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3. Background and Evolution of the Project

The project has been funded by English Heritage in three parts. These elements encompass (i) Phase 1, the pilot survey, conducted by the author part-time from autumn 1996 to the spring of 1997 (Willis 1997b); (ii) preparation in the early summer of 1998 of an article communicating the results of the research to that point, published in The Archaeological Journal (Willis 1998a); and (iii) Phase 2, undertaken part-time from autumn 2000 to autumn 2003, representing the major element of the study.

The first phase of the project was undertaken in part as a feasibility (pilot) study in order to establish the nature of samian information in the public domain and to test the methodologies devised to collate and analyse these data. Prof. Martin Millett (then of Durham University), together with Rob Perrin and Henry Owen John played a key role in bringing the project into being. The original project design for Phase 1 was drawn up by Martin Millett and myself. Phase 1 was conducted between November 1996 and March 1997, based at Durham University. A report on the results of this phase was produced (Willis 1997b). Some 50+ copies of this report were circulated to interested parties. Feedback on this report was sought and monitored (cf. below). This pilot survey verified that sufficient information, of suitable type in order to address project aims, existed in site excavation reports, etc. and that this could be categorised and collected for inclusion into a multi-dimensional dataset. The dataset was collated. A main element of the dataset was the samian 'values', determined for the incidence of samian types by calendar year, and intended to identify chronological trends in samian consumption. Interrogation of the dataset and samian values demonstrated that the project methodology worked and that the dataset could readily produce reliable information on the chronology and distribution of samian in Britain, thereby providing new information about the Roman era.

Roman period archaeologists, including samian specialists working in Britain, were advised of the existence of the project at its inception, and many have contributed advice and observations. Most of the c. 50 copies of the report on the results of Phase 1 that were distributed to interested parties for comment generated feedback. Responses and comments made by readers were digested and enabled both the subsequent paper appearing in The Archaeological Journal (Willis 1998a) and the research design for Phase 2 to be, accordingly, stronger.

As a follow-up to Phase 1 it was agreed with English Heritage that the author (SHW) prepare an article for publication within a national journal, presenting the results of Phase 1 of the study and placing them within the context of Romano-British studies. This paper was prepared in the early summer of 1998 and was published in The Archaeological Journal, vol. 155, for 1998, appearing in summer 1999.

English Heritage commissioned the project design for Phase 2 of the study in November 1999. The latter was drafted in early 2000, following a MAP2 format. A revised version of the design was submitted in the summer of 2000 and accepted by English Heritage in August of that year. English Heritage then commissioned Phase 2 of the project.

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