Prehistory

Prehistory Research Questions

General

PH01: How can we maximise potential recovery of lithics?

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Do not ignore topsoil. Sieving of topsoil samples as part of evaluation mitigation work may have a part to play. Geophysical survey generally poor technique in NW, include fieldwalking as a non-intrusive technique. Links with Q6.More training needed such as for targeted and structured fieldwalking. Need re-analysis of Upper Palaeolithic lithics and training workshops. Can we predict or use opportunities more, eg. change to arable notifications?

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.9 – Test the percentage target of evaluative excavation, with larger area excavations in appropriate circumstances and the use of non-invasive techniques such as geophysical survey.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Lithic implement, Excavation, Investigative techniques, Prehistoric, Fieldwalking survey, North west

PH02: How effective has the North West Wetlands Survey been as a planning and research tool?

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Review investigation projects undertaken on wetland/wetland fringe areas through development control.

Assess grey literature/publications for references to the survey. The survey has allowed assessment and evaluation of peat deposits to be included in development control work. Also gives pointers to where lithic deposits may occur in topsoil.

The Survey has inspired a number of developer-funded projects in Cheshire eg. Arclid Quarry, Ince Marshes, and Hockenhull Lake (Gowry Valley).

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Prehistoric, Wetland, Coastal wetland, Synthesis, North west

PH03: How does new evidence from cave and rock shelter sites help with the understanding and significance of earlier unpublished investigations?

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There is an urgent need to retrieve, process and publish the archives for the Morecambe Bay cave and rock shelter excavations. This is especially relevant to the material accumulated by the late Chris Salisbury.

In the event of excavated material being unavailable or incomprehensible, targeted excavations of cave and rock shelter sites around Morecambe Bay may verify or extend the data from earlier excavations.

This looks like a Morecambe Bay Partnership funding bid involving OA North.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.18 – Retrieve, process and publish the archives for the Morecambe Bay cave and rock shelter excavations.,
PH2.19 – Carry out targeted excavations of cave and rock shelter sites around Morecambe Bay.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Excavation, Cave, Prehistoric, Rock shelter, Collections research, Publication, North west

PH04: How can we enhance existing datasets for Prehistory in the region?

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Further field survey is required to provide a representative sample of material from all topographic and geological zones throughout the region.

Target palaeo-channels and riverbanks for Mesolithic assemblages. Organise master classes in recognition of early flint types. Review and update sampling guidelines and training. General strategy for whole Prehistoric period – continuity of settlement related to geography. Target palaeo-channels and wetlands for evidence of votive deposits.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.20 – Carry out further field survey in all topographic and geological zones throughout the region.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Excavation, Palaeochannel, Prehistoric, Field survey, Wetland, North west

PH05: How can we prioritise the significant backlog of work on early prehistoric sites and assemblages?

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Carry out a review of unpublished excavation sites and finds assemblages. Many finds assemblages are in private hands. Produce web-based database. Provide professional support mechanism for non-professional evaluations. Establish funded internships to support existing curators in tackling backlogs.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.1 – Publish or make accessible those surveys and excavations that have not yet been placed in the public domain.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Early prehistoric, Assemblage, Collections research, Synthesis, North west

PH06: How can we gain a better understanding of Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements and farming through extensive field walking?

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Beyond the uplands, the arable areas in the surrounding lowland have seen remarkably little systematic field survey, although suitable conditions for field walking are widespread.

Review results of the Eden Valley fieldwalking project.

Training in field walking and artefact recognition is needed.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.32 – Identify areas of high potential for Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeology outside the uplands and carry out fieldwalking and other survey work.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Settlement, Bronze age, Neolithic, Fieldwalking survey, Training, Agriculture, North west

PH07: How can we use commercial projects to target the identification and exploration of burnt mounds and their contexts?

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Further work is required on the identification and survey of burnt mound sites.

We know where they occur and could legitimately focus on likely locations in development control work.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.49 – Identify and survey burnt mound sites.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Prehistoric, Field survey, Burnt mound, North west

PH08: How does the typology, location and distribution of burnt mounds in the north West compare to those elsewhere in the UK?

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Carry out inter-regional studies. Include dating (we now know they continue from Late Neo/Early BA to Early Med.)

Contact relevant researchers such as Tom Gardner doing PhD on the geo-archaeology of burnt mounds at Edinburgh.

What dates are they? Some in the North East are Neolithic.

NWWS clearly showed that burnt mounds do not occur around the blanket bogs/raised mires such as Lindow Moss, Rixton Moss, etc. Nor do they occur around the open-water meres found in north Shropshire around Ellesmere. They are, however, abundant around the fen-type environments and peats found at baggy Moor and the Weald Moors in Shropshire.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.50 – Carry out analysis of the context of burnt mounds in relation to contemporary settlement and other sites.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Dating techniques, Prehistoric, Burnt mound, Typology, Chronology, Synthesis, North west

PH09: How can we test our perceptions of the Neolithic and Bronze Age?

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Look at how recent discoveries challenge our perceptions of the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Research symposium to question our understanding and set out future directions. Link to international research strategies/agendas.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Bronze age, Neolithic, Conference, North west

PH10: How can we broaden our view of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age to a wider regional context?

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Inter-regional research conferences. Suitable for research funded projects including a PhD.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Bronze age, Neolithic, Higher education research, Conference, North west

PH11: How can we move forward to an understanding of prehistoric building morphologies?

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Synthesis of excavation evidence. Intra and inter regional comparisons. Commission research theses including PhD. Further work needed on the occurrence of ‘4-post’ structures in terms of chronology and settlement hierarchy.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Prehistoric, Building, Post built structure, Higher education research, Synthesis, North west

Chronology and Dating

PH12: How can we apply more widespread dating for prehistoric sites?

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Look at persuading developers to fund C14, academics are covering this, but dissemination is an issue.

Advances in Bayesian statistics and AMS dating improved over last 10yrs.

Add radiocarbon and Bayesian modelling to other dating methods to ensure sufficient dating including in Written Schemes of Investigation for places of persistent occupation.

Make sure the requirement for radiocarbon dating is identified in the Brief/Specification.

Develop training scheme for Bayesian modelling.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.8 – Radiocarbon date all potentially prehistoric sites as a matter of routine.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Dating techniques, Prehistoric, Training, North west

PH13: Where there are sealed secure groups of microliths, how can we obtain relative radiocarbon date associations?

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There is a need to identify well-preserved Mesolithic contexts for production of secure radiocarbon dates.

Ensure radiocarbon dating of non-bulk sampled material from Mesolithic sites.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.21 – Identify well-preserved Mesolithic contexts with potential for secure radiocarbon dates.,
PH2.26 – Radiocarbon date non-bulk sampled material from Mesolithic sites.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Radiocarbon dating, Mesolithic, Microlith, Chronology, North west

PH14: How can we enhance our understanding of the late Mesolithic to early Neolithic transition?

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The application of scientific dating techniques is essential for providing a secure chronology and the basis for further work. 

Target archives to re-evaluate evidence.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.27 – Carry out analysis and publication of ‘static’ archives.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Dating techniques, Late mesolithic, Early neolithic, Palaeoenvironmental analysis, Collections research, Chronology, North west

PH15: What can identified and surveyed features tell us about Neo/BA time depth and chronologies?

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Investigation of surveyed features is also required. 

A detailed survey of features is required.

Undertake collaborative projects to collect and re-analyse existing survey data – we need to challenge our own perceptions.

Priority: unpick the sequence of Neolithic occupation evidence.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.33 – Investigate surveyed features in order to characterise and date them.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Bronze age, Neolithic, Enclosed settlement, Cairn, Unenclosed settlement, Clearance cairn, Chronology, Synthesis, North west

PH16: What can a re-assessment of hillfort excavation archives tell us about the chronological depth of these sites?

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There is a need for a re-assessment of hillfort excavation archives in the light of modern research in order to locate artefactual material and establish the chronological depth of these sites.

A wider literature search may reveal a more common reuse of earlier monuments during the Iron Age than previously acknowledged. This would fall in line with Barrett (1999a; 1999b) and others understanding of the reorganisation of the prehistoric landscape during the 1st millennium BC.

Targeted excavation should be used to retrieve new dating evidence. The recently published Habitats and Hillforts volume shows what can be gained from the re-examination of early archives and the value of tracking down missing material.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.71 – Reassess hillfort excavation archives in the light of modern research.,
PH2.73 – Investigate the reuse of earlier monuments during the Iron Age.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Hillfort, Prehistoric, Collections research, Chronology, Synthesis, North west

Environment

PH17: How can a programme of sampling and investigation help to characterise landscape use of the wetlands during the prehistoric period?

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 The wetlands of the North West appear to have seen continual activity from the Mesolithic through to the Iron Age but there is still a need to characterise the nature of the practices carried out in such areas, and to establish whether their use and/or meaning changed through time.

The North West Wetlands Survey has produced an assessment of the wetland resource. This work needs to be followed with targeted sampling and investigation of the most important waterlogged sites (English Heritage 2003).

Reports mentioned under Q2 provide some pointers as to what may be achieved.

See geo-archaeology studies on wetlands under EM3I of the East Midlands Research Framework.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.3 – Examine the methods and techniques used in archaeological survey and suggest methodological or technical improvements.,
PH2.4 – Characterise the nature of the practices carried out in wetland areas in prehistory and establish whether their use and/or meaning changed through time.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Investigative techniques, Prehistoric, Specialist sampling, Wetland, North west

PH18: What can palaeoenvironmental analysis of buried soils tell us about prehistoric environments?

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This should include both limited sampling exercises, designed to obtain material for absolute dating (in order to develop an absolute chronological framework for different types of monuments), and more extensive projects to examine individual sites in exhaustive detail.

Buried soils sealed beneath barrows, cairns, banks and walls offer the possibility for the recovery of palaeoenvironmental material and analyses directed towards understanding clearances and changes in the patterns of vegetational covering.

 

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.5 – Accompany survey with targeted excavation.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Excavation, Prehistoric, Buried land surface, Survey, Palaeoenvironmental analysis, Chronology, Environment, North west

PH19: How can we best capture data for the palaeoenvironment in prehistory?

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Develop links with Geography-based academics in the NW – shared approach.

Training needed for site staff.

Note that many greenfield housing developments will involve flood alleviation work that involves significant modification of stream courses and the exposure of alluvial sediments and peat.

Programmes of mitigation can be designed to include procedures to examine sections for likely deposits with a clear process of assessment by suitably experienced specialists and, where justified, full analysis covering pollen, macrofossils, micromorphology.

In a development control context, the keys to success are field staff who recognise the potential in the field and a clear distinction between assessment and analysis to control costs and retain the credibility of the process.

Links with PH40

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.10 – Develop and implement techniques for site-specific palaeoecological and other environmental sampling.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Environmental sampling, Prehistoric, Palaeoenvironmental analysis, Training, North west

PH20: How can we improve methods for evaluating areas of upland peat?

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Building on the results of the current English Heritage-funded Upland Peat Project.

Peat questions – covers multiple periods. Where appropriate, scientific dating should be targeted for peat sites.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.14 – Develop methods for evaluating areas of peat.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Environmental sampling, Dating techniques, Prehistoric, Peat, North west

PH21: How can methodologies be developed to sample natural features and fissures more easily?

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Natural features and fissures within bedrock must be investigated thoroughly when encountered.

Need to state reason for needing this – it should be obvious but is not explicit.

Possible link with Ritual?

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.48 – Thoroughly investigate natural features and fissures within bedrock when encountered.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Environmental sampling, Prehistoric, North west

PH22: How can a scientific evaluation of existing archives help to expand our understanding of the environment in prehistory?

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Further detailed environmental work is imperative in order that the results of past pollen analytical studies are revised in line with modern dating and interpretative methodologies. This should involve the reinterpretation of previous work as part of a broader programme of radiocarbon dating of existing material, as well as the sampling and close analysis of sedimentary contexts close to known prehistoric sites.

Selected material from cores taken during the North West Wetlands Survey could be subject to absolute dating in line with specific research projects. 

Are there any archived cores in the NW, and if so then where are they and in what condition? Cores through peat deposits are needed.

Emphasis should be put on targeting wetlands close to known sites to gain local data and any evidence for cereals.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.15 – Revise results of past pollen analytical studies in line with modern dating and interpretative methodologies.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Dating techniques, Prehistoric, Palaeoenvironmental analysis, Collections research, North west

Settlement and Land use

PH23: How can we identify previously unknown prehistoric sites?

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There is a pressing need for greater scrutiny of methods and techniques in archaeological survey. Some areas still require the most basic of systematic surveys to assess the survival of archaeological remains. In other areas there is a need to move towards more intensive surveys, beyond simply acknowledging the existence of a site that will enable the building of integrated interpretations of these archaeological landscapes.

 

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.3 – Examine the methods and techniques used in archaeological survey and suggest methodological or technical improvements.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Prehistoric, Field survey, Evaluation, North west

PH24: How can we identify drowned early Mesolithic sites?

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Undertake seismic and sediment analysis. Enhance coverage within existing protocols eg. offshore renewables/marine aggregates.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.7 – Extend survey into both underwater and inter-tidal zones in order to extend knowledge of the settlement pattern of much of the prehistoric period.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Environmental sampling, Early mesolithic, Underwater survey, Seismic survey, North west

PH25: How can we better understand the distribution of prehistoric archaeology across the landscape?

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Building on Historic Landscape Characterisation data. 

Synthesising disparate data sets and overlaying land characterisation on GIS

Ensure that NW Historic Environment Records are accessible on-line and in a GIS-based format.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.13 – Develop landscape studies for the investigation of prehistoric settlement potential.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Prehistoric, Historic landscape characterisation, Synthesis, North west

PH26: What was the changing nature of the relationships between people and their environment during the prehistoric period?

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Use of LiDAR and aerial photography coupled with distribution patterns of finds could help to build migration maps of the North West. This will help to identify changes within the landscape related to migration and seasonal movement.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Lidar survey, Prehistoric, Aerial photograph interpretation, Environment, Migration, North west

PH27: How did people exploit different parts of the wider landscapes when they moved around?

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Re-evaluation of existing archives of excavated sites could identify the changing status and dynamics of settlements and religious sites. Use of geophysical surveys along with LiDAR for a more detailed aerial study will help to identify previously un-noted topographical and structural changes to these sites over time.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Lidar survey, Prehistoric, Geophysical survey, Aerial photograph interpretation, Collections research, Landscape, North west

PH28: What evidence is there to suggest a relationship between burnt mounds and settlement sites?

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There is a need for analysis of the context of burnt mounds in relation to contemporary settlement and other sites.

Generally a negative correlation but how much is that due to invisibility of settlement evidence.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.50 – Carry out analysis of the context of burnt mounds in relation to contemporary settlement and other sites.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Settlement, Prehistoric, Burnt mound, North west

PH29: What activities were undertaken during the Palaeolithic in the North West of England?

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Need targeted examination of possible Palaeolithic deposits in other areas of the North West – particularly Cheshire, Merseyside and the Fylde.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.17 – Examine possible Palaeolithic deposits in other areas of the North West.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Palaeolithic, Assemblage, Deposit, Palaeoenvironmental analysis, North west

PH30: What can incidental, residual lithics tell us about Mesolithic activity and settlement locations?

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Create platform for reporting incidental/residual Mesolithic finds from sites where main focus is on later periods (especially urban sites or water course confluences).

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Settlement, Mesolithic, Lithic implement, North west

PH31: How can national and international studies of Mesolithic houses and associated assemblages enable us to identify site types?

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Targeted excavation of a range of Mesolithic sites to secure lithic assemblages from secure contexts.

Typological analysis of lithic types coupled with radiocarbon dating.

 

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.25 – Carry out targeted excavation of a range of Mesolithic sites to secure lithic assemblages from secure contexts.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Radiocarbon dating, Settlement, Mesolithic, Lithic implement, Lithic scatter, Typology, North west

PH32: How can targeted survey and excavation address the issue of sparsity of Neolithic settlement in the North West?

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It is worth re-emphasising that the uneven distribution of known sites of Neolithic and Bronze Age date is almost certainly the result of site visibility and past archaeological work. In particular the lack of known Neolithic settlement sites in the central area of the region must be viewed as a priority to be addressed.

Sites that have been identified through survey require further targeted work and characterisation, accompanied by programmes of dating. Both lowland and upland areas with no programmes of modern survey need to be prioritised for assessment, to bring them in line with other areas.

There is a skewed distribution of Bronze Age and Neolithic sites. Should target archaeological landscape surveys on areas with little previous study.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.29 – Address the lack of known Neolithic settlement sites in the central area of the region as a priority.,
PH2.30 – Carry out further targeted work and characterisation of Neolithic sites identified through survey.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Settlement, Bronze age, Neolithic, Survey, North west

PH33: How good is our understanding of the location and distribution of larger Neolithic enclosures?

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Desktop studies, air photo transcription, walkover surveys, field walking and geophysical survey could all provide further information on the larger enclosures of the North West. Ultimately some form of intrusive fieldwork and sampling is required to characterise and date these enclosure sites throughout the region.

Dating of even a few sites has the potential to transform our understanding of Early Neolithic activity in the region, and provide details of specific regional site characteristics.

Need regional landscape surveys to identify multiple sites not just Neolithic.

Collaboration with sites such as the megalithic portal, ADS, and other only data repositories.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.38 – Recognise the importance of Neolithic and Bronze Age monument groupings or complexes within wider conservation and management strategies.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Neolithic, Enclosure, Survey, Chronology, North west

PH34: How can we develop a strategy to maximise, identify and gain information from plough zone lithic scatters?

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Important to establish the presence, absence and chronology of lithic assemblages in a variety of topographical zones.

 

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.58 – Carry out methodologically secure, transect based, programmes of surface survey of ploughzone scatters.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Lithic scatter, Prehistoric, North west

PH35: How can we identify whether there is a settlement hierarchy for later Prehistoric lowland settlements?

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Beyond the uplands, the arable areas in the surrounding lowland have seen remarkably little systematic field survey, although suitable conditions for field walking are widespread. 

Synthesis and review published/unpublished site reports.

Suitable for research funded projects including a PhD.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.33 – Investigate surveyed features in order to characterise and date them.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Settlement, Prehistoric, Field survey, Higher education research, Synthesis, North west

PH36: What evidence is there for zonation within Iron Age settlements?

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Synthesis and review published/unpublished site reports.Suitable for research funded projects including a PhD.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Settlement, Iron age, Higher education research, Synthesis, North west

PH37: What is the evidence for new building types in the Iron Age?

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Synthesis and review published/unpublished site reports.Suitable for research funded projects including a PhD.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Iron age, Building, Higher education research, Synthesis, North west

Religion and Ritual

PH38: How can re-excavation or new excavation inform our understanding of the constructional sequence and chronology of Prehistoric funerary monuments?

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The excavation or re-excavation of a long barrow, cairn or tomb must be viewed as a priority. For sites such as the Bridestones (Ch) or Raiset Pike (C) many questions relating to constructional sequence and chronology remain and even minor investigations may recover datable material and aid further interpretation.

Material from antiquarian and earlier archaeological excavations may be present within museum collections and could be worthy of modern analysis. Although this requires an audit of material currently held within such collections, the potential may be high if intact assemblages can be recovered.

Undertake re-analysis of antiquarian data.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.44 – Excavate or re-excavate a long barrow, cairn or tomb as a priority.,
PH2.45 – Assess the potentail of Antiquarian and other collections within museums.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Cairn, Prehistoric, Tomb, Long barrow, Collections research, North west

PH39: How can advances in scientific dating techniques be used to enhance our understanding of Bronze age funerary practices?

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Further understanding of the Bronze Age funerary record would be considerably enhanced by the formation of regional typology and chronology of ceramic sequences. An assessment and catalogue of existing material must therefore be viewed as a priority.

The close characterisation of both round funerary monuments and ring cairns in the variety of contexts in which these occur is imperative if we are to understand the chronology and changing character of burial and depositional traditions in the region. This could be undertaken through programmes of detailed archival research where recorded excavations have taken place, alongside targeted survey, geophysical survey and small-scale excavation to obtain material for closer dating of such features.

There is a need for a regional study of Neolithic/Bronze Age ceramics and radiocarbon dating to enhance understanding of chronology.

Develop Bronze Age ceramic typologies.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.46 – Create a regional typology and chronology of Bronze Age ceramic sequences.,
PH2.47 – Undertake the close characterisation of both round funerary monuments and ring cairns.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Dating techniques, Bronze age, Pottery, Funerary site, Collections research, Typology, Synthesis, North west

PH40: How can we use development control mitigation to create opportunities to monitor potential deposition sites for Prehistoric artefacts in watercourses and lakes?

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The potential deposition of bronze artefacts in watercourses and lakes should be investigated, and the occurrence of artefactual evidence in these contexts needs to be considered during development control mitigation for water management and drainage works so that appropriate monitoring can take place.

Links with Q19

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.68 – Investigate the deposition of bronze artefacts in watercourses and lakes.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Assemblage, Deposit, Prehistoric, Lake, Watercourse, North west

PH41: Why are megaliths predominantly located in the North of the region and is this a true reflection of their distribution?

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The distribution of megalithic monuments is currently concentrated in the north of the region. If this distribution really were genuine, then there is a need to identify what alternative funerary and ceremonial practices were undertaken elsewhere. If this distribution is due to differential survival and site visibility, then further survey and utilisation of various techniques are required (English Heritage 2003d).

Systematic review and survey of megalithic monuments.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.34 – Investigate the distribution of megalithic monuments and identify alternative funerary and ceremonial practices undertaken outside of this area.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Prehistoric, Survey, Stone circle, Henge, Chambered tomb, Synthesis, North west

PH42: How can an inter-regional study of the distribution of monument complexes help us to understand Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in a wider landscape context?

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The closer characterisation and clarification of sequences of individual sites and wider monumental complexes is imperative in order to bring understanding of such features in line with other areas of the British Isles. Such programmes should be undertaken using detailed archival research and air photo transcription alongside targeted field survey, geophysical survey and small scale excavation (English Heritage 2003d).

This could be undertaken in conjunction with targeted environmental work within the close environs of stone circle sites.

Conservation and management strategies need to recognise the importance of monument groupings or complexes, no matter how ‘poor’ individual sites might be, as much as targeting individual structures as ‘good examples of their kind’.

Equally, recognition that activity may have taken place beyond the immediate environs of a site requires the area of management to be drawn widely, and in the case of monument complexes, to encompass the areas between sites. 

Improve management practices and recognition of this in a wider context.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.35 – Characterise and clarify sequences of individual Neolithic and Bronze Age sites and wider monumental complexes in the region.,
PH2.39 – Carry out desktop studies, air photo transcription, walkover surveys, fieldwalking and geophysical survey to provide further information on the larger Neolithic enclosures of the North West.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Monument, Bronze age, Neolithic, North west

PH43: What evidence is there in the region for Neolithic ceremonial sites and how should they be investigated?

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The excavations at Carlisle Airport represent the most recent excavation of a potentially Neolithic ceremonial site, with apparent multiple phasing of some complexity. The full analysis and publication of this archive must be viewed as a priority. The ongoing assessment of the Carlisle archives needs to place equal emphasis on prehistoric material from the city environs, as on material from large-scale excavations undertaken within the city.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.36 – Undertake the full analysis and publication of the archive from Carlisle Airport as a priority.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Neolithic, Religious ritual and funerary, Collections research, Publication, North west

PH44: What more can we learn about circle sites?

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There are numerous potential ‘sites’ of circles documented in antiquity but no longer extant. These sites, if identified, may offer an opportunity for non-invasive techniques such as geophysics and excavation of structural features such as stone holes, without the risk of destructive and potentially contentious action at better known sites. 

Synthesis and review of archives including those from antiquity.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.37 – Identify and investigate potential ‘sites’ of circles documented in antiquity but no longer extant.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Prehistoric, Stone circle, Collections research, Synthesis, North west

PH45: How can we identify rock art on megalithic monuments and broaden our understanding of its origins?

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Targeted,modern archaeologicalsurvey of likely locations for rock art, particularly in the Lake District and Pennines may reveal new sites. This could also include re-examination of megalithic monuments. 

Small-scale excavation should be considered at some rock art sites, which may reveal the full extent of motifs, and allow collection of palaeoenvironmental evidence and material for radiometric dating.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.40 – Target likely locations for rock art, particularly in the Lake District and Pennines, for survey.,
PH2.41 – Undertake small scale excavation at some rock art sites.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Environmental sampling, Rock art, Prehistoric, Field survey, North west

PH46: How good is our understanding of the location and distribution of Neolithic long and round cairns?

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Both upstanding earthworks and potential anomalies on aerial photographs require critical appraisal and characterisation. Targeted survey and evaluation of such features is imperative to establish the presence and chronology of Neolithic long and round cairns in the region, and their relationship with recorded Neolithic traditions of the western seaboard and other areas of northern England.

 

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.42 – Critically appraise and characterise both upstanding earthworks and potential Neolithic and Bronze Age anomalies on aerial photographs.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Neolithic, Survey, Round cairn, Long cairn, North west

PH47: Why is there a paucity of recorded Iron Age burial sites?

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The lack of recorded Iron Age burials within the region is in some ways self-perpetuating, with remains often presumed to be of other dates because there are ‘no known Iron Age burials’.

There may be a significant amount of undated material already excavated and stored in archives that requires reassessment and dating.

Re-assess old excavation archives and apply more recent scientific analysis and dating techniques. Note: there are a number of undated human skulls from the Mersey around Warrington and the Dee. It seems entirely probable that many will be derived from the 1st millennium BC (whilst acknowledging that some, such as those from Marbury Mere in south Cheshire, proved to be early medieval following C14 dating).

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.72 – Reassess and date archive material which may relate to Iron Age burial practises.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Iron age, Burial, Collections research, North west

Technology and Production

PH48: How can stone and metal sources and associated activity areas be better dated and understood?

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Further extensive and intensive survey across a wide range of outcrops is required to locate additional stone sources, through identification of the distinctive waste material. This could be combined with detailed trace element characterisation of outcrops (Claris & Quartermaine 1989), development of other techniques of characterisation and more detailed technological characterisation (what was being made and how).

At the known sources, further monitoring of erosion and identification of working areas is required. In relation to this work, further opportunities for dating material associated with quarried sources should be taken as a priority as and when they arise. Source studies would also benefit from taking seriously the problem of erratics, though this issue is probably best addressed through the more careful examination of waste and worked implements found away from the source.

There is also a need to prioritise the dating of other archaeological contexts from which axes and related forms, including pieces of worked tuff, have been recovered. This would establish a check on the date range for the use of raw materials, and provide an opportunity to identify whether there is any temporal variability in the spread of implements across the region.

The assemblage of roughout forms from across known worked outcrops requires closer analysis, making use of existing provenanced collections. There are also extensive numbers of roughouts and blades within museums and private collections. While many do not have contextual information, detailed morphological and technological analysis could still be undertaken. Socketed and shafthole axes in museum collections are in need of raw material and morphological characterisation, as well as closer dating.

Strategy: re-analysis of museum collections. At the most basic level there is a need for characterisation of raw material sources, and close dating of typologies.

 

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.52 – Carry out extensive and intensive survey across a wide range of rock outcrops in order to locate additional stone axe sources.,
PH2.53 – Carry out monitoring of erosion and identification of working areas at the known stone axe sources.,
PH2.54 – Prioritise the dating of other archaeological contexts from which stone axes and related forms, including pieces of worked tuff, have been recovered.,
PH2.55 – Carry out closer analysis of the assemblage of stone axe roughout forms from across known worked outcrops.,
PH2.56 – Carry out characterisation of stone axe raw material sources and closely date typologies.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Quarry, Metal extraction site, Prehistoric, Collections research, North west

PH49: How can we advance our understanding of Prehistoric ceramic typologies and intra-regional differences?

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Prehistoric pottery typologies are still poorly understood and are reliant on chronologies and parallels from outside the region. The priority must be for more absolute dates, both from existing archives and by further scientific dating of contexts where prehistoric pottery types are securely stratified (particularly on developer-funded projects).

Fabric analysis, thin section analysis and sourcing of all prehistoric ceramics is required. This could incorporate the re-analysis of existing material in museum collections.

Analysis for lipids needs to be more widely applied for evidence of vessel use and consumption.

Overall a regional prehistoric pottery review and type series is required (English Heritage 2003d)

Needs synthesis.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.61 – Obtain more absolute dates for Bronze Age pottery, both from existing archives and by further scientific dating.,
PH2.62 – Undertake fabric analysis, thin section analysis and sourcing of all prehistoric ceramics.,
PH2.63 – Develop a regional prehistoric pottery review and type series.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Pottery, Prehistoric, Typology, Synthesis, North west

PH50: How can we analyse Bronze Age metals to better understand the materials?

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There is a need for analysis of the Bronze Age metalwork at a regional level. Particular patterns are evident that do not fit with national trends or follow modern political boundaries.

Trace element and lead isotope analysis needs to be far more widely applied to artefacts to address patterns of extraction, production and distribution at a regional scale.

 

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.64 – Undertake analysis of Bronze Age metalwork at a regional level.,
PH2.65 – Carry out trace element and lead isotope analysis for Bronze Age metalwork.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Bronze age, Metal, Assemblage, Lead isotope dating, North west

PH51: How can detailed material typologies for Mesolithic assemblages improve our understanding?

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Update chert typologies. Inter- and intra-regional comparisons of the sources of Mesolithic flint and chert assemblages.

Stanton West made a good start, further information needed.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.23 – Carry out inter- and intra-regional comparisons of the sources of Mesolithic flint and chert assemblages.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Mesolithic, Lithic implement, Typology, North west

PH52: How, where and when did people access raw materials for lithics and finished products?

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Use of ICP-MS and geo sciences to identify a base line.

Review recent successful studies of waste materials and apply elsewhere.

MPhil in progress by Stephen Poole (Manchester University) on the range of raw materials available in the region.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.24 – Develop a programme of scientific analysis for characterising the sources of Mesolithic flint and chert implements.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Lithic working site, Lithic implement, Investigative techniques, Prehistoric, North west

PH53: How can we expand our understanding of the Langdale Axe series?

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Target museums to review previous analyses and select axes as appropriate for new geochemical analysis. Seek research funding. Use geochemical analysis help define mineral content characteristics of Langdale axes.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Neolithic, Geochemical survey, Axehead, Collections research, North west

PH54: How can the close analysis of museum collections clarify distinctions between Later Mesolithic/Early Neolithic technologies and those of the Later Neolithic/Early Bronze Age?

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The close analysis of museum collections has the potential to clarify technological distinctions between Later Mesolithic/Early Neolithic technologies and those of the Later Neolithic/Early Bronze Age.

Strategy: analysis of museum collections.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.60 – Carry out close analysis of museum lithic collections.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Neolithic, Lithic implement, Assemblage, Late mesolithic, Early bronze age, Collections research, North west

PH55: What are the regional Late Bronze Age and Iron Age pottery types?

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Re-assess museum assemblages to identify regional Iron Age pottery types. Locate Very Coarse Pottery manufacturing sites through survey and scientific analysis.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Iron age, Late bronze age, Pottery manufacturing site, Collections research, Typology, North west

PH56: What is the evidence for Late Bronze Age and Iron Age metal processing?

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Target metal processing residues on late prehistoric sites for analysis. Assess production techniques and mineral sources for PAS finds (also a General Strategy item).

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Metal, Iron age, Metal processing site, Late bronze age, North west

PH57: How can we facilitate the study of logboats?

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Examine construction, deposition, context and dating. Synthesis of new and museum material.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Prehistoric, Logboat, Collections research, Synthesis, North west

Exchange and Interaction

PH58: What time periods and cultural groups exploited polished stone axes and how did they become dispersed around the region?

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Current work in the environs of the Neolithic axe production sites in the Langdale Fells has raised the possibility of Mesolithic activity in the area. Further survey, keyhole excavation, sampling and radiocarbon dating may elucidate information on the earliest exploitation of the Langdale volcanic series stone sources within these areas, and provide previously unknown information on aspects of Mesolithic material procurement. 

Provide contextualisation of Langdale and Stanton West.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.28 – Carry out further survey, keyhole excavation, sampling and radiocarbon dating in the area of the Langdale stone sources.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Radiocarbon dating, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Excavation, Survey, North west

PH59: How can we develop an updated corpus of Iron Age artefacts, especially metalwork?

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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.

Re-assess old archives and plots of 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 help considerably towards this study.

 

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.70 – Reassess archives of previously excavated Romano-British and potentially Iron Age sites.,
PH2.74 – Evaluate existing archives in order to understand the true extent of Iron Age material culture.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Roman, Metal, Iron age, Collections research, Typology, North west

PH60: How can waterlogged contexts be targeted to help our understanding of the use of organic artefacts in the Iron Age?

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The scarcity of ceramic and metal containers has led to the suggestion of the widespread use of organic containers. Despite their presumed abundance, no such artefacts have yet been recovered from the region. Waterlogged contexts must be viewed as potentially preserving such items and investigated accordingly with extreme scrutiny.

Comment: this may help us to understand the lack of metal and ceramic artefacts.

Linked Strategy(s):
PH2.75 – Examine the possible use of organic containers as an alternative to pottery during the Iron Age in the region.
Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
Iron age, Organic material, Waterlogged sample, North west

Defence and Warfare

PH61: Which defended Iron Age settlements have Bronze Age/Neolithic antecedents, and what might be reason for this?

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Part of national strategy. Requires comprehensive dating.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
DATING TECHNIQUES, BRONZE AGE, NEOLITHIC, IRON AGE, Defended Enclosure, Chronology

PH62: How appropriate are Scheduled Monument descriptions for defended small-scale native settlements?

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The Scheduled Monument term of ‘Promontory Forts’ should be reviewed in the context of NW late Iron Age defended settlements and a number of recent archaeological investigations.

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
IRON AGE, Promontory Fort, Defended Enclosure

PH63: To what extent can we identify defended Iron Age enclosures based on favourable topography?

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Examine promontories and hilltop sites using landscape analysis tools such as LIDAR. Examine ditched settlements versus open settlement chronology. Product of topography or cultural expression?

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
LIDAR SURVEY, IRON AGE, ENCLOSED SETTLEMENT, Chronology

PH64: How well understood is the chronological development, form and function of ‘hillforts’ in the North West?

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We need to synthesise and review recent research investigations and older archives to provide a framework of chronological development and architectural styles. Hillfort entrances should be examined for evidence of defence/attack etc, including for example caches of slingstones. What evidence is there for destruction by fire, such as at Beeston and Eddisbury in Cheshire?

Status:
Active
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
HILLFORT, PREHISTORIC, Chronology, Synthesis

PH65: Where did fighting take place at defended sites?

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Look inside and outside structures/defences. Compare hillfort sites.

Status:
Date of next review:
16/01/2025
Found in the following Frameworks:
North West Research Framework
Categories:
HILLFORT, ENCLOSED SETTLEMENT, PREHISTORIC

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