3.3 Data Quality

3.3.1 Data processing

The West Heslerton data-set is remarkable not only because it is unique as a fully computerised and recently collected archive from a site of this category, but also because of its size, the high degree of spatial referencing, and its consistency, secured through a high degree of staff continuity. In order to ensure that the full potential offered by this data-set can be fully realised, computerised Geographic Data Management techniques have been tested and found to offer an immense opportunity to provide both rapid and detailed presentation of the data and analytical functions particularly relating to spatial analysis and trend surface generation. The fact that the record is already highly computerised and in portable data structures offers the maximum analytical potential, whilst ensuring that the full analytical programme can be far shorter than has been the case in the past on similar sites such as Mucking. The analytical needs defined at the outset of the project have been fully incorporated in the record structures. Data links incorporated in all records ensure that, as analysis proceeds, the results can be reflected across the whole data-set. The digital drawings contain additional coded data which provide for the automatic generation of phase plans. Plotted point data derived from the Context or Object records can be formatted by the user or directly specified from fields within the database. The facility to display all data on up to 256 virtual layers with 256 colours and a variety of line styles and shadings gives the greatest flexibility in presentation.

The volume of data is so large that plotting individual data points can generate an incomprehensible display. Geographic pie diagrams are therefore employed in some of the supporting illustrations. One feature of the software of great benefit is that all data can be interactively interrogated on-screen at any time, allowing the user to browse through the data visually (see also 2.6.9 Recording systems and 2.7.2 Management and storage of the archive).

3.3.2 Residuality

In contrast to urban deposits, contamination is minimal with few intrusive features, and a cessation of major activity at the site during the late 8th or early 9th century. It is true that the introduction of 'Rig and Furrow' agriculture caused a number of features to be truncated; however the presence of a 'headland' between two adjacent 'Rig and Furrow' fields running north-south across the western side of the site led to a remarkable degree of survival in this area. Residuality within the Anglo-Saxon phase is far more difficult to identify at present without an established dating framework for the ceramics. Clearly there are quantities of distinctively Roman material from most parts of the site. The date range of the Roman material over the northern part of the site is very broad and includes a considerable number of individual fine-ware sherds, perhaps indicating that these had been collected as curiosities; a similar phenomenon occurs at Mucking (Chris Going, pers. comm.). The generalised distribution of 2nd to 3rd century pottery may indicate that this area was being actively farmed during the Roman period; it does not as yet indicate intense use. However, the important new material derived from the excavations in 1995 indicates that the problemis more complex. Not only is there good evidence for a sub-Roman phase but there is also evidence for stratified Roman deposits which may extend back into the 2nd century AD. A major task in the analysis will be the identification of residuality indices which can be used in the assemblage analysis. The complex sequence that emerges from the examination, if only cursorily, of the 'shrine' and associated deposits indicates that Roman survival into the 5th century is very likely, but also that there may be an identifiable overlap between the declining Roman and emerging Saxon material cultures. Pottery of clearly Saxon form manufactured in characteristically 'Roman' fabrics point towards exciting potentials to address the question of continuity.

The Grubenhäuser form the most important feature group in terms of their assemblages since they contain large amounts of material derived from large, single period, sealed deposits. There is no reason to believe from the evidence recovered that these features remained open for any great length of time. Once the structures above had gone out of use and, except in those examples where a secondary re-use can be demonstrated, they appear to have been quickly and deliberately filled with rubbish. Clearly the material in these features post-dates the life of the structures to which they relate and we need to remain aware of the limited link between the material derived from these features and the function of the structures of which the Grubenhäuser formed the principal surviving component.


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Last updated: Tue Dec 15 1998