Updated: Jan 27, 2022
In my first Archaeology101 I said that in part 2 I would look at the Preliminary Archaeology Investigations process. I am also going to tell you about a local archaeological site that has been previously excavated in Wadeford.
Before starting I wanted to explain the major concept of Stratigraphy. Stratigraphyis a key concept in modern archaeological practice. In the natural course of events, the lowest layer is the oldest layer. Subsequent periods of activity and occupation build up in sequence. Sometimes later activities will cut into or destroy evidence of earlier periods.
So, what we have is like a Layer Cake of History and where an item is found is its Historical Context within the different strata or layers.
Preliminary investigations begin with a Desk Top study. This is followed by Surface and Detailed Surveys and if they exist or are available Aerial or Satellite Photography. So, we are going to look at Desk Top Studies. This includes looking at as many historical sources and written accounts that exist. Then, there may be a range of archaeological information available. This might include records of archaeological sites, monuments and landscapes as well as information on finds and listed buildings; and also archaeological fieldwork reports, mapping and photographs. There is a lot of information out there to find.
Is your head spinning yet…
Other knowledge and information can be understood from Maps, Plans, Prints, Paintings and Photographs. Early maps especially can be a mine of information. As an example, Ordinance Survey Maps from the early 18th century to current times are available. These help to understand changes to local areas or towns. Paintings and photographs can help to identify buildings and places that have long since disappeared.
Finally if your research is focused in 19th or 20th century documents from Newspaper archives, Census documents and Trade Directories such as Kelly’s can be sources of valuable information.
So onto our local site ...one local archaeological site that has been excavated in the past is the Roman villa at Wadeford. This is in the parish of Combe St. Nicholas. It was first discovered in 1810 and further excavations attempted in 1861.
Two mosaics were discovered in 1810. Both were left open to the elements and were soon destroyed by visitors and frost. Other mosaics were discovered in 1861. Various sketches were made and are in the Somerset Archives in Taunton.
Unfortunately there is no trace currently visible on the ground. However, it makes for interesting historical speculation.
Finally here are some links to useful organisations to help your desktop research
.. and remember if you want any help with your research the Museum has a team of archivist's rich in local history. Read Our Research page.
See you next time.