Each time period is allocated its own set of research questions. Alongside this are a set of general research questions for the archaeology and historic environment of the North West which are not period-specific.
There is need for full assessment of the current resource beyond the scope of the Research Framework process. This work should cover antiquarian work, museum archives, HERs, and the archives of university departments and archaeological units. Too much information remains unpublished or presented in grey literature only with no usable synthesis, and a framework is needed to address this regionally or nationally. Review effectiveness of OASIS and recent Rural Research project and identify gaps in data and methodologies to capture this.
Can we use Roman Rural Research project as a model?
Focus on synthesis of articles in period journals, for instance work at The problem with funding of backlog projects (especially the last 10-15 years) is that the original written scheme (if there was one) may not now be fit for purpose. If development funded (especially ecclesiastical and Diocesan), then clearly client may be very unwilling to fund appropriate reporting. Site archives/information collections need to come out into the open and not moulder in sheds and garages belonging to original excavator. Sites need to be written up/published. No new funding for excavation should be available unless previous work is published. Need continued support of archaeology websites, HERs and Museums, with links between them (common data schema and access within individual archives). Encourage brief publication in period journals, as well as OASIS and HERs. Ensure archives are accessioned to county record offices as soon as possible. Need to include relevant archives held outside the NW region. How do we collect material from local groups with a view to publishing as many are no academic minded? Middlewich is synthesised in JCAS.
Prioritise significant sites for publication. The study and publication of archival material from Carlisle especially, but also other towns like Manchester, Lancaster and Kendal is required. An audit and prioritised programme for post excavation of key sites is required to deal with a backlog of unpublished excavations. Prioritise the absolute dating of key assemblages, such as the animal bone from Castle Street, Carlisle. Actively approach major period journals with regional synthesis papers. Encourage/facilitate open access publication. But need to look at how/where published (and supporting data) eg. online/print – split/book/monograph/transactions etc. The publication and dissemination of unpublished work from military and fort sites should be treated as a priority. Work on the Chester post excavation programme requires funding to progress with the analysis that is underway, in order to understand the structural history of the Roman fortress at Chester. Other examples include Richmond’s excavation at Lancaster, plus Carlisle. Realistically, this will need funding support nationally, but do not fund the failed models of the past. Need to look at how other regional backlog sites are published eg. Norton/Bewsey.
More information than has been published may be available in archives of past excavations, in particular material from sites on the west Cumbrian coast, which needs to be brought into the public domain. Access to Archives needs to be addressed. Use of new and developing techniques, such as high-quality digital cameras and scanners, should be employed, to enable cost-effective and high quality recording of artefacts and greater ease of dissemination. Subject of MA at UCLAN? How do we make academic research sources available/known to community groups. How do we share site knowledge ahead of research? Specify public access protocols in HER audits, irrespective of LA support. OASIS should be mandatory for all, with training provided. As a minimum, all Romano-British sites excavated should have an entry in Britannia and this requirement should be stated within curators’ briefs. Need to confirm with Editors that room can be made for this increase in reporting. Now that summaries can be produced online then a case can be made for concentrating on county journal summaries. Not all counties have appropriate journals.
Provide assemblages they can use to further their careers. Need forums to bring disparate elements of archaeological community together. Potential for collaboration scoping activity between Regional Heritage Centre and Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society (CWAAS) – using existing informal networks to gather contact details in first instance. Can HERs be promoted more widely in the academic?
Links to GS8
Co-operation with diocese and faculties needed for access to archives. Diocese to allow access to watching brief and other reports to help understand sites into the dissolution period. (and links to 4.30 Early Med)
Link with GS8
Search of existing building recording and excavation archives to produce site specific reports and interpretative compilation studies. This is particularly relevant for the Late Medieval period.
As the majority of lithic scatters are derived from coastal assemblages and erosion scars, and often contain material of mixed date, the identification and excavation of stratigraphically secure and scientifically datable material in association with lithic assemblages is imperative. Publish with the titles/abstracts of work (research) using development control based material eg. Quaker Cemetery, North Shields, Proctor 2016. Continue publication and range of where work done/on-going etc. Database across periods versus themes of such existing lists.
Links to GS4
A reassessment of old archives of Romano-British but also potentially Iron Age sites is required. In particular finds of metalwork need to be located and revisited for modern analysis. Strategy: re-assess old archives and plotting metal detector finds Iron Age metalwork remains rare at a regional scale, and iron objects are believed to be uncommon, but there is no up-to-date corpus of Iron Age artefacts for the region. Existing archives require revisiting with a view to evaluating the known extent of Iron Age material culture. The publication of Meols and the finds on the PAS database will help considerably towards this study.
Contexts with high potential for waterlogged assemblages provide the opportunity for high returns in terms of understanding the totality of material culture on sites that in this region generally produce low levels of more durable material. These should be a priority for investigation and proper resourcing of such projects (including conservation) should not be underestimated.
Routine radiocarbon dating should be in all briefs. Compare/contrast intra-regional ceramic types, such as for Cumbria and N.Lancs. Reference collections are needed and training needed on identification of LMED ceramics , together with relevant scientific dating applications. This principle needs to be applied to a range of artefacts including metal work.
Links to GS15
An ongoing distribution plot of coins is required, in relation to date and value, in order to provide a model for trade against which other exchange distributions can be compared. Strategy on synthesis of single and lost coin hoards, reference PAS work. Local Government archaeology advisers to review conclusions from recent report on Cheshire metal detecting. Can/should the model/programme of metal detecting in Cheshire on Romano-British sites be adapted regionally?
Attempt to link the fragmentary artefact sequences to some kind of chronologically robust framework. This is particularly relevant for the Early Medieval period.
Links with GS13
Improve the regional knowledge of ceramic vessel form and fabric type chronologies. Analyse and publish thus far major unpublished assemblages of post-medieval artefacts. Question taken from post-medieval theme but equally applicable for all other periods. Identify key backlog sites for publication. Train new generation of finds specialists.
Absence of known distributions should not be regarded as genuine gaps and should be addressed positively through site assessments and evaluations (see above General Introduction). Similarly, genuine absences of relevant material in field walking or other interventions should be recorded to contribute towards a fuller picture of overall land use in the period. Use aerial photography, LIDAR mapping as methods for assessing if gaps exist.
Links to GS32, GS33 and GS38
Strategy for cremated remains, synthesis and analysis. Wherever identified, cremated remains should receive full and integrated analysis to investigate the range of practices and their distributions and associations. Where statistically viable groups of burials are encountered full scientific analysis using all available techniques should be a high priority.
Links with GS43
DNA analysis should be deployed wherever feasible, for indications of whether individuals in groups of burials are related and to shed light on questions of homogeneity of populations.
Link to GS43
Date late Holocene peat sequences by radiocarbon assay, particularly in the south of the region, which currently lacks any well dated analysed sequences. Dating and analysis of Holocene peat sequences. Sampling strategy: A programme of analysis should target late Holocene peat and silt deposits, with good dating control and using a variety of methods. There is a need to look not only for woodland clearance and the introduction or increase in pasture and arable, but also for surface wetness indicators relating to climate change and indicators of industrial emissions.
Enact a full sampling and dating strategy for production residues and deposits on all urban and rural sites, to detect evidence of hammerscale, metalworking or glass production. Metallurgy: Scientific analysis of materials and environmental sampling should be strategically applied to support site-specific research into industrial production. Environmentally-informed designs for urban excavations of former industrial areas are needed to ensure that the full potential of palaeoenvironmental analysis is used to inform examinations of industrial processes. Identify a backlog project and assess whether the archive/site merits work. Establish partners who want to be involved including key specialists.
Archaeological curators need to formalise and agree appropriate protocols with the Diocesan authorities which will enable all intrusive work on and around these sites to be monitored archaeologically, and for evaluation or excavation to be carried out where appropriate. Applicable to all periods, protocols are already in place, some collaboration with local ecclesiastic faculties is needed. There is a need for general clarity of research aims and potential to address archaeological strategy when undertaking faculty planning. Work on ecclesiastical and monastic sites often deals with only a few burials. Burial analysis post excavation work needs inclusion in the Written Scheme of Investigation. Signposting guidance on Church Council website about faculty rules. Work with DACs and Church Heritage Records (for Anglican); also Methodist archive and individual congregations. Non-conformist sites are more vulnerable as they are often no longer consecrated. They are also ripe for redevelopment and should be a priority for investigation. Archaeological curators need to formalise and agree appropriate protocols with the Diocesan authorities which will enable all intrusive work on and around these sites to be monitored archaeologically, and for evaluation or excavation to be carried out where appropriate. Applicable to all periods, protocols are already in place, some collaboration with local ecclesiastic faculties is needed. There is a need for general clarity of research aims and potential to address archaeological strategy when undertaking faculty planning. Work on ecclesiastical and monastic sites often deals with only a few burials. Burial analysis post excavation work needs inclusion in the Written Scheme of Investigation. Signposting guidance on Church Council website about faculty rules. Work with DACs and Church Heritage Records (for Anglican); also Methodist archive and individual congregations. Non-conformist sites are more vulnerable as they are often no longer consecrated. They are also ripe for redevelopment and should be a priority for investigation.
Ensure all opportunities are taken to date material from both the defences and interiors of hillforts, and from potential burh sites in Cheshire. This objective has been added to EM Q34
Improve the dendrochronology sequence for the region, with more samples taken from standing buildings as well as excavated preserved wooden objects. Expansion of dendrochronology. Establish a regional master sequence against which to compare samples.
Improvement of methods for dealing with extensive linear developments such as pipelines and roads, with targeted evaluation based on wider landscape assessment.Where feasible, allowing more time during evaluation exercises for stripped surfaces to weather so that archaeological features can be identified. This is particularly relevant for the Prehistoric period.
The reduction in peat cutting and extraction has limited the opportunities for the regular discovery of prehistoric material generally. In future, the majority of copper alloy Bronze Age artefacts are likely to be found using metal detectors. The collation of this information will require the continued liaison between the metal detecting fraternity and the Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officers. In particular the potential for keyhole excavation should be borne in mind for hoards or where there is the possibility of determining the context of deposition. Work with PAS to develop an emergency excavation team of volunteers who can go out and support excavation of hoards in each region when they come up. Some hoards will require a quick response. Need more links of metal detector groups to ‘normal’ archaeology groups. Use of local groups where appropriate and trained. Offer training to metal detector groups with continuing liaison but control night hawks. Link metal detectorists being able to work on excavations to number of finds recorded annually on PAS. Develop a regional heritage crime app (by an independent body – not PAS).
The potential for the recovery of environmental material from excavations must be recognised at an early stage of project planning, and suitable sampling strategies must be employed from the outset. The shortage of information for the entire prehistoric period means that every avenue of analysis must be investigated. Bulk samples should be taken as routine. On sites with alkaline soils sediments should be given a high priority for the retrieval of faunal material and mollusca, including large scale coarse sieving of soils. Well-preserved and unabraided pottery sherds need to be routinely analysed for residues and lipids. This should be routine for briefs. Look at applications of lipid analysis and other scientific techniques to enhance our understanding of the environment. Food residue analysis should be moved to life styles research topic.
The successful application of archaeological field survey programmes in limited areas of the uplands of the region should be extended more widely to other areas that have not yet been examined. This also needs to be directed towards areas of high potential, such as the fell-edge intakes and areas of high-grade agricultural land that are currently being ploughed. Review previous survey research and identify local zones for further study.
Continued air survey must be exploited for further identification of prehistoric sites. The systematic analysis of existing aerial photos is also required. Many sites may already have been photographed, but as yet remain unknown within archaeological terms. Characterisation of the air photo record may also lead to significant alteration of the distribution of known sites and provide targets for geophysics and trial excavation of both settlement and monumental complexes.
Links to GS18, 33 and 38
Approximately 20% of the Lake District National Park has been covered by archaeological survey, and around 90% of known cairnfields have been recorded. Many other areas of upland with few known or previously recorded field monuments, have seen little or no attention, and need to be assessed. Outside those areas which have seen detailed survey, information remains confined to the few published sources available, largely the result of antiquarian descriptions. There are therefore significant problems with the coverage and compatibility of the different datasets generated by varied approaches to the upland record. Further surveys should be undertaken in order that fieldwork bias is not taken to represent the actual distribution of monuments at a topographic or regional scale. Assess the further surveys undertaken since original research framework published to review and inform new targeting strategy. GIS/Lidar/mapping/modelling to facilitate targeted field survey.
Links to GS18, GS31, GS32
High priority must be the excavation of well-documented house sites and their environs with artefact recovery and plotting a priority within the excavation design. Subsequently, an intra-regional study of selected households should be undertaken based on documentary and excavated evidence.
There is a pressing need to publish or make accessible those surveys and excavations that have not yet been placed in the public domain, including large projects such as the Lake District National Park Survey. Development-related work that exists only in client reports or in Historic Environment Record (HER) requires regular synthesis and summarising. (2.1:2.1) Note: Lake District National Park survey was published in 2012. What was the relationship between settlements on the uplands, midlands and low lands? Academic-based research is required. Strategy for linking low to up lands could be to establish a rapid response team on newly ploughed ‘permanent’ pasture before vegetation re-growth.
Links with GS18 and GS 32
Excavations should recover palaeoenvironmental data from cess pits and other suitable cut features to inform on diet, health, natural resource use and consumption patterns. (7.1:7.9) Opportunities need to be taken for the use of palaeoenvironmental and geochemical analyses of the historic environmental impacts of specific industries and industrialisation in general. (7.1:7.10) Links to evidence from burials/skeletons.
Links with GS43
There is scarcely any knowledge of religious sites in this period, apart from that evidenced by inference from inscriptions and sculpture/ figurines, and the opportunity to investigate any such sites particularly in a rural context should be a priority. Kept as a specific question for the Romano-British period but this question applies to all other periods as well. How is ritual defined and what are the terms of reference? Apply existing criteria (eg. JD Hill, AM Chadwick). GIS/Viewshed analysis can reveal ‘settings’/landscape positions of potential significance to past populations. Look at wider approach, join up with buildings analysis, graffiti surveys, documentary research. Improve accessibility to grey literature, reports etc. to identify patterns across sites. Can ritual be identified in everyday contexts?
Previously excavated skeletal and artefactual material (particularly pottery) needs to be re-examined, and, where appropriate, scientifically dated, to establish whether a phase in the development of burial practice in the region has, to date, largely escaped notice.
Links to GS42, GS19 and GS20
Publication of the numerous excavated artefact assemblages recovered since the 1960s must be a regional priority, since they provide some of the raw data for analyses of production, trade and exchange. Research is needed to draw together the potential evidence for this aspect of the Romano-British period and to formulate an integrated research agenda.
Excavation and scientific analysis of 18th and 19th century dock deposits. Review previous archaeological surveys and excavations, published material and unpublished reports, HER data. Mersey Docks and Harbour Board: plans held by Merseyside Maritime Archives are a huge resource – largely uncatalogued and selective, digitisation would be good.