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13.2 Project findings in terms of other classes of evidence for society in Roman Britain

Comparisons with trends identified in other areas of research on Roman Britain and the North-West Provinces help to contextualise the findings of the present project. The findings of the project mesh well with trends identified in other classes of evidence for culture and practice in Roman Britain and beyond. This can be seen via comparison with patterns identified for other artefact classes, which show that site type and identity may be a key variable, as with samian. This is apparent, for instance, in the case of lamps (Eckardt 2000), with glass vessels (Cool and Baxter 1999) and with regard to coarse pottery (Evans 2001) and coins (e.g. Reece 1995). Cool and Baxter's research found that there were different patterns in the consumption of glass between urban and rural sites; they were using glass in different ways (Cool and Baxter 1999; Cool 2001). With Roman small towns the sample available to them was too small to determine a pattern at this category of site, and it was speculated that with regard to glass Roman small towns would be likely to follow the urban pattern. If so this would constitute an interesting contrast with the samian evidence, which, as demonstrated above, shows that for this artefact class consumption patterns at smaller civil centres mirrors that at rural sites.

This incidence of samian in Britain is highly structured. The structure is coherent. The character of samian assemblages has a clear relationship to the settlement hierarchy and the status of sites as suggested by other classes of evidence, such as structural remains, site size, and so forth.

13.3 Samian and the study of site finds assemblages

The present report is designed to be a reference tool for others working in Roman and related research. Samian is, of course, but one element within the fairly wide-ranging composition of artefact assemblages from sites of the period (cf. Cooper 2000), and so a particular value from the information presented here will come through linkages with other classes of artefact data in future projects.

Methods and data presentation in this report confirm that samian is a particularly good indicator of cultural practices during the Roman era. Systematic and quantitative approaches to other categories of finds have demonstrated that they are also conducive to such integration, which highlights trends and raises archaeological questions, stimulating the subject. More work of this type should have benefits for our comprehension of the life, culture and practice of the Roman era. The value of integrated approaches to finds studies is proven, as recent years have seen the development of analytical work employing an 'assemblage approach' to site finds of the Roman era (e.g. Clarke 1994; Cool et al. 1995; Evans 1995a; 2001; Hunter 1998; Cooper 2000; in press). The potential contributions of approaches of this type are considerable and should become customary, for integration should lead to richer understanding and more sophisticated accounts of the past. Samian as a key diagnostic type at a series of levels has much to offer integrated approaches.

At a different level of integration, more regional studies are required for artefact types (cf. papers in James and Millett 2001) in order to characterise trends (or lack of them) over a broad area with which specific site data might be compared. Integration of finds data from various locations across sites is now much needed, not just for samian (though this is valuable: cf. Darling 1998) or for other specific artefact classes (though this too has potentials: cf. Eckardt in press), but for all main types where possible (cf. Cool et al. 1995).

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