Archaeology in British Towns: From the Emperor Claudius to by Patrick Ottaway

By Patrick Ottaway

During this authoritative quantity, Patrick Ottaway attracts on his large adventure of city archaeology to teach how our notion of the early background of British cities has been greatly replaced over the past twenty 5 years.
in keeping with his day after day involvement within the box, this examine highlights probably the most vital discoveries and study subject matters of contemporary years, exhibiting how long-term city examine tasks have printed new information regarding cities and the lives in their inhabitants.
good illustrated and hugely readable, this quantity deals a sequence of enticing and evocative case stories. It additionally highlights the paintings of the city archaeologist, and the issues inherent in protecting our earlier, while the pursuits of archaeology and estate improvement conflict.

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The reason is that, very properly reports have as their primary function the presentation of information on strata, finds and so forth which is often of a very detailed and specialist nature. The production of such a report with its accumulation of facts is, however, not the end of the archaeologist’s work. The final step is to interpret these facts, to infuse them with some meaning so that we may gain a new understanding of the past. 2). There are a number of illustrations in this book which show how effective the reconstruction of buildings is as a means of interpretation, but the exercise is not without problems, since it is rare for a buried urban structure to survive in such good condition as the twelfthcentury merchant’s house recently excavated at St Martin-at-Palace-Plain in Norwich (see p.

23 The preparation of these diagrams, or ‘Harris matrices’ as they are often known after their eponymous inventor, is the first task to occupy an excavator after completing work on site. In due course contexts can be grouped together into episodes of construction, pit digging, etc. Once the sequence has been resolved, however, we still only have the contexts as they relate to each other as earlier or later; the next task is to give them ‘real’ dates and make up groups under period headings such as Roman, Anglo-Saxon, etc.

In this way we get a picture of the site as it developed over time, by a process rather like running a film slowly backwards. During excavation each layer, cut feature or structure, or, as they are generically known today, ‘context’, is given a unique number and its details are recorded. Artefacts found in each context are kept separate and recorded under their context number. 18 Prior to his work most excavations proceeded by digging off spits of arbitrary thickness, which might comprise a mixture of many different contexts.

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