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Prehistoric Non-Defensive Settlement Assessment

March 2003 - April 2004

The original premise of the ‘lithics’ project was to identify potential prehistoric undefended settlements from the existing records of lithic finds. This was to be achieved through examination of records held in the HER, local and national museums and private collections. However, the volume of records held in the HER and their frequently chaotic nature meant that the project became focused on trying to bring some order to the HER record and to hopefully make future searching easier and more meaningful. This has significantly enhanced the HER and 725 records now have a description outlining, where known, the nature and circumstances of recovery of the lithic material.

What the assessment showed was that, despite some continuing reservations, there is much significant information contained within the record of lithic finds, even if it is not possible to securely identify individual settlement and occupation sites from the lithics alone. However, this may have as much to do with the nature of prehistoric southwest Wales, as it has to do with the record. Therefore, the project shifted the focus away from the search for settlement and occupation sites towards gaining a better understanding of the lithic resource and its distribution as a whole.

The assessment identified 32 sites that were considered worthy of further investigation. The sites are a reasonable sample of site types and periods, as well as also being a representative sample of the assorted methods of collection and the various conditions and states of survival of the sites. They are a fairly accurate representation of the make-up of the lithic sites in southwest Wales, excluding individual finds which are dealt with separately. Their further investigation should help in gaining a better understanding of the nature of the resource.

The deliberate weighting of the assessment towards sites that exhibited greater diversity meant that no individual finds would be in the final list of sites for further investigation. Whilst inevitable, this is not a particularly positive outcome, as in order to fully appreciate the resource it is necessary to understand as many of its constituent parts as possible and individual finds are by far the most numerous site type. Therefore, the report also recommended the investigation of axe findspots from two similar landscape areas, the upper reaches of the Towy and Teifi Valleys in order to try to identify any patterns that may be present in their deposition.

By considering the lithic material as a single resource the project has highlighted its potential and limitations for providing the types of information that may be required of it. At the moment the potential is limited by several factors, none of which are necessarily a fault of the material itself, but are more related to the way in which it has been collected and recorded and how the records are stored. Another limiting factor is the type of questions being asked of the material. Perhaps its is time to move away from the traditional ‘site’ orientated model of study to a more holistic view of the prehistoric landscape, a landscape in which organization was achieved more through movement and tasks rather than settlement and non-settlement (i.e. domestic and non-domestic) sites. In such an approach all lithic material, from large groups to individual and stray finds, has a place and an importance that needs to be considered.

 

Project Contact Ken Murphy - k.murphy@dyfedarchaeology.org.uk

 

 

 

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