A number of overarching comments came out of the workshop discussions for the framework that should be taken into consideration for the Roman period:
The ephemeral nature of the archaeology and the low density of artefacts requires greater attention to stratigraphic evidence and detailed sampling strategies in the higher levels of sites of all types in this period. (3.8:3.48) Many more radiocarbon dates are required From Romano-British sites, for both early and late phases and most especially for rural sites. Briefs for development-led projects and project research designs should require positive discrimination in favour of programmes of dating, stratigraphic and scientific analysis. (3.2:3.5) There is a need for stratified and dated material from all LPRIA sites, including the larger enclosed lowland and hilltop sites, the smaller enclosed settlements, and seemingly open settlements. The assigning of dates to enclosures and cropmarks on morphological grounds is not secure and rigorous application of sequences of radiocarbon dates is required to produce secure chronologies. (3.2:3.8) It is worth bearing in mind that many find sites are places of persistent occupation – not just Roman.
Proactive programmes of fieldwork and air reconnaissance are required if we wish to see significant new understanding of rural society and economies, particularly in the uplands, during the Roman period. (3.2:3.6) To what extent do new and current landscape studies reveal significant new information? Palaeoenvironmental and alluvial studies are relevant to this.
There is a need to look for any evidence for the fortification, or re-fortification, of enclosed sites in the 1st century AD, and for evidence for either continuous occupation or abandonment of sites over the LPRIA to Romano-British transition. (3.2:3.9)
The question of identifying regional or tribal identities may be addressed through artefact assemblages, building style and other indicators to assess the continuation of these aspects through the Roman period. (3.2:3.10) Look at regional variants of material and typologies to help answer this.
A critical assessment of the location of the earliest military installations and their relationship to known native settlements or material is required. A detailed project incorporating the mapping of known Late Iron Age settlements and landscapes in relation to known Roman military sites may elucidate aspects of Late Iron Age settlement hierarchy and Roman military strategy. Such work could draw on the current SMR/HER and Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) databases in order to interpret economy and political structure from the archaeological data, and then attempt to reconcile the results with the documentary sources. (3.2:3.12) We need to test distribution for forts empirically rather than assume if it fits a conventional pattern.
Development-led archaeology on military sites in urban contexts provides an important opportunity to review chronologies and phasing of the sequence of fort construction and use. Particular attention should be paid to any possible traces of early pre-fort phases or later Roman occupation. (3.4:3.19 part of)
Programmes of sampling should target estuaries and tidal reaches of major rivers for geo-archaeological investigations of river deposits, especially the River Dee, with a view to locating the main channel and its depth. Similar studies could be undertaken in the Fylde and for the Ribble, Solway and Weaver. This could also elucidate how far upstream it may have been navigable and how military supplies including personnel were deployed throughout the North West region. (3.3:3.15)
Use palaeoenvironmental samples and analysis to inform our understanding of the Roman and pre-Roman environment. Wherever ramparts, roads or ditches are to be excavated, a sampling strategy should be considered for the recovery and investigation of buried soils, turves and similar deposits likely to preserve pollen, insects and other micro-organisms likely to be indicators of past vegetation, water quality and landuse. Specialists need to look for turf material and be aware of what to expect. (3.3:3.16) Landscape studies including lidar, field survey, aerial photography, plus palaeoenvironmental assessment such as pollen and wood analysis. Target the hinterland of Roman forts including small wetlands adjacent to sites for cereals and local impact. Look at regional, climate-driven changes.
Roundwood studies could be extended to other sites to search for consistent patterns or site-specific ad hoc exploitation of resources. (3.3:3.17) Use archaeological techniques to record and analyse worked wood. A high priority should also be given to dendrochronological studies of timbers, especially those thought to be possibly mid or late Roman in date. There is a need to extend the dendrochronological master curve to cover the whole of the Romano-British period. (3.3:3.17) Study the extent of woodland use and its impact on the environment. Studies of timbers, dendrochronology and roundwood need to be linked with pollen studies of clearance and deforestation. This could be liked to studies of other woodland resources and use of land for pasture or for cultivation, with studies of climatic changes and evidence for soil erosion. (3.3:3.17)
Refer to Q11 supporting statement and include analysis of soil contaminants. Current study of geochemical signatures for historic lead production in the Peak District (Nick Clarke), can this model of research be applied elsewhere? River, lake and peat deposits will give good time depth.
This should be complemented by carefully targeted geophysical survey and research excavation on Scheduled military sites, as demonstrated at Birdoswald. (3.4:3.19 part of) Potential sites of un-located forts have been identified and air reconnaissance and field evaluation / survey should be directed to these, which are listed in the original research framework in section 3.4:30. Check LIDAR information on the ground for development proposals alongside known Roman roads. Use improved geophysical survey techniques/equipment.
The nature of the coastal defences for the western seaboard in the 3rd and 4th centuries from the Bristol Channel to the Solway Firth and, in regional terms, from the Dee to the Solway, could be investigated in tandem with a programme of environmental research aimed at improving understanding of coastal and estuarine change. (3.4:3.21) Work with the Citizan project
The ethnicity and country of origin of those serving on the province’s frontier are subjects of particular contemporary interest and while bone survival is often poor, every opportunity to analyse surviving human remains should be taken, in conjunction with study of artefacts, personal ornaments, burial practices and epigraphy, to understand the ethnic origins of military units, urban, rural, and industrial communities located in the North West. (3.4:3.22). Where bone or teeth are present, consideration should be made for biomolecular and isotopic analysis.
Undertake a synthesis of recent relevant work. Identify gaps in knowledge and carry out geophysical and landscape surveys, followed by targeted evaluation and excavation. Look at successful funding models from recent projects, such as university research or HLF community projects. NEW STRATEGY Much progress has been made on this over the last 10 years but what is especially needed now is synthesis.
The publication of recent investigation is required, and Comparison and synthesis of work on industrial centres. (3.5:3.23)
Development-led excavation in these centres should have clearly focused objectives relevant to research questions for this particular class of settlement. (3.5: 3.24)
Linked with Q R28
<p>A programme of reassessment of existing archives may produce new interpretations of the later phases on Romano-British towns. Chester and Carlisle have both provided evidence for 4th century activity, although the nature of that activity is unclear. (3.5:3.25)
Sir Ian Richmondu2019s unpublished archives for Lancaster should also be re-examined.</p>
Completion of post-excavation work on the Chester canabae and re-appraisal of archives of earlier excavations in other nearby areas could form the basis for a review of the satellite settlements around Chester, assessing the interaction of aspects of rural and urban communities. (3.5:3.26)
Include unpublished reports including academic research.
There is an urgent need for work to locate rural sites and to investigate potential Iron Age/Romano-British sites across the whole region, to determine their chronology, economy, character, and to examine the origins of rural settlement patterns. Whilst the sites of the majority of Roman forts and towns in the region are probably known, this is far from the case with rural settlements. (3.5:3.27) Look at results and recommendations of the Rural Settlement of Roman Britain research project. http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/romangl/ Rural sites need to be considered within their landscape context, by investigation of their field systems and boundaries, the local land use, topography and exploitation of other resources. In the southern part of the region at least, the immediate vicinity of sites has often produced earlier or later occupation. One approach would be to investigate a sample of cropmark enclosures, in a variety of topographical and geographical settings, including an excavation programme that embraces the area around the site. (3.5:3.28) A high priority must be the detailed examination of a sample of well-preserved rural sites. It remains crucially important to establish the origin of sites and the chronology and nature of their occupation and abandonment. In order to overcome the problem of recognising occupation phases with no durable material culture this work will depend on structured programmes of radiocarbon sampling throughout the stratigraphic sequence. The need for such programmes should be specified by the archaeological curators in order to ensure a consistent approach. (3.5:3.29) Use Bayesian modelling within and across sites for general trends. Retain samples for future dating.
A study of SMR and HER data for finds of diagnostic artefacts and hints of associated Roman building materials may indicate whether the virtual absence of ‘villas’ may be more apparent than real and, in more general terms, assist in mapping the scale and effect of Roman cultural influence. (3.5:3.30) Ensure consistency in HER date terms. Will work provided the HER is current and complete.
Systematic publication of excavated assemblages from the region and of chance finds is a priority, in order to characterise contexts, identify regional types and intra- or inter-regional patterns of distribution. The unusually low level of material culture outside the major military/urban centres in the region means that the publication of individual or small groups of objects is a higher priority here than in artefact rich areas. (3.5:3.31) Need to include PAS data. Will work particularly with objects such as brooches (eg. Wirral types or trumpet types associated with military activity).
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. (3.6:3.34) Note that recent publications from Middlewich and Nantwich contain evidence of ritual activity.
The suggestion of a sub-Roman bishopric based in Chester and the association of a possible church within the Chester amphitheatre should be the subject for further research. (3.6:3.35) Look for evidence for the establishment of late Roman churches and their continuation into the early medieval period
Inhumations are less common survivals and merit intensive study, with macroscopic morphological and metrical analyses. All inhumations unaccompanied by dateable artefacts should be subject to radiocarbon dating, as well as stable isotopes and DNA analysis where appropriate, in order to place these within a coherent time-frame and to enable rural burial practices to be characterised in topographical and chronological terms. This may have significant implications for considerations of how, when and where foreign troops integrated with the indigenous populations. (3.6:3.37) Use current scientific techniques to maximise understanding.
Current work on assemblages from cave deposits including burials indicates their high potential and should be pursued further. (3.6:3.39) Assess how much evidence there is for Romano-British funerary practices outside urban contexts and caves?
Research old excavation archives. Specialist analysis of excavation assemblages, possible PhD topic with research funding. Linked with Q R13
Analysis of the origin of stone for building, funerary sculpture and quernstones may help to determine patterns of exploitation of resources, workshops and schools, and of trade on an intra- and inter-regional level. (3.6:3.40)
Romano-British industries, and the communities that were engaged in processing and production of ceramics, salt and metalwork, have been identified throughout the North West and are a strong characteristic of the region in this period. Research is needed, however, to draw together the many and varied sources for this distinctive aspect of the Romano-British period, and to formulate an integrated research agenda rather than a series of single issue or site-related research questions. (3.7:3.41)
We need to ensure that there are sufficient ceramic and other specialists to tackle future projects and existing backlogs. Where are the specialist trainees and mentors?
Linked with Q R15
Systematic survey of coastal, estuarine and river environments is required to assess the surviving resource and the potential for Romano-British buried land surfaces and structures. Coastal and river-edge development and engineering projects need to be undertaken with sufficient provision for archaeological works or supervision. (3.8:3.47)
New research projects on well-preserved military sites with good indications of later occupation, to complement that at Birdoswald, are needed to establish whether this type of 5th-century and later activity may be typical or exceptional. (3.8:3.49) But also old excavations may need review in light of new thinking.
Cross-theme? Synthesis of key excavated sites. Links to devolution comment in overview Point 6. Comparison with other regions and Wales/Scotland, and other provinces in the Roman Empire, will provide context and inform our understanding of how different the NW was.
Linked to Q R14 on extra-mural settlements (vici). Examine good excavation sequences from extra-mural settlements. Analyse the Rural Research project data to see potential impact on rural settlement sites.