5.6 100bc-AD43: The Continental Transition

Devon Dorset Somerset Wiltshire Hampshire Cornwall Scilly Hampshire Sussex Surrey Kent Berkshire Gloucestershire Gwent Oxfordshire Buckinghamshire Bedfordshire Middlesex West South

Distribution of sites from Continental Transition
Figure 5.6-1: Distribution of sites from Continental Transition. Select map to retrieve sites (by county).

The period of Continental transition, when the impact of the expansion of the Roman Empire was more and more strongly being felt in the southern parts of England, is also easily the shortest of the five periods under study at about 130 calendar years. It provides 182 sites with human disposals, with the south west having 44, and the south and south east areas at 69 sites each. The spread pattern of disposal location types continues into this period from the last (Tables 13, 14, 15). Overall, there appears to be a slight shift back to open site use, with the biggest revival in unstructured sites. Each of the three areas has slightly different patterns of use, the south area closest to the average, the south west favouring unstructured settlement locations and open structured locations more, and the south east with a strong bias towards open locations and to unstructured open locations in particular.

In monument characteristics there is a reasonable degree of commonality between the areas save in one facet. Tables 43, 44, 45 show that once more the use of special materials in monument construction and of completion processes is negligible or nil, and that single design site incidence continues to dominate (98-100%). The pattern of visibility of sites also continues that of the previous period, being in the 70-80% band. The slight difference among the areas appears in multiple period sites, whose incidence rises slightly in this period, but more in the south and south east (80-93%) while the south west stays at about the same level as immediately before (77%).

Taking monument orientation and body orientation together (Tables 73, 74, 75 and Tables 103, 104, 105), what evidence is available suggests the continuation of previous patterns. However, that for monuments is scanty (93% of sites have no orientation) and biased to the south west, where the same NW-NE first preference is clear, and the same clockwise following order. There is more data for body orientation, and each area exhibits the same broad preference for the NW-NE quadrant, the other preferences following in clockwise sequence. Within this, the south area does have equal highest incidence in the NW-NE and NE-SE choices, and both the south west and south east areas have the NE-SE and SE-SW quadrants in equal second incidence.

The pattern for rite in this period (Tables 133, 134, 135) is akin to that for 8/700-100bc. The single phase rite is heavily favoured in the south and south east (100% incidence), and in the south west (98%), and multiple phase rites are comparatively rare (2% overall). There is less incidence of ritual activity (12% overall), and on a low numerical base the south west has a higher level than the other two. The period does, however, show a major difference in disposal method (Tables 163, 164, 165), where the south and south west continue with their high incidence of inhumation only sites (83-89%) but the south east area peoples swing sharply into reverse from the last period and cremation only site incidence dominates at 62% over inhumation only at 29%. Overall incidence of both cremation and inhumation on site continues low at 5%, but the south area declines while both the south west and south east increase their incidence. Part body deposit incidences fall considerably from the 8/700-100bc levels to 12%, but whole body deposits and deposits of both are close to previous levels. Within these broad figures, the south east drops considerably under every type, probably owing to the return of the cremation rite which reduces the scope for assessment.

The incidence of sole male and sole female disposal (see Tables 193, 194, 195) sees the south and south east areas apparently with a higher incidence of sole female burial than the south west, and vice versa for sole males. The south west and the south have more burials of both sexes than the south east - but with different disposal modes and small numbers for the baseline, this may have no significance. There is some slight correlation between the sole and mixed burials and the patterns of burial groups (Tables 223, 224, 225), where again sole child burials are of very low incidence.

Age incidence (Tables 253, 254, 255) offers somewhat the same pattern as the last period, the 18-24 group being less represented, but the 2-17 group again being largest in incidence (21%) and the remainder in the 10-13% incidence range. It is hard to generalise given the low base figures, save to say that the incidences across all periods are in not too dissimilar patterns given the differing numerical bases underlying the percentages.

This period has a strong representation of personal grave good incidence (Tables 283, 284, 285), approaching and sometimes exceeding that for 2500-14/1300bc, the previous highest. There is again the same broad pattern of preferences, with a few area variations. Personal utensils are of very high incidence in the south and the south east (49-54%), but remarkably low (14%) in the south west which maintains the same level as the last period. All areas have similar high incidence of personal decor goods (in the range 27-32%) with the south west making the type its most favoured accompanying deposit. Goods of excellence follow (16-22%). In the south west area goods representing crafts are also of reasonable incidence (16%) but are low elsewhere, the same being true of token deposits. Overall, this period sees disposals without grave goods at their lowest level of incidence for the whole timespan.

Taking animal associations (Tables 313, 314, 315) and domestic refuse deposits together (Tables 343, 344, 345), the level of animal associations continues at approximately the same fairly low level as in the previous period, the south west continuing to be the lowest depositor of the three, and the south area taking over the highest incidence from the south east with representations of all three deposit types (part animals, whole animals and articulated animal parts). The south east area only has part animals deposited in association. The higher incidence of domestic refuse of the last period falls away in 100bc-AD43 but is still overall of significance (17% incidence on monuments and 15% with disposals). The south west area falls less than the other areas, however, and the south east falls most of all and by about two-thirds of the previous period's incidence. It is notable that in the case of every area, whatever the rate, the monument and disposal incidences go in tandem. This was the case in the two last periods and also nearly so in 3500-2500bc. 2500-14/3000bc was unusually low in both types of deposit, and lacked the similarity of proportion.

Tables 373, 374, 375 on single and multiple disposal modes show the more even pattern of use seen in the last period continuing into 100bc-AD43. Single disposals still form the largest single incidence group as they have done since 2500bc, and are followed by multiple similar and multiple varied disposals in much the same incidence as in 8/700-100bc (41-30-29% compared with 43-28-28%). In the south west, the multiple similar disposal returns to its previous level of incidence from a drop in the last period, but otherwise the fluctuations are minor.

Finally, the physical burial container data (Tables 403, 404, 405) show that overall the pit has become the dominant container (82% incidence), to the virtual exclusion of the mound (8%). The urn returns at 24% after a negligible showing in the last period. Open surface disposals fall again to pre-8/700bc levels. Within these broad moves there are area variations. The south and south east peoples increase their incidence of pit use on sites (88-91%), and the south west holds close to its previous level. Mound usage is mostly confined to the south and south west at about the same incidence (11-12%, and about half the previous period's level), but the south west has a much higher incidence of open surface disposal than the south and south east (39-10-13%). As before, the south west is the greatest user of stone-built burial containers. These containers are now at very low levels of incidence save for cists in the south west and south areas (23-9%). Finally the south east area has very heavy incidence of urn use, clearly linked with its dominant cremation disposal rite, compared with the south and south west (52-6-7%). Some of these 'urns' were in fact quite rich goods in this period, being elegant wheel-made pots of elaborate form and high quality. Perhaps allied to this is the occurrence of the bucket as a (rich burial) container, again slightly more prevalent in the south east than the south or south west but in very low numbers.


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