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Mind the (archaeological ) gap: Tracing life in early post-roman towns

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posted on 2022-12-19, 15:38 authored by Gavin SpeedGavin Speed

Archaeological deposits of the late fourth and early fifth centuries in towns can be fragile, fragmentary, and unfortunately all too infrequent. The artefacts associated with settlement of this period are poorly studied with little fresh analysis ef typologies. This essentially creates an archaeological 'gap' and potentially an archaeologically 'blank' generation. This problematic dataset is compounded by two differing dating systems used namely in terms of a predefined need to separate material artefacts and the associated activity into the cultural labels of 'Roman' or 'Saxon'.

Prior to modern recording methods, urban excavations often failed to identify and record the (presumed) surviving evidence, and therefore information on late Roman and early medieval urbanism was largely derived from documentary sources (which are virtually none existent for this period in Britain). This resulted in the assumed view by academics that there was a complete collapse qf urban life perhaps as early in the fourth century. Excavations and academic research over the past 40 years have radically changed this traditional view, creating new research methodologies, allowing for revised interpretations qf the data in a number ef wqys that can either stress or plqy down urban 'decline'. 

Debates. about the end ef Roman Britain persist on establishing whether (towns' survived into the fifth and sixth centuries. This paper deals with the nature ef life in towns, by dealing with the issues seen in urban archaeology (availability, access, and the survival ef the data), and its impact on our knowledge of towns in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. The paper will demonstrate that despite issues with dating and interpritation) it is still possible to trace life in towns during this period, and to map and characterise the changing use of the damaged townscapes.



Speed G. Chapter 4. Mind the (archaeological ) gap: Tracing life in early post-roman towns. Sami, D. and Speed, G., (Eds.) Debating urbanism within and beyond the walls, A.D. 300-700 : proceedings of a conference held at the University of Leicester, 15th November 2008, (Copyright © 2010, individual authors)

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School of Archaeology and Ancient History


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School of Archaeology & Ancient History, University of Leicester

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Book series

Leicester Archaeology Monographs;No. 17



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