Independent and university archaeological research

A series of potential research projects have been identified within this document that would be ideal opportunities for university departments, postgraduate researchers and/or independent or so-called ‘amateur’ archaeology groups and local societies to undertake fieldwork and other research, with support and collaborative assistance from other potential stakeholders including SYAS, Historic England and/or the Historic Lottery Fund, university departments, and commercial field units. To recapitulate, such potential projects in South Yorkshire include:

  • The analysis of past excavation archives held in museums to assess if it is possible for additional information to be obtained using more modern techniques, including the identification of any material suitable for radiocarbon and other scientific dating;
  • Detailed geophysical survey utilising the latest soil resistance meters, gradiometry and caesium magnetometry, and Ground Penetrating Radar; within interiors of enclosed sites at Wincobank, Carl Wark, Sutton Common Enclosure B, Croft Road, Finningley, Moorhouse Farm and Beeston Plantation/Potteric Carr;
  • Walkover and analytical earthwork survey focusing on upland and woodland enclosure sites and associated features. There could be follow-up work, for example, on the results of initial lidar analyses of field systems and possible cultivation features in Edlington Wood (Buckland et al. forthcoming);
  • An assessment of problems affecting earthwork enclosures such as tree root damage in woodlands, or bracken and heather damage on moorlands;
  • The Magnesian Limestone Project (Roberts, Deegan and Berg 2010) should be used to inform a project of more detailed geophysical survey of selected enclosures and enclosure groups, particularly cropmark sites that are currently under cultivation and this threatened with continued truncation;
  • Soil micromorphology and geochemical testing including soil aDNA and soil lipid analyses, on possible pens and corrals at selected enclosures;
  • Targeted excavation and coring of the Roman Rig earthworks, especially the ditches, coupled with pollen and soil micromorphology analyses along with AMS dating of multiple securely stratified charcoal or bone samples and OSL or cosmogenic radionuclide 26Al and 10Be dating of soils. Other linear earthworks that could be investigated are those at Thrybergh Park and Ravenfield, and the Double Dike at Edlington;
  • A study of Iron Age and Romano-British trackways, to include aerial photographic and lidar analysis, analytical earthwork survey, geophysical survey, and targeted excavation, a university might be able to contribute expertise with aerial photographs and lidar data. This would be especially useful on Coal Measures and Millstone Grit areas;
  • If a relatively well-preserved upland roundhouse or roundhouse platform can be identified in South Yorkshire at sites such as Wharncliffe, but perhaps threatened by root and bracken disturbance, then a detailed research excavation might provide useful evidence;
  • A particularly interesting upland roundhouse structure or group of roundhouses identified from aerial photographs and/or lidar could be the focus for a co-operative joint research project between commercial field unit staff, university staff and students, members of archaeological societies and local communities. Funding for such work could be sought from research grant awarding bodies as well as the Heritage Lottery Fund;
  • Scheduled and non-Scheduled enclosure sites should be the focus for gridded archaeological metal detecting surveys designed to remove and record metalwork artefacts in topsoil under controlled conditions, to prevent them being lost forever to illegal metal detectorists;
  • A survey of possible prehistoric and Roman-period metal ore extraction sites;
  • The landscape associations of metalwork objects in South Yorkshire could form the focus for MA research or part of a PhD;
  • Significant copper-alloy objects such as torcs, brooches and dress or harness fittings should be analysed using Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDXRF) and other techniques;
  • A programme of AMS dating of sooting or residues on Iron Age pottery, along with other thermoluminescence (TL) dating of minerals within Iron Age pottery fabrics, and detailed thin-section analyses to identify sources of fabrics/clays. Lipid analyses may also prove possible;
  • A research project using published data and unpublished archives to examine patterns of artefact and animal bone discard and deposition in and around Iron Age and Romano-British enclosure sites, with detailed spatial, volumetric and contextual analyses;
  • Detailed geophysical survey utilising soil resistance survey, caesium magnetometry and Ground Penetrating Radar at Bawtry Carr, followed by fully funded research-led rescue excavation. This would be an ideal candidate for a project jointly undertaken by Historic England, a commercial field unit, and a university archaeology department;
  • Coring, test-pitting and/or targeted trenching as part of a systematic research programme of palaeo-environmental sampling and analysis across South Yorkshire, focused particularly on alluvial deposits along the Rivers Don, Idle, Torne and Rother, to be supported by AMS and other scientific dating;
  • Palaeo-environmental sampling of key locations close to the Roman forts at Rossington and Burghwallis, supported by scientific dating, in order to find evidence for the landscape impact of the Roman conquest. Geophysical survey and targeted excavation could take place at Rossington fortress and Burghwallis and Thorpe Audlin forts, to assess their stratigraphic relationship to landscape features such as fields and enclosures, and to retrieve dating evidence and take palaeo-environmental samples. The possible Roman fort at Long Sandall also needs to be further investigated by detailed geophysical survey and trial trenching;
  • Further geophysical survey, lidar analysis and targeted excavation by the Time Travellers and Roman Roads Research Association should be encouraged and supported;
  • Research and publication of existing archives of material, including those from Templeborough fort and Doncaster fort and vicus.

Before any new fieldwork is undertaken by archaeology departments at the Universities of Sheffield and Hull, however, it is imperative that they publish the results of fieldwork that have already been undertaken but never properly disseminated. These unpublished fieldwork projects stretch back over 12–15 years.

If funding can be identified and the agreement of a landowner obtained, one or two Iron Age and Romano-British enclosures and field blocks could be selected for longer-term research projects undertaken in conjunction with local commercial field units, material culture specialists, university departments and local archaeological societies. This would not only stimulate research into these landscapes but would facilitate interpretative dialogues between ‘academic’, ‘unit’, ‘specialist’ and ‘independent’ archaeologists. Such collaborative projects could be funded by Historic England, academic grant awarding bodies, the Historic Lottery Fund and other sources. Appropriate post-excavation and publication funding would need to be assured from the earliest stages, and materials specialists able to bring their own expertise and research questions should be involved from the beginning.