3.6.5 Spatial patterning and midden deposits

The large quantity of data and the degree of spatial precision within the record make examination of the 'enclosed assemblages' possible in a way that has not been possible in the past. The question of fragmentation and material decay can and should be addressed, particularly in the light of the very limited quantity of material observed on the ploughed field surface prior to the start of the excavation. There has been no opportunity at the assessment stage to draw detailed comparisons between the disc arded assemblages in the Grubenhäuser and the midden deposits or rubbish spreads that characterise parts of the western portion of the settlement. Likewise, the assemblages derived from Grubenhäuser within the housing zone deserve careful compar ison with those from the craft/industrial zone. The distribution, for instance, of unfired clay, generally derived from unfired clay loom-weights, has a high concentration in the craft/industry zone.

There is clearly a need within the post-excavation programme to identify testable models which will allow other sites to be successfully evaluated from much less extensive fieldwork. It seems possible that we have fundamentally misunderstood the nature and morphology of Early Anglo-Saxon settlement. The scale and quality of the data-set provides a compelling opportunity for a detailed examination of aspects of site morphology which would be less easy to address on a partially excavated site.

In assessing the evidence, work has concentrated on the principal context classes; the assessment of the material derived from general rubbish spreads and surface deposits requires a fully integrated approach in order to isolate the key deposits. The e xtensive surface spreads of material that were a particular feature of the western side of the settlement offer the potential for analysis with a view to providing an understanding of site function in a way not necessarily possible from what are viewed as deliberate disposal deposits in the Grubenhäuser. In order to identify those deposits that have low levels of contamination, much remains to be done on both the pottery and the animal bone. The large body of data recorded by WYAS and presented in Da vid Berg's animal bone assessment excludes the many thousands of fragments that are not readily assignable to a specific species. Most of this material was given a 3D co-ordinate in the field and, given a basic record, can be plotted with a high degree of accuracy; this is essential if we are to investigate the trends within the surface deposits, both trends in density as well as trends of survival. The sandy deposits in the north-western part of the site were abrasive and not ideal for bone preservation; elsewhere preservation was good and there is a need to quantify the differences if we are to get an impression of data loss. By careful isolation of relatively undisturbed surface deposits, and by truncating the data-set, it may be possible to build a mo del covering both the well-preserved deposits and the adjacent plough-damaged areas. The lack of visible differences in many of the surface deposits means that the only option open to us is to analyse the spatial component. Were middens in fact a part of the settlement landscape or are we here dealing with material pulled out of context by plough damage? The impression gained during the excavation was of a landscape covered with large numbers of animal bones; it is easy, however, to forget that this does not necessarily represent a huge number of animals, and that the deposits formed over a considerable period. Did the population in fact cart all their rubbish over the stream from the housing area and deposited it in the craft/industrial zone as it would appear? It is unlikely to be possible to determine whether a larger quantity of material was disposed of elsewhere, perhaps as a consequence of night soiling; the lack of any latrines being a question that fascinated the hundreds of school children who vi sited the excavation. Whilst it may not be possible to identify how much material was being disposed of off site, there is clearly a need to attempt to identify missing components in the record. The small number of coprolites recovered, for instance, most of which are probably derived from dogs and other animals, does not equate with the large population that the settlement could have supported.


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Last updated: Tue Dec 15 1998