4.4. Flavian decline and second century state intervention?

In the period following the Roman conquest the effects of Roman domination are more apparent at Heybridge. Although in c. AD 55-80 the general functional composition of the period assemblage is virtually identical to the preceding phase, the proportion of Gallo-Belgic imports and associated local copies declined to a trickle, which was partially compensated for by a relative increase in samian imports. However, the levels of imported fine wares would never again reach the same levels as witnessed at Heybridge in the Augustan period. The focus of the remaining Gallo-Belgic imports and copies in the temple area in this period potentially highlights the significance of a former style of consumption and way of life, perhaps being curated for a short time as a means of providing a link to the past, as a form of social memory.

In contrast, correspondence analysis suggests that suites of samian and other new forms such as mortaria were being used as the new dining sets in the southern and peripheral zones of the site, having superseded the Gallic-inspired suites of vessels from earlier periods. However, the shift from one suite of vessels to another would have necessitated significant change in consumption practices, the former being centred on a variety of drinking vessel forms (many of them large), and the latter being dominated by a range of dining vessels, with only small provision for drinking. With the production of Gallo-Belgic pottery coming to a halt on the continent, and regional pottery production now probably under the control of the Roman authorities, it is most likely that the occupants of the site in this period had little control over the availability of different types of pottery. Consequently, the presence of samian and mortaria on the site probably represents the inhabitants making do with what was available and fitting the new vessels into existing practices - as indicated by the virtually identical functional make-up of the total assemblage in this period. It is perhaps through processes of material domination like this over several generations that everyday forms of material culture acted as agents for change in the social practices and identities of the subordinate peoples of Roman Britain, as demonstrated in the next three phases of consumption at the site.

This situation continued into the 2nd century AD (c. AD 80-125), with the indigenous emphasis on drinking practice being further eroded at the expense of newer dining vessel forms. Although the ceramic evidence from this period is fairly limited compared to those before and after, this in itself seems to be an indicator of the extent to which patterns of consumption seem subordinate to urban and military orientated patterns of production and supply in the wider region. In the period c. AD 125-170, the site's pottery consumption appears to undergo a change in fortune, with an even greater shift towards dining vessels, and proportions of samian ware at an all-time high in all the stratified assemblages considered in this study. However, the timing of this change seems to relate directly to the construction of a Hadrianic mansio building at the nearby small town of Chelmsford, with striking similarities in the assemblage composition at both sites. Therefore, it seems that the changes in consumption practice implied at Heybridge in this period have more to do with the site's proximity to a bastion of the official urban network rather than to any innate capacity of the site to increase the volume of trade with other urban centres.

The same processes appear to be at work in the final period of interest at Heybridge (c. AD 170-210), when the construction of a mortarium kiln at the site gives rise to a significantly increased presence of this type of pottery in the total period assemblage. The high proportion of olive oil amphorae and other diagnostically military/urban forms (e.g. flagons) at the kiln site suggest some kind of direct state intervention, possibly for consumption at Chelmsford's mansio. There is certainly very little indication that mortaria were significant at Heybridge before this period, so it seems unlikely that the impetus for the kiln was some form of independent endeavour on the part of the site's inhabitants. Nevertheless, depositional patterning indicating the re-emergence of drinking rituals in the southern zone of the site suggests that local identities were beginning to re-assert themselves in this period, as witnessed at other indigenous sites in the broader region, such as Baldock (Pitts 2005c).


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Last updated: Tue May 08 2007