to expand knowledge of human interaction with the landscape. Cannot ignore social history.

Issues raised at East and North East Wales Seminar

  • Two further industries of importance which should perhaps be mentioned are the iron/steel industry and Bersham and the Buckley potteries, both of which have a high regional significance.
  • The period is difficult to approach given that the subject matter is so wide-ranging. It was wondered whether procedures such as the MPP programme would provide any help in identifying and recording the most important sites.
  • There is often difficulty in identifying in the planning process the sites (such as barns etc) that are being converted and are in need of recording.
  • The contaminated land programme is likely to affect many sites, and it is difficult to know how to react to this potential large scale threat.
  • There is scope for amateur involvement in recording work, to help to meet the research agenda.
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Environmental Archaeology

Issues raised at South West Wales Seminar

  • DA (David Austin) - Should we be examining the Historical Ecology over last few hundred years? Was there a potential for working with existing vegetation histories?
  • MW (Mike Walker) - agreed that this needed to be addressed. There is a need to find sediments spreading across this period. Very few sediments of this period have currently been studied. There is a good potential for the integration of documentation with pollen sites. However, sites not yet identified.
  • SB (Stephen Briggs) - It was observed that processes of degradation were on-going in Wales in the same way as on South Downs etc. Attention drawn to work or Bell and Boardman
  • MW – agreed that colluviation was an interesting area for study. Riverine sequences are also important – in particular alluviation and incision related to human activity. The details of landscape change can be addressed through fluvial sequences. N.Ceredigion has a particularly high potential for this.
  • DA - Colluvial sequences are also there. He also suggested that soils provide potential for detecting sites – through trace sediment analysis.
  • SB – observed that there were very few people with laboratory facilities and resources to do this type of work and urged expansion in this area
  • MW – suggested that the first stage was to ensure that appropriate scientific advice was sought. He suggested that archaeologists aren't necessarily going to the specialists to pose questions. For example micro-morphological work undertaken with GGAT has been very successful. DNA studies will come on stream soon.
  • Don Benson – agreed that there needed to be an integration of archaeological work with environmental work. However, he suggested that cost is a problem. The opportunities may be there but more money was needed. For example the cost of pollen analysis was relatively expensive compared to say radiocarbon dating.
  • MW – felt that this was arguable. A single RC date might cause significant problems and multi dated sequences were costly. He argued that pollen analysis was relatively in

Issues raised at East and North East Wales Seminar

  • Various comments on the high potential of pollen sources in east and north-east Wales for environmental history and vegetation reconstruction.
  • The potential value of Icelandic tephra , volcanic layers, of which a number in Wales are now well dated (one of which is dated to 6200 BP), found by research student working at Lampeter. The technique will be valuable as a chronological indicator and as a means of establishing synchroneity of events at different sites.
  • The potential value of multi-proxy studies, and again emphasising the importance of greater cooperation between environmentalists and archaeologists.
  • Distressing gap in lowland environmental information on a regional as well as national basis.
  • Reference to use of portable XRF equipment for sourcing materials on mining sites, used by David Jenkins of Bangor.
  • Developer-funded environmental work often only carried out to assessment level. Briefs need to be strengthened to enable more detailed work to be undertaken. We need to take greater effort in educating developers about the impact of developments, and the value of good public relations in this regard.
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Maritime Archaeology

Issues raised at South West Wales Seminar

  • PW - RC have bought Larn index 4,000 records on line soon.
  • DA - Why is research agenda for maritime archaeology not integrated into the periods and stands alone? Pottery shows that the medieval is a very 'maritime' linked period.
  • GH - Do we want to re-integrate or extract thematic approach?
  • TJ - depends on interests and constraints - best kept separate.
  • EPD - needs to kept account of in individual periods.
  • Helen Burnham - It is a specific skill/specialism. Needs to be an interaction.
  • Don Benson - In favour of separate and arrange by period. So much in past archaeological study has been from the land looking out, not from the sea looking in.
  • CU (Chris Underwood)- Submerged landscapes there too. Not just wrecks.
  • TJ - Funding - Difficult to work in intertidal zones.
  • CU - Should not be put off by the perceived problems of working underwater. Misleading to think that it is too expensive.
  • DA - Newport ship question. Cross disciplinary concerns. Interest lead by romantic politics.
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General comments

Issues raised at South West Wales Seminar

    Concluding Remarks - Barry Burnham
  • No 'steady as we go'. Need to challenge existing frameworks/narratives/agendas.
  • Thematic issues - urgency to cross boundaries in time and space - Ireland and Europe.
  • Nature of the Research Agenda
  • Inclusive - but has been exclusive - hasn't addressed the local community agenda. Agenda has to be able to engage with the local population
  • Education/Communication
  • How do we communicate what we have?
  • Need more open discussion in later seminars and cross fertilisation of ideas.
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These web pages have been prepared by Chris Martin and Rich Phipps of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust on behalf the Research Framework for the Archaeoloy of Wales Steering Group.