4 Archaeological Background

4.1 Introduction

This section will outline some of the wider archaeological information on the Iron Age and Roman periods in northern Britain. This is only an introduction to the period (see Cunliffe 1993; Frere 1987; Salway 1981 for more detailed accounts) and focuses on some of the key problems which may influence the interpretation of the analyses of copper alloy artefacts. Archaeologists have encountered a number of problems in identifying the Iron Age in northern Britain - some of the best evidence is found only in burials, and large numbers of sites are known only from fieldwork survey and so are undated. It is important to note that late Iron Age society was undergoing substantial change before the invasion by Rome. Nevertheless many aspects of the Iron Age landscape were products of earlier activities, and this same landscape saw relatively little change with the Roman conquest. The conquest is clearly attested in the historical record and may be most visible archaeologically through changes in (portable) material culture rather than landscape. Traditional accounts of Roman Britain have tended to concentrate on an historical narrative derived from classical sources. This report aims to examine wider social and economic activities and so will concentrate on identifying longer-term phenomena. The narrative account of Roman Britain has been supplemented by the limited excavation of forts to determine the date of their occupation. The study of other settlements (especially indigenous ones) and their relationships with forts has not received as much attention. This section includes a discussion of Roman imperialism in the light of 'post-colonial' critiques (e.g. Said 1978). The section concludes with a discussion of the nature of the archaeological record in the light of Hill's critique of normative approaches (Hill 1989; 1994). It is suggested that a great deal of the material remains studied by archaeologists were deliberately placed in the ground according to definite rules. This has serious implications for the ways in which the archaeological record is used as a way of representing the past.

4.2 Iron Age

An understanding of Iron Age copper metallurgy can only take place with reference to wider considerations of Iron Age archaeology in Britain. The evidence for the Iron Age in Britain is somewhat fragmentary: settlement types, material culture and burial patterns are not uniform and continuous throughout the Iron Age and across Britain. It is difficult to know what is typical of the Iron Age and what is unusual (but well preserved).

4.2.1 Origins

The earliest putative Iron Age evidence from northern Britain comes from Staple Howe and Scarborough, both in North Yorkshire. There is, however, some ambiguity to the dating of these sites. Staple Howe has produced three Halstatt C razors (Brewster 1963) and Scarborough two late Bronze Age socketed axe heads. The pottery from both of these sites has, however, been identified as Iron Age by some workers (Smith 1927; Brewster 1963; Hawkes 1959) but as late Bronze Age by Barrett (1980). Both the metal work and the pottery from Scarborough can be paralleled with some of the finds from the late Bronze Age 'hoard' from Heathery Burn Cave, County Durham (Britton 1971). The pottery can also be compared with that from Grimthorpe hillfort, North Yorkshire (Stead 1968) which has a 10th century (uncalibrated BC) radiocarbon date. This pottery is mostly plain, occasionally with thumb-impressed decoration. The ambiguity in the dating of late Bronze Age and early Iron Age sites and cultural material is illustrated in Introduction to British Prehistory (Megaw & Simpson 1979) where Staple Howe is discussed in both the late Bronze Age and the Iron Age chapters. Both Staple Howe and Scarborough, like many late Bronze Age settlements, are enclosed. Such enclosures may have had a defensive purpose or may have reflected social relations (c.f. Hingley 1984). These settlements are also relatively small. This implies that society was generally organised on a small, local scale. The widespread use of typologically similar artefacts, however, shows that some links with far larger social units were maintained. The difficulty in assigning these sites and artefacts to the late Bronze Age or the early Iron Age may reflect the theoretical framework for dating prehistory rather than any inherent problems in the archaeological record. The Three Age system which forms the basis for prehistoric chronologies assumes a primacy for technology and materials in dating objects and implies that each Age was chronologically distinct from the others. Increasingly researchers have noted the connections across traditional Ages. It is now generally agreed that the late Neolithic and the early Bronze Age have more to unite them than to separate them. The division of later prehistory into the Bronze Age and Iron Age has been widely adopted as a heuristic device but it is also admitted that social changes can and do occur that have little or nothing to do with technological change. The advent of iron working may not have had a sudden impact, and changes in other areas of social life may have been limited. It may be more useful to regard the whole period (late Bronze Age and early Iron Age) as a single transitional phase.

4.2.2 'Arras Culture'

The clearest and most abundant Iron Age evidence from northern Britain comes from the 'Arras culture' of Eastern Yorkshire (Stead 1965; 1979; Ramm 1978). Antiquarian research recovered substantial numbers of objects from burials. These objects (e.g. copper alloy brooches and horse bits) are broadly similar to those from the French Iron Age. It is only recently, however, with the use of geophysical prospection methods and aerial photography, that it has become clear that there are large numbers of Iron Age cemeteries in the East Yorkshire Wolds. The burials are highly distinctive as each is usually surrounded by a square ditch. A smaller number of burials are accompanied by a vehicle and were placed in a large pit. It is the vehicle burials that have provided most of the copper alloy finds, although simple burials are occasionally accompanied by copper alloy grave goods (pottery, animal bones and iron artefacts are more common). 'Arras culture' is often referred to in quotation marks (as here) as it barely qualifies as an archaeological culture, since it is defined almost exclusively by burials. The same aerial photography which has identified many of the cemeteries has also identified many settlements but few of these have been excavated. The settlement at Wetwang Slack, however, has been excavated and is contemporary with the burials excavated (Dent 1982; 1983). Such settlements and the structures they contain are broadly similar to those found in other parts of Britain (which do not share the same burial rite). The 'Arras culture' burial would seem to be the only distinctive aspect of East Yorkshire in the Iron Age. This raises the problem of the representativeness of copper alloys from the burials. The burials have been identified as anomalous and so why should they be taken as being representative of the Iron Age in northern Britain? Millett's (1993) study of the late Iron Age and early Roman cemeteries and settlements in St Albans has shown that burials can be contexts for the selection of specific types of pottery and the exclusion of other types. For this reason the samples of 'Arras culture' copper alloys were supplemented by samples selected from Iron Age settlements. The 'Arras culture' has often been taken as an intrusive element in the British Iron Age, the results of invasion and migration (Hawkes 1959). Many aspects of the 'Arras culture' funeral rites (square-ditched, and vehicle barrows) were new to Britain and so continental parallels have been sought. No one region of the continent, however, shows all of the elements of the 'Arras culture', so some have argued for a complex origin (Stead 1965; Cunliffe 1993: 78). Whimster (1981) has argued that the somewhat limited burial evidence from throughout Iron Age Britain shows the sharing of some funeral rites (positioning of the body, types of grave goods). The 'Arras culture' burials can be seen as part of a wider burial tradition and Higham ( 1987) has argued that the 'Arras culture' is a local development. The nature and origins of the 'Arras culture' are of considerable importance as it is the richest part of the archaeological record for the Iron Age in northern Britain. Attempts to construct typologies using 'Arras culture' grave goods have been hampered by the lack of close parallels. The earliest British Iron Age brooches are clearly derived from early La Tène types but thereafter they undergo their own insular developments. Some of the types which appear are completely unknown on the continent (e.g. Involuted brooch). Stead (1965) argues that the Cowlam burial is the earliest of the 'Arras culture' (and the bracelet may be an import) while the Arras and Danes Graves cemeteries are probably late. Dent (1982) has proposed a sub-division of involuted bow brooches based on their size. Most of the larger involuted bow brooches from Wetwang/Garton Slack came from deeper graves. Dent (1982: 446) suggests that the deeper graves (and larger involuted brooches) are later in date. This particular typology is unfortunately of little direct use for this research project as almost all of these brooches are made of iron rather than copper alloy.

4.2.3 Iron Age Settlement Patterns

Many of the upland landscapes of northern Britain have large numbers of prehistoric settlements preserved as earthworks (Jobey 1982a), but many of these have not been investigated through excavation and so are not dated. The surviving evidence for Iron Age settlements in northern Britain includes hillforts, and enclosed and unenclosed farmsteads. Hillforts have been found throughout the area of study but are relatively rare. None of the excavated hillforts in the southern part of the study area (those south of Hadrian's Wall) seem to be occupied after the early Iron Age. Almondbury, West Yorkshire, has TL and radiocarbon dates suggesting that the ditches began to fill in by the 5th century BC (Varley 1976: Table 2). At Grimthorpe, North Yorkshire, radiocarbon assays of 690±130 and 970±130 (both uncalibrated BC) were obtained from bones samples from the partially silted ditch (Stead 1968). The occupation of hillforts in the area north of Hadrian's Wall seems to have gone on longer. Dod Law, Northumberland (Smith 1990) seems to have been occupied at least until the beginning of the Roman period. Traprain Law shows quite intensive occupation throughout the Roman period (Jobey 1976; Burley 1955; Hill 1987). Smaller, undefended settlements are common throughout much of northern Britain (Jobey 1982a; Haselgrove 1982). In some areas settlements are integrated into a landscape of fields, enclosures and linear features (e.g. the 'ladder' settlements of the Yorkshire Wolds, settlements on the North Yorkshire Moors), and in other cases settlements appear to be isolated from other features of the landscape (e.g. West Yorkshire [Raistrick 1939]). This apparent isolation may, however, be the product of incomplete fieldwork and/or the survival of remains. Some settlements are clearly enclosed by (non-defensive) ditches, while others are entirely open. The difference may be chronological, with the enclosed settlements being earlier, and this is illustrated by the sequence at Thorpe Thewles (Heslop 1987). Some enclosed settlements do continue in use into the late Iron Age and the distinction may be socio-economic rather than chronological (c.f. van der Veen's [1992] distinction between type A and type B crop regimes). In many areas the settlements that have been identified through fieldwork have not been excavated and so are not dated. The dating of earthwork and aerial photograph sites is largely a matter of guess-work. The site of Balbridie in Scotland was discovered by aerial photography and assumed to be a 'Dark Ages' elite residence because of similarities with sites such as Yeavering, Northumberland. Excavation, however, showed that the site was Neolithic (Selkirk 1980). The site of Ribblehead, North Yorkshire, has parallels with other upland sites but this site was occupied in the post-Roman period (King 1978). It is not always certain which settlements begin in the Bronze Age rather than the Iron Age. In addition, many putative Iron Age settlements may continue in use into the Roman period. In some areas of northern Britain there is very little evidence for any occupation in the Iron Age (e.g. the low-lying areas of Lancashire). Small rural settlements rarely have deep stratigraphy or large numbers of finds (e.g. Coxhoe - see Haselgrove & Allen 1982) and so are not usually popular with excavating archaeologists. A detailed understanding of settlement patterns and social structures in northern Britain can only come about through programmes of survey and excavation.

4.2.4 Iron Age Agricultural Economies

Piggott's (1958) famous description of Iron Age economies portrayed two distinct farming strategies in operation in Iron Age Britain which he called the Woodbury and the Stanwick types. The Woodbury type was largely restricted to the lowland regions of southern and eastern England and was based on mixed farming with strong emphasis on cereal production. The Stanwick type, which was a more pastoral economy with little cultivation, was found in the upland regions of northern and western Britain. This distinction was based directly on the incidence of grain storage pits but also reflects more long-standing assumptions that the north and west of Britain are, in archaeological terms, more economically and culturally 'backward' (e.g. Fox 1932). The characterisation of northern Britain as primarily pastoral was in part the result of a lack of fieldwork and excavation. Excavations are beginning to show that mixed farming was the norm on most northern British settlements. Both animal bones and carbonised grain were recovered from Staple Howe (Brewster 1963). At Grimthorpe (Stead 1968) many of the post-hole structures were interpreted as granaries. The animal bones from both of these sites showed the exploitation of all three classic domesticates: cattle, sheep and pigs. More recently, as excavations in northern Britain have increased (e.g. Ledston and Dalton Parlours, West Yorkshire) it has become clear that grain production was more intensive than previously thought. Attempts to reconstruct the relative importance of arable cultivation and animal husbandry remain difficult, however, due to cultural and taphonomic transformations. Detailed study of the remains of weeds associated with grain assemblages from Iron Age sites has enabled van der Veen (1992) to identify two different 'crop husbandry regimes' in the north of England. The first (type A) used intensive manuring and cultivation to obtain a high yield from a limited area, while the second (type B) used less intensive methods to cultivate much larger areas. Type A seems to be a traditional method of perhaps near-subsistence farming, while type B was relatively new to northern Britain and was geared towards the production of a grain surplus.

4.2.5 Iron Age Britain and the 'Celts'

Piggott's (1958) models of agricultural economies owes a great deal to modern perceptions of the ancient 'Celts'. It is often assumed that most of the Iron Age inhabitants of Europe were 'Celts'. A variety of ancient and early historical sources have been used to construct a picture of 'Celtic civilisation' (Ellis 1990) which has greatly influenced the interpretation of Iron Age Europe. Recently this approach has been criticised (Aitchison 1987; Chapman 1992). The issue of the 'Celts' is an important one as it has tended to structure all explanations of Iron Age Britain (including the modes of metal production). The fact that ancient authors (e.g. Herodotus, Caesar's Gallic Wars) refer to 'Celts' impinging on their world from Asia Minor to Iberia, has been taken by many modern researchers to indicate that there was a European-wide 'Celtic' culture (e.g. Dillon & Chadwick 1967; Ellis 1990). This culture has been reconstructed from archaeological evidence and various ancient historical sources. Apparent similarities between historical sources (classical and Irish) are taken as justification of this approach. This use of historical sources to illustrate Iron Age Europe is seen most powerfully in Jackson's (1964) Window on the Iron Age, where he argues that the Irish myths (especially the Ulster Cycle) were originally part of an oral tradition which goes back to the Iron Age. The Ulster Cycle is used to describe aspects of social life which are not easily reconstructed from the archaeology alone. Jackson has provided a framework for the Iron Age which has been widely used by archaeologists (e.g. Cunliffe 1983). The notion that the 'Celts' occupied most of northern Europe during the Iron Age, and that they were recognisably a 'people' has been criticised by Chapman (1992). The 'Celts' are occasionally discussed by ancient authors but almost never by the 'Celts' themselves. The 'Celts' were ultimately conquered and so the only accounts to survive are those of the Greco-Roman authors who were not concerned to render an accurate account of their northern neighbours. The 'Celts' are vilified as inconstant, violent, drunken, sexually deviant, cannibals, etc. (Chapman 1992). These accounts have traditionally been taken largely at face value; however, they (like modern imperialist accounts of America, Africa and Asia) helped justify conquest (Said 1978). The similarities between modern imperialist and ancient accounts of 'other' peoples should alert us to the ideological (not to say propagandist) nature of such accounts. Chapman (1992) also argues that the 'Celts' were not a single 'people'. He shows that the term 'Celt' was used by the Greeks to refer to northern and western barbarians. The term was still used in the 12th century to refer to the northern and western Europeans who came on the first crusade. This undifferentiated use of the term 'Celt' suggests that it was not a term used by the 'Celts' to describe themselves. Chapman (1992) suggests that it may even have been an insulting epithet. The use of classical and Irish accounts to construct a vision of 'Celtic' society is problematic. Classical accounts of Gallic society contain apparent contradictions as many of the accounts are not of the same period (Nash 1976: 122-3). The Irish myths were written down after the Conversion and seem to have be composed at that time. They do not seem to derive from an oral tradition (Aitchison 1987). The idea that there was a single people who shared a common culture and called themselves the 'Celts' is no longer tenable. This is important for an understanding of Iron Age metalworking as the 'Celts' have frequently been used to explain the social organisation of such activities.

4.2.6 Transformations to Late Iron Age Society

The appearance of more surplus-oriented agriculture in northern Britain is only one of a series of the late Iron Age changes. This period sees the appearance of large settlements similar to the oppida of southern Britain (Collis 1984). Stanwick, North Yorkshire (Haselgrove 1990), and Redcliff, North Humberside (Crowther 1987), have both produced large quantities of Roman and Gallo-Roman imports. These sites may have been political centres for wide areas and may indicate increasing political centralisation in the late Iron Age. The late Iron Age also sees an increase in surviving copper alloy artefacts. A great many of the objects catalogued by Macgregor (1976) belong to the late Iron Age or the early Roman period; few can be assigned to the early Iron Age. This apparent increase may result from changes in depositional practice - many of the objects catalogued by Macgregor (1976) were recovered from rivers, lakes, or land being drained. The deposition of metalwork in 'wet places' may have served ritual purposes (Fitzpatrick 1984; 1992; Bradley 1990).

4.3 The Roman Period

The archaeology of the Roman period in Britain is in marked contrast to the Iron Age (and the Anglo-Saxon period) in the quantity and types of evidence that remain. Many areas of Britain have little evidence of either pre-Roman or post-Roman activity. The most striking change in the Roman period is that of the material culture: the quantities of Roman artefacts deposited on archaeological sites is far greater than in the Iron Age. The sheer quantity of Roman material available for study has tended to encourage the view that this material is representative of the Roman period.

4.3.1 The Roman Conquest

The history of the Roman Conquest of Britain and the tactics and strategies used have received more attention than most other aspects of the Roman occupation of Britain (e.g. Frere 1987; Salway 1981). The Roman conquest of northern Britain is often recounted through the use of Tacitus' Agricola, aerial photography and limited excavation (see Hanson 1987). Elaborate reconstructions of a single year's campaigning have been based on similarities of fort plan and the dating evidence (mostly samian) recovered from ditches. These are still closely related to Agricola and can be upset by the discovery of a single new site (e.g. Roecliffe - EsmondeCleary 1994). Millett's (1990) approach to the conquest has been to view the dispositions of forts in more general terms, particularly in relation to the pre-existing indigenous settlement pattern and social structures. Thus, highly centralised social groups in southern England (such as the Catuvellauni and the Trinovantes) could be conquered and controlled through defeat in battle and then occupation of the nodal points in the settlement hierarchy (which coincided with the social and political hierarchy). In other territories where the indigenous power structures were less centralised alternative strategies were employed. Forts were often stationed on the borders of these territories (e.g. Longthorpe). These could act as bases for operations into new territories. Areas with highly localised power structures were conquered piecemeal and forts are found throughout these areas (the south-west and Wales). Here defeat was less readily accepted. The Roman conquest of the north was also suited to the existing physical and socio-economic environment. A series of forts have been found on the southern fringes of this territory (e.g. Osmanthorpe - Bishop & Freeman 1993) which could have acted as bases prior to the actual conquest of the north. A series of forts have been found on either side of the Pennines, each separated by a day's march or less. The forts are later connected by roads and some of these run over the Pennines in order to connect the two lines of advance (Millett 1990: 54). This intensive occupation of northern Britain would appear to fit in with the assumption that political centralisation was minimal in northern Britain - if the North was to be conquered then every inch of territory had to be held. The evidence of transformations in late Iron Age society in northern Britain already discussed, however, suggests that political power may have been centralising before the conquest.

4.3.2 Nature of the Roman Occupation

The Roman occupation of northern Britain was noticeably different from the South. Soon after the conquest, the army moved northwards leaving the South largely ungarrisoned. A number of changes occurred in the landscape of southern Britain - towns developed out of existing foci or the newly established road network, while the countryside saw the appearance of villas. After c. AD 71, the vast majority of the Roman army was concentrated in Wales and northern Britain. The army was stationed in a series of forts along Hadrian's Wall and the roads connecting the frontier with the southern part of the province. The road network was largely restricted to the lower-lying areas while large sections of the uplands may have had no permanent military presence. Most forts had civilian settlements, variously called vici and canabae, attached to them (Salway 1965). The usage of the terms is largely modern and here the term vicus is used for all civil settlements which lie adjacent to military sites. Vici could provide a range of services for the soldiers of the forts in return for the pay the soldiers received. More substantial, independent urban settlements are something of a rarity in northern Britain. York was granted colonia status (Wacher 1975: 156) and Carlisle may have acted as a civitas capital during the later Empire (Higham & Jones 1985). The two other more-or-less independent urban sites in northern Britain are Aldborough and Corbridge. Those civil settlements which appear outside early Roman forts but which occasionally continue to be occupied centuries later (often after the departure of the local garrison) are usually called vici in their early phases and towns in their later ones. It is usually assumed that the social and economic links between vici and forts were strong. The construction and regulation of vici is poorly understood (Salway 1965). Casey (1982) suggests that vici may have been laid out and constructed by the military authorities, while Sommer (1991) argues for more self-regulation by the vicani. It is likely that some (if not most) of the inhabitants of a new vicus would have travelled with the military unit from the last post (Casey 1982). In this way there would be a continuity of some personnel and institutions in vici. The possible relationships between vici and rural settlements are less clear. Some of the inhabitants may have moved in from the surrounding countryside. Vici may have acted as intermediary sites for economic and social interaction between the rural hinterland and Roman forts (Higham 1982). Vici could have been market places where goods and services could be sold to soldiers. Such markets would also have provided the opportunity for indigenes to obtain cash with which to pay taxes. Many remote upland settlements, however, may have had only minimal contact with the Roman world. Taxes may have been paid not on an individual basis but by a larger group (either co-operatively or through an elite). In the later Empire the payment of taxes in kind was common (Salway 1981: 336-7) but Tacitus (Agricola 1912) makes it clear that some taxes were collected in kind in the 1st century AD. Many small rural settlements may not have been part of the cash-tax economy - such settlements may have always been taxed in kind. The presence of a relatively large number of troops in northern Britain may have impeded the emergence of an indigenous elite willing to take part in Romanisation and the formation of civitates (Millett 1990: 100). This may explain the lack of towns and villas throughout much of the north. Existing elites may have continued to exercise control through traditional methods, e.g. the deposition of metalwork in 'wet deposits' (Bradley 1990). The analysis of 'Celtic' metalwork suggests that much of this material may have been produced after the conquest. The vast majority of the indigenous population may, however, have continued to live in settlements little different from those of the Iron Age.

4.3.3 Romanisation and Roman Imperialism

The Roman Conquest had a considerable impact on Britain which can be seen in many aspects of the archaeological record. This record is often interpreted within a narrative framework derived from classical sources. It is argued here that such a framework is biased in favour of the Roman world and does not do justice to the archaeological record. The study of the Roman empire has been popular in most modern states which have acquired empires (not least Britain). Roman and British imperialisms have been used to help construct each other - the two are bound up with each other. Roman imperialism was used as justification for the actions and existence of the British Empire. Even more significantly, Roman imperialism has itself been constructed out of a thoroughly modern and British view of imperialism. Yet it is clear that the Roman and British Empires were very different from each other. The two can and should be studied together, but one cannot be used as a model for the other. The recent 'post-colonial' reassessments of European colonialism (e.g. Said 1978) have allowed a deconstruction of some of the assumptions of superiority behind imperialism, and attempts are now being made to re-examine Roman imperialism (Hingley 1991; 1995; Webster 1995). Britain was one of the foremost modern colonising powers and cultivated ideological links with ancient Rome. The Neo-classical revival, the iconography of Georgian coinage and the Grand Tour are just a few of the more obvious illustrations of how Britain sought to demonstrate that it was the moral inheritor of Rome's 'civilising' mission. The forging of links gave Britain an origin myth in the classical world (Hingley 1995). To many, the British Empire was merely a continuation of (at least the ideas of) the Roman Empire. The training given to those who were to be sent out to administer the British Empire was essentially a classical education - the Roman Empire was to act as an exemplar for the British Empire. Nineteenth century accounts of Roman Britain assumed that the indigenous inhabitants of Britain were too 'primitive' to be in any way responsible for the changes seen during the Roman occupation (towns, villas, roads, etc.). It was assumed that the inhabitants of the towns and villas were colonising Mediterraneans. The indigenous inhabitants still occupied Britain but they were restricted to the simpler settlements (especially those with round houses). Haverfield (1912) suggested, however, that the majority of the inhabitants of the towns and villas of Roman Britain were not immigrant Mediterraneans but were indigenous Britons who had adopted Roman ways. Haverfield coined the use of the term 'Romanisation' to cover the range of social and economic transformations that occurred in Britain during the Roman period. This model has formed the basis for the understanding of (non-military) Roman Britain (Hingley 1991). The model has long received support from Tacitus (Agricola 21) which states that Agricola actively encouraged Romanisation. The idea that the Roman state was actively and deliberately involved in transforming British society has been criticised (Millett 1990: 69-75). The Romanisation model would seem to draw more heavily on long-standing European imperialist perspectives (Said 1978) as much as it does on evidence from the past. Even when, in the post-War period, scholars have chosen to stress the active participation of indigenous elites in Romanisation (e.g. Millett 1990: 82) the view that the indigenous inhabitants were more 'primitive' tends to prevail. The shifting of responsibility for Romanisation away from the Romans and onto the 'barbarians' may reflect increasing distaste for imperialism on the part of modern scholars. The influence of conservative ideology can still be seen in the use of 'trickle down' economics. Individual wealth creation in the1980s was given a wider social justification by arguing that the rich would spend money on goods and services. This money would then trickle down the socio-economic hierarchy to the less well off. 'Trickle down' seems to be a model for explaining some aspects of Romanisation:

Power within the new structures brought its burdens. . . Municipal government was strongly paternalistic so some of the wealth controlled by the aristocracy was redistributed through private patronage and civic benefactions. (Millett 1990: 66)

One of the initial aims of this research project was to examine the introduction of brass into northern Britain. It was assumed that brass was a Roman metal and so it could only appear on indigenous sites through trade and exchange with more Romanised sites: brass would flow down the settlement hierarchy. Many inter-site comparisons of material culture in the Roman period make similar assumptions (e.g. Millett 1977; 1980). In the case of copper alloys it might be hoped that brass might act as an 'index of Romanisation'. This approach assumes that the indigenous inhabitants of Britain were passive receivers of Roman culture, and that this only took place within a framework created by Rome. Studies of recent imperialisms have shown that indigenous reactions can very greatly (Miller et al. 1989). The recent critiques of imperialism have entailed a reconsideration of the nature of Romanisation. Ancient and modern imperialisms have often been used to explain and justify each other. In order to understand Romanisation it is necessary to know how our views have been influenced by British imperialism. We cannot construct a picture of Roman imperialism out of our understanding of modern imperialisms but we can deconstruct some existing models of Romanisation.

4.4 Deposition and the Archaeological Record

Archaeology has been defined as the study of past societies through their material remains. An often unstated assumption of most archaeological study is that the material remains are representative of the societies that created them. Material remains are often treated as if they were cultural debitage that was unconsciously thrown away (Binford 1983). A close examination of this debitage will then allow a reconstruction of the behaviour that created it. In a famous paper Hawkes (1954) argued that explanations based on archaeological data could be placed in a hierarchy (his ladder of inference). The first step from the data to explanation was to describe the technology used to create the material remains. This was the easiest step and required little or no subjective appreciation. Further steps (up the ladder of inference) moved steadily away from the data in explaining social organisation and beliefs and required more and more subjective opinion. In a recent paper Hill (1989) has argued that such an approach needs to be reconsidered. It has long been clear that most of the remains from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages in Britain come from sites which were not domestic but played some ritual function in society. As such, the remains from these sites are clearly influenced by ideology and so do not simply reflect the societies that created them (they are not just debitage). Attempts to explain this period in prehistory have always had to address the beliefs of the societies (things high up on Hawkes' ladder). Many other periods (Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Iron Age, Roman, etc.) have, however, been assumed to be relatively uncomplicated by ideology. It is often assumed that the people of these periods were 'just like us' and so their activities and motivations can easily be understood by us. Hill, however, argues that the past is fundamentally different from the present and we cannot uncritically use modern exemplars to explain the past. The past has its own logic, and we do not automatically have a way of understanding that logic. Hill's detailed study of deposition practices on a range of Iron Age sites in southern England has shown that a major proportion of the material remains recovered from archaeological sites were deliberately placed in the ground (see Hill 1994 for a recent summary). Most remains on Iron Age sites come from ditches or dis-used storage pits. Many of the storage pits contain articulated animal or human bodies; artefacts (brooches, etc.) in pits usually come from the upper levels, and artefacts in ditches usually come from the terminals (and certain artefacts often come from just one side). This approach is now seeing wider application (e.g. Millett 1993). Clearly archaeological remains are actively created according to social or ritual rules. Hill argues that the archaeological record is highly structured and that Hawkes' ladder of inference should be inverted. Schiffer (1976) argued that the archaeological record was a transformation (cultural transformation) of the material culture as used in daily life. Hill argues that an understanding of the ideological rules behind deposition are necessary before technology and economy can be reconstructed. The archaeological record is often taken at face value as representing the individuals and societies who created it. Archaeological remains cannot, however, be taken as passively reflecting society. The objects which survive for study are not simply reflective of technological and economic life. The archaeological record is highly structured and cannot be assumed to be representative of daily life. The differences between the archaeological record and the lives of its creators cannot be assumed to be constant. The ideological rules which structure deposition may differ within and between societies and change over time. The archaeological record has been actively and passively transformed by its creators, nature, and us.


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