‘Structured Deposits: definitions, developments and debates’
Saturday 10th November, 2018
Chertsey Hall, Chertsey, Surrey KT16 9DR
Since its origins some thirty odd years ago, our understanding of the concept of ‘structured deposition’ has developed substantially – debates surround not only terminology and definitions, but applications in its use, resulting in a perceived tendency for over-utilization and ‘ritual’ interpretations in analysis. With recognition of such deposits ever-growing through the work of commercial units and the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the contributions of critical and systematic academic attention are increasingly apparent. This day conference brings together research from the prehistoric to the medieval period, revealing new discoveries being made in southern England – and the South-East in particular – and the fascinating insights emerging from projects focussed on the processes of deposition.
Speakers include Dr Catriona Gibson (Univ of Reading), Jon Cotton (Surrey Archaeological Society), Dr Alex Davies (Oxford Archaeology), Rachel Wilkinson (Univ of Leicester/British Museum), Prof Mike Fulford (Univ of Reading), Dr Sam Moorhead (British Museum), Dr Cliff Sofield (Univ of Oxford) and Dr Eleanor Standley (Univ of Oxford)
Programme and ticket information to follow shortly
2017 Conference Report
‘Breaking new ground; engaging in the past – a celebration of archaeology in the South-East and beyond’
Saturday 7th October 2017
Kings Church, Lewes, East Sussex
This year’s conference, on our 25th Anniversary, started with a paper from Edwin Wood, the Finds Liaison Officer for Sussex. It provided a review of twenty years since the Treasurer Act was established, and presented remarkable examples to demonstrate the importance of finds reporting as the core activity of the Portable Antiquities Scheme across the counties of Kent, Surrey and Sussex. Whilst the continued expansion of activity, and the numbers of finds made by metal detectorists over this period is alarming, the efforts of our regional FLOs at recording many of these discoveries is very important. The research benefits, such as the identification of regional trends in terms of certain types of artefacts, have been significant . The numbers of items recorded in our area during the last 20 years are: 15k finds in Surrey, 21.5k in Sussex, and 39.4k in Kent.
Professor Chris Stringer then took the stage and gave an entertaining and informative overview of what is new in human evolution – updating his slides only the night before with fast-moving latest developments. Speaking about new discoveries gathered on hominid species, and then evidence on interbreeding between supposedly different species was presented. If the ‘experts’ are bewildered, then Chris made it easier for us to keep up with these advances.
Dr Matt Pope noted that whilst the South-East has several important sites, further testing of distribution maps to locate unidentified Palaeolithic landscapes needs to be explored – especially for the Upper Palaeolithic. Though close to the lost Doggerland landscape and near to the continent, the record of discoveries in this area is sparse. Matt reviewed flint assemblages, spoke of recent opportunities to investigate further, and made the case for a systematic research project to match those already undertaken in East Anglia and the Thames Valley.
Following lunch and our Annual General Meeting, we were treated to a 40-year review of the projects undertaken by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust and of its formation. Dr Paul Bennett spoke of excavations, much of it rescue, buildings recording and outreach archaeology covered during that period. This was an impressive record to condense into just 40 minutes – including such diverse topics as coins of Cunobelin (pre-Roman Britain), Claudian fortifications and Viking knives. Paul also stressed the importance in rescue archaeology of using local expertise over competitive tendering including archaeological units from outside the area.
Casper Johnson, Head of Heritage and Records Management at East Sussex County Council, spoke of the changes and challenges for heritage curation. Be it national or local planning policies, financial restraints or the impact of climate change and agricultural damage, Casper stressed and demonstrated the value of collaboration between likeminded curators, universities, communities (archaeology groups and schools) and professional bodies, as well as offering some thoughts to the future.
Professor Carenza Lewis gave us an inspiring presentation which took us from the early days of C4’s Time Team, through to her involvement in instigating professionally supported community archaeology and heritage projects. Through her paper we reflected on how participation in archaeology became familiar and accessible to a wider community, how these contributors are becoming more experienced with professional body support, and how the evidence they gather aids our general heritage understanding – whilst also offering those involved various social benefits.
Our final speaker, honouring us with the closing address, was the Director of the CBA. Dr Mike Heyworth presented a view on the current state of archaeology, praised the successes of the CBA over these last 25 years, but was keen to remind of the challenges that currently face us, or are due to materialise – Brexit uncertainties on funding, the impact of reliable and consistent HER updates, local government archaeological advice diminishing, museum closures, Higher Education qualification and skill shortages. More than ever this reminds us how valuable our CBA (South-East) memberships are.
Steve Cleverly, Treasurer CBA South-East
2016 Conference Report
‘Pots, Palaces Parks: Archaeology in the South East AD 1000–1700’
Saturday 19th November 2016
Sevenoaks School (Recital Room), Sevenoaks, Kent
The conference commenced with a paper from CBA South Committee member Natalie Cohen about some new research and finds of ancient graffiti. The new study had examined walls at Knole House, Bodiam Castle and cellars at Winchelsea. There were an intriguing collection of inscriptions including fleets of medieval sailing ships, many ancient names and some curious symbols and signs that were not builders or mason marks.
Mike Brace talked about St Mary Magdalen medieval hospital, whose cemetery contained many remains with signs of the feared disease of leprosy. He also spoke about the study of the pottery found from the excavations. The Winchester location is proving to be an interesting area for new fabrics, with some of the pottery coming from a number of very large deep pits. The site consisted of a series of alms houses, a master house and adjacent and adjoining Chapel, with a number of burials recovered from an earlier period below the chapel floor.
Woking Palace already has a fascinating history especially from the late medieval and Tudor periods. The moated site is a complex of buildings with archaeological investigations providing evidence for the chronology of the structures built. It was quite remarkable to link these structures with historical people. It was all brought vividly to life by the speaker Richard Savage.
Anne Bone talked about the new and exciting discoveries found in West Sussex and the South Downs National Park revealing a hidden history of medieval parks and many other features in the landscape. The information now gained from the LIDAR survey is being used in association with old maps to engage young people in further research projects.
Andrew Mayfield’s paper considered community archaeology and how LIDAR had opened up lots of potential for field walking ground truthing and desk top studies. LIDAR has produced numerous images of features and sites within previously difficult terrains lying in woods, stripping away the trees and revealing so many hidden details. His example of Randall manor, which had no previously known record in the landscape, had been revealed by this new technology.
LIDAR also featured in Andrew Margett’s talk about medieval farming. It had proved a useful tool in identifying features and buildings associated with husbandry, farming and dairy production in and around the Haywards Heath area. The survey has produced huge amounts of detail showing field systems, droveways and even cow sheds. Again new projects involved the examination of old maps and documents, and the name ‘Vachery’ hinting at indications of this past rural activity.
The final speaker was Dr Amanda Richardson who spoke about the creation and development of deer parks, and how their original use was for containing deer herds for hunting and sport, but changed over the succeeding centuries. During the Tudor and later 17th century deer parks became a figure of status and even a symbol of national pride. Many continental travellers published that England and Scotland contained more parks than any other country. It was a change of direction in the later periods to an interest in ‘landscape’ gardening which saw the decline of deer hunting and the hunting aspect change to fox hunting, on more open terrains.
John Funnell, Grants Officer CBA South East
2015 Conference Report
‘Life in the Mesolithic and new perspectives on the Mesolithic/Neolithic transition’ Saturday 14th November 2015 Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey
Our understanding of the Mesolithic in Britain has increased substantially in recent times due to the considerable contributions made by commercial and community archaeology alongside continued academic attention. This day conference brought together talks from each of these sectors, revealing new discoveries being made on the Mesolithic in the South-East of Britain and introducing some of the fascinating insights emerging from projects focused upon the Mesolithic/Neolithic transition from other areas of the country. Click here for full schedule
The morning session concentrated on recent discoveries and how they can inform future research. Martin Bell emphasised the opportunities provided by environmental evidence to re-examine previously known Mesolithic sites to determine settlement and chronologies.
Phil Jones presented the results from Bletchingley, Surrey. The site is overlooked by the North Downs and traverses clay and sand geologies, sitting on a watershed between streams running East to the Medway and West to the Mole. It was suggested that this was a strategic choice when following migratory herds.
The submerged landscape of Bouldner Cliff in the Solent was revealed by Gary Momber from which was found wood with tool marks and evidence for tangential splitting which is interpreted as a possible boat building site. It was proposed that the loss of land may have enforced adaptation and the emergence of trade to continue earlier links with lands recently submerged.
While no post-excavation results were available from the work on the Bexhill relief road scheme, Mike Donnelly was able to present an outline of the discovery of a number of Mesolithic scatters from which it was estimated that there could be at least 230000 lithic artefacts. This site with its huge Late Mesolithic assemblage again shows the value of wetland areas for research.
The afternoon session moved the focus to discussion of the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition and what different areas of research could add to the knowledge of this period. Fraser Sturt reviewed the progress of the Stepping Stones project and it was suggested that it was time to review the image of the transition and to discuss whether C14 dates are representative or skew our understanding of the period since they have largely been taken from mainland sites when islands could be used as stepping stones across the seas.
A current research project on caves and springs in south west England was presented by Caroline Rosen on behalf of Jodie Lewis. This area is rich in cave and spring sites often associated with depositional practices during the Mesolithic. Some practices in these places suggest a persistence of ritual activities during a ‘messy’ mix of traditions as Neolithic groups moved around the south west.
Rick Schulting discussed another avenue of evidence for Mesolithic and Neolithic societies. There are few Mesolithic skulls to study but across Europe skulls exhibit evidence for healed fractures rather than death blows. However during the Neolithic this changes and a number of skulls exhibit the marks of blunt force injuries at the time of death: this percentage is small but higher than the expected average suggesting an undercurrent of violence.
The final paper given by Don Henson was an overview of the history of presenting this period establishing that until recently the Mesolithic was seen as a dull, academic specialism. However, newsworthy discoveries are now populating the period so that an engaging story can be told.
The emphasis of all speakers at this conference was of the importance of environmental analysis and an understanding of the geology and landscape of the sites under research to enable the peopling of the Mesolithic in such a way as to enhance public appreciation of the period.
Rose Hooker, Secretary CBA South East