The Linear Earthworks in Britain project has just completed its first year, and at this stage we thought it would be good to report on what we have achieved on so far. As is the case for everyone, the Covid 19 Pandemic has restricted much of what we could do. However, while several site visits had to be postponed, we have been able to pull together a wealth of data remotely and have made good progress over the last 12 months.
The following is what have we accomplished in Year 1:
Designing a database: One of the initial aims of the project was to provide a national characterisation of linear earthworks across the UK. Much of the early part of the project involved designing and implementing a multi-scale and interrelated database, which will be utilised to compile information about linear earthworks from across the UK. We anticipated the level of data that we wanted to collect and tested the data on a sample of information from Oxfordshire. The database was constructed using PostgreSQL, an open-source software that links directly into GIS.
South-East linear earthworks: We collected Historic Environment Record data for the counties in the south-east of the UK, including Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Surrey, East and West Sussex, Kent and Greater London. We trawled through these data, undertook detailed mapping of each earthwork and compiled a list of all the archaeological investigations undertaken for each, consulting original reports and publications. These data were summarised and compiled into our project database and cross referenced, allowing us to plot all the linear earthworks in this region for this first time (see image below).
A national dataset: Having compiled the south-east dataset, we then moved onto pulling together data on a national level. By accessing National Historic Environment Records (from Historic England, Historic Environment Scotland and Cadw) we are currently drawing together the extent of all known linear earthworks in the UK and providing a short summary of each one. The level of detail for this national dataset is less than that collected for the south-east with regard to individual earthworks, but much faster to compile. This scale of analysis will allow us to identify national distributions and analyse this vast corpus across UK. So far we have data for Scotland and Wales and are currently compiling the data for England.
Introductory paper: We submitted a paper introducing the project and providing some preliminary analyses of the data collected for the south-east (awaiting peer review).
Forthcoming Papers: We are currently working on two other research papers:
The first focuses on the investigation of linear earthworks in the UK over the last 100 years, exploring the different interpretations proposed by archaeologists studying the Iron Age and medieval periods.
The second presents a new method that utilizes LiDAR data to calculate the metrology of linear earthworks and enable us to calculate labour costs for the construction these monuments.
Dating workshop: We have just held an online workshop exploring the difficulties and potential for dating linear earthworks. The workshop drew together expertise on Radiocarbon dating, Bayesian analysis, OSL (Optically stimulated luminescence), place-name analysis and landscape archaeology. The project team presented four different case studies that we would like to explore in the field and discussed different methodologies with the aim of providing detailed chronologies for these four examples.
Watch this space (as well as our Twitter account @linearearthwork) for more updates and for an upcoming post about what we have planned for Year 2!