Organisation of Roman Iron Production in the Weald
Date: 19 April 2021
University of Exeter
PhD in Archaeology
Iron was essential to the rise and power of the Roman Empire being used for a great variety of purposes from industry and production to military application and everyday domestic use. Significantly, the Weald of Sussex was one of the major sources of iron in Britain. The origins of research into Roman iron production in the Weald were ...
Iron was essential to the rise and power of the Roman Empire being used for a great variety of purposes from industry and production to military application and everyday domestic use. Significantly, the Weald of Sussex was one of the major sources of iron in Britain. The origins of research into Roman iron production in the Weald were in the early nineteenth century but the key development was the establishment of the Wealden Iron Research Group (WIRG). Since its formation in the 1960s, WIRG has focused research upon all aspect of iron production, creating a free and publicly accessible database of known sites. However, questions still remain regarding the organisation and control of such production sites in the Roman era, with a key area needing further research being the evaluation of industrial waste, especially the quantification of technological waste deposits. Significantly, this thesis addresses this area to explore the social organisation of Roman period iron production through the investigation, analysis and discussion of two case studies located at Chitcombe and Standen. The research presented in this thesis identifies and interprets archaeological features, most notably deposits of technological waste, to look at the processes of iron production, the role of the sites within the wider landscape, their connectivity and level of influence. In summary, the scale of iron production sites across the Weald is found to vary greatly. Chitcombe is identified as a large-scale industrial iron production site most likely under military control, with evidence for high-level spatial planning with distinct areas for smelting activities and workshops. Standen meanwhile, represents a small scale site with evidence for a much lower intensity of smelting and no interpretation of control or organisation. Coupled with a programme of excavation, the application of a multi-faceted geo-prospection methodology, incorporating magnetometry, electrical resistivity tomography (ERT), induced polarisation (IP) and electromagnetic surveys, offering both horizontal and vertical images of the sites, is shown as a positive solution to the notable shortcomings of previous waste deposit studies which lacked an understanding of the waste deposit as a whole because of the impracticality of excavating and analysing such deposits in their entirety. Moreover, the inherent difficulties in assessing the size and nature of technological waste from these sites are addressed and the shortcomings of traditional archaeological survey techniques are highlighted through the identification of reuse of debris across the sites. The strategy designed for the investigations of these sites has created a system of repeatable and comparable datasets that can be built upon with further studies.
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