A landscape in transition? Palaeoenvironmental evidence for the end of the 'Romano-British' period in South West England
University of Exeter
[Introduction] The transition from Roman Britain to medieval England has traditionally been studied using a very limited range of documentary sources, and an archaeological record that is at best patchy in its regional coverage and until recently was dominated by funerary evidence. Discussion has, therefore, been dominated by socio-political issues of continuity, conquest, colonisation and acculturation as seen through the relationship between the native Romano-British population and the Anglo-Saxon immigrants. The scarcity of sources, and socio-political focus of this discussion, has resulted in debate being at a highly generalised level, with only, very limited consideration of the extent to which there were local differences in how these processes operated. This paper adopts a very different approach in that it starts with the premise that because there was considerable regional variation in the landscape character of Roman Britain, and considerable regional variation in the landscape character of medieval England, there is likely to have been considerable regional variation in the nature of the transition between the two. There is a need to study landscape evolution at the local scale, though the scarcity of distinctive material culture in many regions makes this difficult. It has traditionally been thought that using palaeoenvironmental evidence was similarly limited due to a lack of suitable peat sequences, though this paper aims to show that a shift in focus away from upland blanket mires, whose location remote from areas that were actually settled at the time makes them largely irrelevant to the majority of Roman Britain, towards small lowland valley and spring mires within areas that were occupied does have the potential to shed new light on the end of that period.
Reproduced with permission of the publisher.
Fyfe, R.M. and Rippon, S.J. 2004: A landscape in transition? Palaeoenvironmental evidence for the end of the 'Romano-British' period in South West England, in Collins, R and Gerrard, J. (eds). 'Debating Late Antiquity in Britain AD300-700' (Oxford, British Archaeological Report British Series 365), 33-42.