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Title: Charred plant remains as minute artefactual debris : lifestyles and economy upon the Roman fen-edge, Cambridgeshire
Author: Ballantyne, Rachel Mary
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2009
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The relationship between human lives and the formation of archaeological contexts is of fundamental importance in understanding any assemblage. Although the effect of charring upon survival of plant remains is relatively well known, the mechanisms for their dispersal across settlements have rarely been addressed. Mixing and re-deposition of artefactual debris can affect the ratios that are used to identify the presence of specific crop processing stages (e.g. grain:chaff) with the result that charred plant assemblages are culturally transformed representations of activity pattern, particularly middening. This research proposes that a multi-evidence methodology is required to address the diversity of sources that have contributed artefacts to a sampled context: a case study is presented of three recently excavated Roman settlements in Cambridgeshire fen-edge. At each site, the charred plant assemblage is studied following standard practice and then contrasted with an experimental recording of other small artefacts from the same soil samples. The diversity of formation pathways represented within a context is accessible as charred and uncharred items represented fundamentally different sources, and their mixing in large quantities is an indication of probable middening. The results indicate that all three settlements have highly structured assemblages that are attributable to human agency. Vestigial middens rich in a diverse range of both charred and uncharred artefacts are consistently found extending 20-30m out from certain buildings. These remains are a material expression of the values that shaped settlement organisation, and support the standard ‘site characterisation’ of two farmsteads (five major middens-with-buildings, rich charred cereal chaff) and one nucleated site (five major middens-with-buildings, low amounts of charred cereal chaff and grain). The results are related to pre-existing interpretations of the Roman fen-edge, particularly its social and economic infrastructure.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available