Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Hertfordshire Archaeology According to the PAS


This is a breakdown by period of the PAS data from Hertfordshire collected by Julian Watters, fairly typical for the pattern from much of the rest of the country: 

Period Records
Prehistoric                       1
Palaeolithic                     15
Mesolithic                     112
Neolithic                       177
Bronze Age                  145
Iron Age                       450
Roman                        6953
Byzantine                          4
Early Medieval               424
Medieval                      2813
Post Medieval               1852
Modern                              7
Unknown                          72

This is a fair representation of the pre-1700 material collected by the artefact hunting "partners" of the PAS in the region, but is it in fact anything like a proper representation of the archaeological potential of the area? Are there really as many Roman sites in the area as the sum of all the rest put together? The Palaeolithic and Mesolithic together lasted several hundred thousand years, and the Iron Age a few hundred years, but the discrepancy in the number of "data" about them recorded by the Scheme is extreme. Is not this manner of collection of information severely deforming our picture of the country's past? I do not expect Mr Watters will be commenting.

Vignette: Hertfordshire Archaeology


Julian Watters said...

He will, actually!

Question: Are there really as many Roman sites in the area as the sum of all the rest put together?

Yes, I would say that is very likely. But you could check on the Heritage Gateway if you want.

Question: Is Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Iron Age data underrepresented?

I wouldn't have thought so. I don't think artefacts are common from any of these periods.

Paul Barford said...

Thank you for your comment. Welcome.

So, let me get this straight, you are suggesting I use HG to "check" the picture from PAS when HG is created from HERs to which a major recent component of input is from the PAS data? Hmmm.

So basically you are telling us that the Hertfordshire region was a total backwater through most of prehistory with nothing much going on until the Romans came when things picked up, and after the early decades of the fifth century it returned to being a backwater? Sorry, don't believe you.

I think the figures represent only what your artefact hunting "partners" are looking for and where they are looking for them, and what they are bringing to you. This is a picture of the artefact hunting potential of the region not a full reflection of the archaeological characteristics. How do we get from one to the other?

Paul Barford said...

Maybe Mr Watters can ask somebody in the PAS to respond to the question about rallies prompted by his comments on Heritage Journal?

Unknown said...

Paul - Regarding "artefact hunting partners", I would guess that the majority of these are metal detectorists, which may explain the slant towards bronze age onwards? I wouldn't say that Hertfordshire was a "backwater" on either side of the Roman occupation, but there was definitely a lot more activity in the county during this period. I would guess that this would also be true in other Roman occupied counties.

Paul Barford said...

"I would guess that the majority of these are metal detectorists "
Got it in one.

So yes, there's one bias to data collection for a start.

"definitely a lot more activity in the county during this period"
Really? Or is that just a question of visibility?

So, you are suggesting that there was "a lot more" going on c. AD 43 to c. Ad 360/410 than (say) AD 600 to Ad 1600? In 370 years there was more human activity, more land cleared and farmed, more settlements, higher population, than in the subsequent thousand? Really?

What do you understand by "Roman occupied"? Was Hertfordshire "occupied"?

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