ARCHAEOLOGICAL FINDS ON THE BERKSHIRE DOWNS

Investigating an Iron-Age and Roman landscape

Co-Directors: Dr John Naylor (Ashmolean Museum), Anni Byard (formerly PAS/Independent).

This privately funded research project explores a recently discovered site which has yielded nearly 2000 archaeological finds including coinage, metalwork and ceramics, mostly discovered during metal detecting. With the majority of finds dating to between 100 BC to c. AD 400, combining the object data with geophysical survey (undertaken by William Wintle) will enable the project team to interpret the activity at this fascinating site over a period of around 500 years, and place it within its local and wider archaeological setting. For more information click here.

The main data gathering exercise is now complete. Due for publication with Archaeopress in 2020.

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Silver Iron Age unit of the East Wiltshire group, Helmet Lyre type (ABC 2117). © Ashmolean Museum. CC BY 2.0 (edited)

Metal Detecting and Ploughzone Archaeology

Anni is currently conducting research into metal detecting as ploughsoil archaeology, specifically the type, date and depth of artefacts recovered from what type of land (pasture / cultivated etc). This work continues earlier research (MSc dissertation 2013) and will be published online next year.

 

MSc dissertation abstract (2013): 'Ploughzone or ploughsoil archaeology is not a new concept however traditionally it has concentrated on fieldwalking as its main source of information. The large body of data created by metal detector uses and recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme provides the opportunity to address the concept of ploughsoil archaeology through non-surface artefact type and distribution analysis. Two large metal detecting rallies in the Vale of the White Horse District in Oxfordshire afforded the opportunity to evaluate and chronicle the development of a small Study Area by plotting the distribution of finds chronologically, using a landscape-based approach but on a localised scale. The study also intended to show if and how metal detecting could be used to chronicle and characterise a landscape, and if the technique is as robust and indicative of archaeological potential as other survey techniques. This was achieved comparing, combining and contrasting evidence from limited fieldwalking surveys across the same Study Area with the metal detecting data.

 

The results showed that not only can metal detecting data show varying levels of activity in a landscape, but that when collected systematically and recorded accurately, metal detecting data was a strong indicator of the archaeological potential. Artefact concentrations have revealed new areas of archaeological potential while artefact dispersal appears indicative of farming strategies. Combining the fieldwalking evidence with the metal detecting data showed that while both are a good indicator of archaeological potential, many other types of artefact exist within the ploughzone apart from pottery and these can provide a chronologically robust and distinct dataset. The personal nature of many metal artefacts can tell us more about the people who lived and worked in the Hanney landscape from later prehistoric times through to the 18th century'.

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Late 3rd century coin hoard showing plough damage and drag. Image © A.Byard