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13.5 Future directions for research

The database and other information presented here is a reference tool for those working in the field of Roman and related studies to use and with which to compare other groups of samian, perhaps from new fieldwork, as our subject moves forward.

The project has identified many areas for which we have a reasonably robust samian dataset from which it has been possible to discern trends and variations. The database includes a good range of samples with fair geographic, chronological, site type, etc. coverage. This sample could even be enhanced by the addition of further samples in the future. Some gaps in our knowledge would benefit from the publication of new information: for instance, there are few quantified samian and pottery assemblages published from sites on the northern frontier or from villas. More data generated by the EVE method of quantification is desirable, not least per samian form type, which is likely to be a useful data type. Publication of full lists of samian types present in stratified groups is of great value, as this project has shown. This need not take up much printed space (cf. Willis 1998a), and in an age of CD-Rom and electronic publication this might be a routine section of the published primary record for a site.

Further comparison of samian data from British sites with (1) that from sites in the North-West Provinces, and (2) with other finds types through integrated analysis, are important priorities for developing understanding of supply, society and culture at many levels.

One method for which the collected data are highly suited, and which may produce information of value, is Trend Surface Analysis. Prof. Fulford and others have shown that the method can be successfully applied to Roman artefact data to reveal and define changing supply and consumption patterns across provinces and regions (e.g. Timby 1987; Allen and Fulford 1996). Data from the present study might therefore be used to establish samian distribution in Britain, using a modern dataset, via the Trend Surface Analysis method. This analysis might shed further light on the structure of samian distribution in Britain. It may assist, for instance, vis-à-vis comprehension of the supply of East Gaulish samian (c. AD 150-260) which has often been believed to have a distribution centred on eastern England and the northern frontier, though new work suggests that this assumed bias in distribution is in need of review. The analysis could test the conventional hypothesis and, for instance, contribute to our understanding of supply economics in the north-west empire during the 3rd century.

A potential problem in site-related studies of samian lies in the size of samples from both current and foreseeable excavations. Often developer-funded interventions at 'Small Towns', roadside settlements, etc. and rural sites are of relatively modest scale, with very small fractions of the extant archaeological deposits being excavated, amounting to less than 4%. Normally ditches, other linear features and pits proliferate, with excavation being limited to short sections of ditches, and partial pit investigation. The small samian groups arising from these interventions are often crucial components for dating and site characterisation. A number of issues pertaining to the nature of these samples arise. One issue relates to sample size: the amounts of samian routinely recovered from such samples are probably insufficient to furnish reliable chronological information for dating such features, leading to increased reliance on typically less closely datable coarse wares. Secondly, the nature of site formation processes at these types of site are distinctive (cf. Martin in press) and impact on the use of cultural material from deposits for dating site phases, and site interpretation, and so forth (cf. Exploring Our Past (EH 1998; Willis 1998a, 115-18)). Hence the nature of the samian samples from these sites warrants attention in order to discern how optimum data might be obtained from interventions and the ensuing material.

The present report has only been made possible through the countless hours of effort made by many conscientious workers: those who excavated the sites, those who co-ordinated post-excavation to publication, the samian experts producing their commendable reports, and those reporting pottery assemblages overall. On the basis of their work it has been possible to collate data and characterise trends. The results of this project might be seen as a part fulfilment of the potential and promise of pottery study, as identified in Young's Guidelines (1980a) and subsequent reviews (e.g. Fulford and Huddleston 1991; Evans 2001).

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