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Landscapes

ISSN: 1466-2035 (Print) 2040-8153 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ylan20

Some Fishy Things About Scales: Macro- and


Micro-approaches to Later Prehistoric and
Romano-British Field Systems
Adrian Chadwick
To cite this article: Adrian Chadwick (2013) Some Fishy Things About Scales: Macro- and Microapproaches to Later Prehistoric and Romano-British Field Systems, Landscapes, 14:1, 13-32,
DOI: 10.1179/1466203513Z.0000000002
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/1466203513Z.0000000002

Published online: 18 Nov 2013.

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landscapes, Vol. 14 No. 1, June, 2013, 1332

Some Fishy Things About Scales: Macroand Micro-approaches to Later Prehistoric


and Romano-British Field Systems
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Adrian Chadwick
AC Archaeology, UK
Abstract
In British archaeology, there are apparent tensions between macro-level,
landscape-wide analyses, and micro-level, site-based approaches. Macrolevel analyses are based on techniques and technologies such as aerial
photograph transcriptions, LiDAR data and GIS-based mapping, as
exemplified in many excellent National Mapping Programme studies and
several new large-scale research projects. These studies have proved
invaluable in mapping extensive areas of archaeology, and GIS-based data
can be interrogated through many forms of spatial analysis. At the same
time, developer-funded fieldwork has provided opportunities to excavate and
record large areas thus contributing a significant amount of new information
to field system studies at a detailed, localised level or micro-scale. This
difference between scales is explored through a series of case studies
focusing on later prehistoric and Romano-British field systems. Different
approaches and methodological, temporal and interpretative scales are
examined, and the creative rather than negative aspects of such tensions are
explored.
keywords field systems, Iron Age, Romano-British, temporal and spatial scales

Each of us needs our acre; we need access not just physical but also imaginative and
emotional to a land we can honour. An honouring that involves knowledge,
observation and familiarity, so that the gnarled bush, the bumpy track, the dip of the
hill, the curve of the hedge are relatives; an honouring that listens to the stories that
saturate everyacre. (Bunting 2009, 275)

In The Plot: a Biography of an English Acre, Madeleine Bunting entwined her


family history with that of a small plot of land on the edge of the North Yorkshire
Moors. Despite its occasionally over-romanticised tone, this close-grained,
Oxbow Books Ltd 2013

DOI 10.1179/1466203513Z.0000000002

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ADRIAN CHADWICK

biographical approach offers food for thought for landscape archaeologists. Could
we produce such nuanced accounts, or is this impossible due to the many
imponderables of time and dating involved? One potential limiting factor is
the apparent tensions between macro-level landscape scales of archaeological
analysis and interpretation, and micro-level approaches.
Macro-level analyses include aerial photograph transcriptions, LiDAR data and
GIS-based mapping, as exemplified in National Mapping Programme and Historic
Landscape Characterisation studies. At the same time as these techniques have
been developing, the exponential increase in developer-funded fieldwork in Britain
has provided opportunities to strip, record and excavate large areas of prehistoric
and Roman-period landscapes. Sampling and recording methodologies on
archaeological excavations have also been improving, instead of the minimalistic
four percent or even two percent sampling that used to be the norm for linear
features during the 1980s and early 1990s. Contextual approaches to the detailed
stratigraphic evidence might be termed micro-level analyses. In this article, I
examine some of the implications of these different levels of analyses for the study
of later prehistoric and Romano-British field systems.

Macro-level analyses NMP, HLC and beyond


NMP projects
Primarily using aerial photographic and LiDAR transcription data, English
Heritages National Mapping Programme (NMP) has recorded the archaeology of
entire counties (for example Deegan 1999; Deegan and Foard 2007), more specific
regions such as the Yorkshire Dales and Wolds, Exmoor and Dartmoor National
Parks (Hegarty and Toms 2009; Stoertz 1997), and Areas of Outstanding Natural
Beauty (AONBs) (Janik et al. 2011). Approximately 4045 percent of England has
now been mapped (Horne 2009, 6). The exciting results from these projects
include previously unidentified ploughed-out Neolithic long mounds in the
Cotswolds, and possible later prehistoric co-axial fields on the Mendip Hills and
within the Forest of Dean (Janik et al. 2011; Priest and Dickson 2009; Hoyle 2012;
Small and Stoertz 2006).
NMP reports divide archaeological features into chronological periods from the
Neolithic through to the Second World War. This is a convenient means of
organising the results, but it can have unintended consequences. Although
mapping might show features intersecting or overlying and underlying one
another, chronological compression may assign features that were created
generations or centuries apart to the same broad period regardless of these
stratigraphic relationships. At the same time, the period-based format reinforces
temporal tearing, whereby features from different broad periods are separated
even if they were originally constructed in relation to one another or deliberately
referenced earlier features (Figure 1). Although this can be acknowledged in the
text, the mapping will tend to reinforce the notion that these were coincidental
conjunctions.
Through the use of relational databases and technologies such as exeGesIS and
LANDMAP, it is possible to link wider scale plots of earthwork survey, aerial

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figure 1 Cropmarks
of Bronze Age, Iron
Age and RomanoBritish features
visible in the Trent
Valley at Cromwell,
Nottinghamshire.
Features of different
periods appear to
have been
deliberately
positioned with
reference to one
another (Source:
Derrick Riley, SLAP
07SK790607).

transcription and LiDAR data in GIS mapping to site plans and photographs, and
generate more nuanced considerations of spatial, chronological and cultural
relationships between different features. GIS-based data can be productively
interrogated through many spatial and statistical analyses (for example Deegan
2007; Green 2013; Wickstead 2008). When viewing GIS-based NMP mapping we
must always be aware that it conceals more subtle and dynamic relationships.
Notions that digital technologies are somehow bad (cf. Thomas 2004, 201; Tilley
2010, 477) or that excavation is good are over simplistic, as are calls for a return
to rigidly empirical fieldwork alone (Fleming 2007). Instead, detailed contextual
evidence from excavation or survey and spatial technologies such as GIS can be
used as part of holistic, inferential approaches.

HLC projects
Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC) is a method of historic map-based
landscape analysis developed during the 1990s, initially for resource management
purposes (Aldred and Fairclough 2003; Fairclough et al. 1999; Herring 1998). The
archaeological and historical validity of these studies has sometimes been
questioned (Chadwick 2008b, 208210; Rippon 2004, 36). In some HLC studies
commissioned by landscape architects (for example Chadwick and Donachie
2001), different landscape character types may be based on modern appearance
rather than historical or archaeological criteria. Many HLC reports have been
based largely on map regression evidence (for example Fairclough et al. 2002),
with limited documentary research and field visits, and without data from Historic
Environment Records, previous archaeological interventions and palaeo-environmental information. This may obfuscate differences in the historical and social
trajectories of different areas. For example, there was often considerable local

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ADRIAN CHADWICK

variation in the Enclosure process (Sackett 2008; Williamson 2002), and despite
superficial similarities the resulting landscapes might be the product of quite
different histories. HLC studies also focus on the historical landscape to the
detriment of the prehistoric and Romano-British periods, which might nevertheless
have been crucial to the development of the more recent landscape, such as the
formation of peat deposits in upland Britain, or open grassland on chalk
downland. When archaeologists and historians have had greater input into HLC
development, the results have been more notable (Herring 2008; Martin 2008).
HLC studies are useful assessment tools for local authorities, but for archaeological resource management or research, additional information and interpretation are necessary if reductive forms of landscape analysis are to be avoided.
Typological analysis is a common corollary of HLC and many other macro-level
studies. The late Derrick Riley outlined some categories of ancient field systems in
the north midlands, most famously the so-called brickwork fields found on
Sherwood Sandstone geologies of South Yorkshire and northern Nottinghamshire;
but he also identified fields nucleated around enclosures, and others irregular in
pattern (Riley 1980, 13, Figure 3). Following more detailed transcription work,
Alison Deegan noted inconsistencies with Rileys scheme; in brickwork fields for
example, short cross boundaries were rarely staggered in alternating strips as in a
true brickwork pattern (Deegan 2007, 56).
Deegan proposed just two main types of field system. Her strip fields consisted
of boundaries at least 400 m long and 100 m apart with shorter cross boundaries,
arranged in bundles of four or more strips (Deegan 2007, 5, Figure 6.5). This
type corresponds broadly to Rileys brickwork fields, although Deegan also
identified strip fields elsewhere. As with Rileys brickwork pattern, the
implication is that the strips were laid out as long boundaries and then
subdivided. It is thus a broader category, and takes into account how the fields
were probably created (Widgren 1990, 22). Deegans mixed field systems were
much more variable, although sometimes fields of similar sizes seem to have
clustered together (Deegan 2007). In an overview of Romano-British field systems
and rural settlement, Taylor (2007, 59, 623) used the terms cohesive
(brickwork) and aggregate (nuclear) strip fields to describe the patterns found
south of the River Aire down to north Nottinghamshire, the Trent Valley and east
to the Humber Wetlands, thereby introducing a third classificatory scheme and
typology. The simplified categories of Deegan and Taylor are more useful,
although the term strip fields will cause confusion with strips and strip lynchets in
medieval fields. It might also inadvertently imply that there was greater centralised
planning and a shorter, simpler chronology of the strips than may have been the
case.
There have also been typological approaches to Iron Age and Romano-British
enclosures (for example Cox 1984; Riley 1980; Wilson 1987). In an analysis of
cropmarks in the Welsh Marches and the Trent Valley, Whimster created
categories such as regular curvilinear, irregular curvilinear and irregular
quadrilateral (Whimster 1989, 2832), similar to schemes used elsewhere in
Britain (Stoertz 1997). It has been suggested that multivallate, irregular Middle
Iron Age enclosure forms became more regular and univallate in the Late Iron Age,

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with single-ditched, sub-rectangular or rectangular examples more favoured


during the Romano-British period (Collens 1998). Dating cropmarks is problematic, however, and the many variations in enclosure size and form defy simplistic categorisation. For example, excavation has revealed some double and
triple-ditched enclosures of Romano-British date (Brown et al. 2007, 54; ONeill
2001, 1189).
Such analyses tend towards the teleological the fields or enclosures are
explained by their shape or size rather than the wider agricultural and social
processes that led to their creation, sometimes attributing them with a level of
purposeful design more common to the modern capitalist world. In the past,
traditions of practice and social memory might have been more important in land
allotment, land division and land use. Whimster wished to establish the structuring
grammar behind cropmarks, and suggested that in the Welsh Marches the
morphological characteristics of enclosures were important along with their
spatial relationship to others in tracts of otherwise empty countryside
(Whimster 1989, 27). These were not empty landscapes though, but complex
taskscapes (Chadwick 2004; Ingold 1993, 2000). Prominent natural features may
have had names and stories associated with them, and routeways through the
landscape might have resulted from centuries of rights of access, negotiations and
conflicts. Evidence needs to be categorised and organised, and the tremendous
potential of GIS to try and identify patterns in field sizes and layouts should be
utilised. It must always be borne in mind, however, that these might be partly
patterns we impose upon the data.

Research projects
There are three macro-level university-based research projects seeking to build
on this previous work by examining rural settlement and field systems using
information from NMP studies, HER records and other databases, and published
and unpublished palaeo-environmental and commercial archaeological reports.
These are the Fields of Britannia Project at the University of Exeter (Rippon et al.
2012; and this issue), the Rural Settlement of Roman Britain Project at the
University of Reading, and the stimulus for this themed issue, the University of
Oxford English Landscapes and Identities project. These three projects, initiated at
different dates, have undertaken separate data searches and GIS mapping. Such
initial duplication of effort is regrettable, although there is clearly a need to
assemble robust data. Hopefully the final results of these three projects will be
compatible and complementary with one another, adding significantly to understandings of field systems, rural settlements, and the lives of the communities who
dwelt within them.

Case studies
In order to explore the apparent disparities between macro-level analyses such as
those described above with the detail of site specific excavation evidence, I will
now outline a series of case studies drawn from South and West Yorkshire.

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figure 2 Cropmarks of
brickwork field systems visible
at Edenthorpe, South Yorkshire,
with Edenthorpe at the top or
east of the image. Running left
to right across the centre of the
photograph is the major northsouth trackway mentioned in
the text (Source: Derrick Riley,
SLAP 01SE625075).

Edenthorpe
At Rossington, south-east of Doncaster and at Edenthorpe to the north-east, Riley
plotted cropmarks of brickwork co-axial fields and enclosures (Riley 1980)
(Figure 2). To the east and south-east of Edenthorpe, he identified a major northsouth trackway, with brickwork fields and enclosures on either side, though on
slightly different orientations, along with a narrower, more sinuous trackway
aligned broadly roughly east-west. Subsequent development at Edenthorpe led to
topsoil stripping of the site by the South Yorkshire Archaeology Unit, which
initially appeared to have revealed part of the sinuous double-ditched trackway,
along with associated field boundaries (Chadwick 1995).
Detailed excavation and recording, however, established that there had been a
complex sequence of re-cuts and changes in orientation, representing at least four
major phases of activity (Chadwick 1995, 2008b). Significantly, it was found that
the double-ditched trackway had only existed during some of these phases,
whereas in others its ditches turned through near right-angled turns to form fields.
The regular cropmarks did not reflect this complex stratigraphic and social history,
and it is likely that not all of these episodes were even identified. Many ditches
were re-cut only after they had largely silted up, a phenomenon that has been
noted across Britain (Rees 2008). This suggests that such re-cutting was not the
result of routine ditch maintenance; and that the regular cleaning out of ditches
might in fact often be archaeologically invisible. Some ditches maintained
regularly over time might contain only simple silting sequences reflecting their
final abandonment (Chadwick 1999, 161; Magilton 1978, 72). Re-cutting was
more episodic and perhaps associated with changes in ownership, tenure or access
to different areas, and/or with formal re-inscriptions of the landscape (Chadwick
1999, 1623; 2008b, 238). Such socially significant practices may have reaffirmed
household or community identities and tenure, and there might be a relationship

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figure 3 Fields, trackways, enclosures and different phases of archaeological investigation


north-east of Armthorpe, South Yorks (Source: A. M. Chadwick and A. Leaver, after Hughes
2006 and Roberts 2008).

between this and the fact that on many Romano-British sites pottery deposition
was often most prevalent in primary and tertiary fills of ditches (Martin 2007, 96
8). Occasional concentrated dumps of material in ditches might thus have been
linked to ideas concerning boundaries, tenure and renewal.
More recently, the same Edenthorpe landscape was plotted as part of the
Magnesian Limestone project. Alison Deegans GIS mapping is not only more
accurate than Rileys hand-transcribed plots, but also demonstrates additional
complexity, with some spatial patterning evident in terms of field shape and sizes
(Roberts et al. 2010, Figure 6.5). If these and earlier statistical analyses are
accurate (Hayes 1981, 11011), then the dimensions of many brickwork fields in
specific blocks seem to have been internally similar to one another, but slightly
different to those of fields in adjacent groupings. This might reflect differences in
agricultural practice, although it is possible that there were differences between
field boundaries and land division, and the actual areas utilised for arable or
grazing in land use (q.v. Petersson 1999, 2008). Tenurial rights of access and
inheritance may have meant some fields were effectively abandoned for years or
even decades (q.v. Giles 2007; Sillitoe 1999). Some variations identified through
cluster analysis appeared to be associated with particular enclosures, suggesting
subtle variations between different households or families, or perhaps different
generations or other social distinctions. Future GIS-based analyses may be able to
pursue these ideas further on much wider scales.

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ADRIAN CHADWICK

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Armthorpe
East of Doncaster, at Armthorpe, extensive co-axial fields, enclosures and
trackways have been recorded (Deegan 2001, 2007; Riley 1980), and since
1990, developer-funded work by many different units but primarily the
Archaeological Services WYAS
has comprised some of the largest scale
geophysical survey and excavation of Late Iron Age and Romano-British fields
in north Britain (for example Burgess and Richardson 2003; Chadwick et al. 2007;
Cumberpatch and Webster 1998; Hughes 2006; Richardson 2008; Roberts 2008).
The field system included extensive double-ditched trackways, some with
funnel-shaped entrances for handling large numbers of livestock. In small-scale
illustrations, these ditches appear very regular and laid out as part of a cohesive
planned landscape, perhaps even in a single phase. One part of this field system
consisted of a junction between four trackways and blocks of fields. At a macroscale of analysis, this crossroads also appears relatively regular, but on a more
detailed plan it becomes evident that with its staggered corners the blocks of fields
were laid out at different times, and the junction was not constructed in one phase
(Chadwick 2008b, 240). Sections across ditches revealed that each field was
progressively added to its fellow rather than being laid out all at once, and the
lengthy east-west trackway was created as a series of much shorter segments over
time, only resulting in a lengthy trackway in its final phases (Figures 3 and 4). The
apparent regularity is thus illusory.
Excavation will inevitably record more detail than aerial photography, LiDAR
or geophysical survey, but the principal issue concerns the scales of plotting and
representation. When viewed at a broader scale, variations in ditch width and
orientation are invisible, exacerbating the impression that these were regular
blocks of fields. If plotted as true features rather than simply as representative
lines, detail may become apparent as one zooms in on a GIS, but often it is
ignored. It is therefore important to balance these different scales of representation
and interpretation. Illustrating complex sequences of re-cutting and changes of
alignment is also difficult (but see Chadwick 1995, 1999; Percival and Williamson
2005). Such challenges lead on to a brief consideration of temporal scales of
analysis.

Temporal scales of analysis


Many authors have used the expression relict fields (Fowler 2002, 137; Muir
2000, 201; Percival and Williamson 2005, 3; Rippon 2004, 2930). This suggests
that prehistoric or Romano-British fields are static remnants of the past, or even
primitive stages in an evolutionary sequence of land allotment and agriculture.
Earlier work made this explicit, as in Curwens diagram illustrating Celtic fields
of south-east Britain along with changing cultivation technologies (1927, 276).
The idea of relict fields also has resonances with the analogy of landscapes as
palimpsests, with the material traces of peoples past activities repeatedly reinscribed onto the land, and different surviving forms of fields the fixed type-fossils
for each major chronological period. As I have discussed, there can be a tendency for
this in some GIS-based NMP and HLC studies.

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figure 4 Detail of Areas 1


and 2 at Lincolnshire Way,
Armthorpe, excavated by
AS WYAS. The varying ditch
widths and the staggered
nature of the trackway
junctions indicate a
landscape that developed
over time (Source: A.
Leaver, after Rose and
Richardson 2004, Figures 4
and 7).

Landscapes are not simple, sedimented accumulations of the past, however, and
are the result of very dynamic processes and histories (Chadwick 2008a, 67). It is
often impossible to separate distinct time slices some boundaries from earlier
occupation may have become disused, but others might be incorporated into later
land allotment (Bradley and Fulford 2008, 1178; Williamson 2008, 12630). The
remains of earlier landscape features might themselves have had social meanings to
later people, in the form of memories, myths or stories associated with them.
Dilapidated walls, banks and buildings and overgrown hedges or scrub in previously
cultivated or grazed areas may have been actively drawn upon by later communities
in conscious engagements with the past (Evans 2003, 356).
There are still considerable problems with chronology. Many of the features
plotted by NMP studies are undated, including entire blocks and systems of fields.
Even if some elements of a field system have been excavated, and dateable material
has been recovered (especially problematic with upland sites), this does not of
course date the entire system. Resolving such problematic dating and working with
very different scales of time pose great challenges for how archaeologists plot and
represent features, as the following case studies demonstrate.

Back Newton Lane, Ledston


At Back Newton Lane, Ledston, near Castleford in West Yorkshire, extensive
geophysical survey and trial trenching by Archaeological Services WYAS identified

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ADRIAN CHADWICK

figure 5 Back
Newton Lane, Ledston,
with features revealed
by an AS WYAS
magnetometry survey.
Probable Bronze Age,
Iron Age and RomanoBritish features are
shown in red, with
probable medieval
ridge and furrow
marked in green
(Source: A. Leaver,
after a geophysical
plot in Webb 2006).

ploughed out Bronze Age round barrows, Late Iron Age and Romano-British fields
and enclosures, and medieval ridge and furrow (Walsh 2008; Webb 2006). If
transcribed into a GIS as a series of conventional time slices, this would obscure
the subtle relationships between the different features. Some Iron Age or RomanoBritish boundaries persisted for many centuries and were respected by medieval
furrows, while other features including some enclosures were obliterated by them
(Figure 5). It may be more productive to examine how and why some features
were reworked and accrued memories or new meanings in later centuries (Cooper
and Edmonds 2007).

Balby Carr
At Balby Carr, a low-lying area south-east of Doncaster, another apparently
regular field system block of fields and enclosures proved more complex.
Excavations by the Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit found that
fields and paddocks originated in the later Iron Age, but expanded and continued
in use during the Romano-British period (Jones et al. 2007). Additional excavation
by Archaeological Services WYAS identified many roundhouses and associated
artefacts (Muldowney 2008; Rose and Roberts 2006), with one area producing

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figure 6 Areas and


features excavated by
BUFAU and AS WYAS
at Balby Carr,
Doncaster, including
field boundaries,
roundhouses but also
the numerous narrow
gullies (Source: A.
Leaver, after
Muldowney 2008
Figures 2 and 3).

evidence for a series of narrow, irregular spade-dug gullies draining into the lowest
lying part of the site (Figure 6). Some contained Iron Age sherds, and probably silted
up fairly quickly. They were later superseded by larger boundary ditches. At a
macro-level of analysis this detail was simply not apparent because only the largest
boundaries were visible on aerial photographs. Yet here was an incredibly finegrained chronology, each gully perhaps reflecting use of the area over just one or two
seasons, a remarkable series of brief snapshots of time.
In parts of Britain there were some post-Roman continuities from Iron Age and
Romano-British landscapes (Oosthuizen 2003; Williamson 2008), but within the
study region the plans and orientations of medieval and later fields showed few
such similarities (Roberts et al. 2010, 83; Unwin 1983). There were major ruptures
with what had gone before. As at Back Newton Lane, however, some individual
features persisted. Near Micklefield, a Romano-British trackway formed the
Norman township boundary between Ledston and Micklefield; it was depicted on
the 18423 Ordnance Survey map and is still visible as a hollow-way (Brown et al.

24

ADRIAN CHADWICK

2007, 1079). At Armthorpe, a few co-axial field boundaries were on the same
orientation as early modern fields (Richardson 2008, Figure 2). A small number of
hedges or earthworks thus survived, such lines on the land influencing later
generations of ditch diggers and hedge layers.

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Social scales of analysis


Intriguingly, these tensions in the scales of methodological and analytical
approaches might to some extent reflect social stresses that might have existed
between structure and agency in past communities (Barrett 2001; Dobres and
Robb 2000; Johnson 1989). The difficulties that we have as researchers in moving
between these scales of analysis may in part reflect the slippery, hard-to-grasp
nature of social processes, which sociologists and anthropologists have also
grappled with for many years (Barth 1987; Bourdieu 1992; Giddens 1984).
Archaeologists have explored similar issues in considering whether large-scale, coaxial field systems resulted from centralised planning, perhaps over relatively
short periods; or from the co-operative work of many different communities
over time (for example Fleming 1998; Herring 2008; Johnston 2005; Wickstead
2008; Widgren 1990). Trying to tack back and forth between the detail of
individual ditch sections and extensive swathes of field systems, might thus in
part mirror differences between individuals or small groups in the past and much
wider social organisations and networks, and between personal actions and
group dynamics.
Co-axial fields elsewhere in Britain have been described as terrain oblivious, with
main boundaries sometimes ignoring the natural topography of hills and valleys
(Fleming 1987, 190; McOmish et al. 2002, 535; Williamson 2008, 133). On
Dartmoor and the Wessex Downs, some boundaries do cut across natural
topography, but such assertions may be over-generalised, and in part a product of
scales of analysis and representation (Johnston 2001, 2005; Wickstead 2008).
Within South and West Yorkshire and north Nottinghamshire, for example, many
trackways and long boundaries within co-axial field blocks were orientated towards
rivers (Deegan 1996; Robbins 1998), and GIS-based analyses have highlighted that
field systems were in fact often terrain sensitive (Deegan 2007, Figures 6.25).
Although occasionally floodplain areas were enclosed by Later Iron Age or RomanoBritish ditch systems (Jones et al. 2007; Morris and Garton 1998), most brickwork
fields followed ridges of slightly higher ground, a pattern not simply a result of later
alluviation and peat formation. On the Magnesian Limestone and Coal Measures,
many higher areas remained unenclosed, with fields occupying the slopes between
hilltops and ridgelines, and valley bottoms. Trackways made use of subtle folds of
ground, or may have followed less tangible traces of previous movement trampled
ground and other ancestral marks (Giles 2007, 109). Detailed excavation and
micro-scale analyses thus suggest that the uniformity of even apparently regular coaxial field systems might be misleading, and that we may be seeing different social
and temporal scales of organisation and development.
In many field systems, large-scale and longer term planning does seem to have
taken place, with major boundaries perhaps laid out to establish equitable access

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to land and resources, based partly on already existing rights and tenure, but
also on negotiation. On Dartmoor, Salisbury Plain and the Sussex Downs,
people and communities may have enclosed some areas over a relatively short
period of time (English 2012; Fleming 1987; McOmish et al. 2002). This was
structure, backed up either by the power of leading elite individuals and lineages,
or alternatively by tradition and the collective will of communities (Fleming
1987, 1998; Yates 2007). The variations within even regular blocks of fields,
however, suggest that much work also took place at a relatively localised level,
perhaps organised along kinship and clan lines (Bruck et al. 2003; Chadwick
1999, 2004b; Johnston 2005). Subsequent repetitive patterning arose from
shared traditions of land allotment and daily and seasonal practices and routines
(Riles 1998; Shipton 1984; Wickstead 2008). Fields also resulted from dynamic
changes in inheritance and rights of access and tenure. There were further
renegotiations and reinterpretations, and some boundaries and fields were
maintained or reused while others fell out of use. This reflected the agency of
individuals and groups.
Routine maintenance of ditches or field walls and banks was probably
undertaken by a few individuals on a relatively prosaic basis, but other ditch
digging or bank construction involved the renewal of whole sections of
boundaries and the construction of new ones. Households or larger kinship
groups might have undertaken such reiterative gestures (Giles 2000, 183) linked
to tenure and identity, and some boundaries may even have been remembered as
the work of particular individuals (Lele 2006, 65). This reinforced social bonds,
with trackways and boundaries between blocks of fields perhaps the shared work
of neighbouring households (Arensberg and Kimball 1948, 745; Phillips 1984,
237). These episodes might have marked changing seasons, key moments in
human lives such as deaths and marriages, and/or major changes in ownership,
access or tenure. There might have been tensions too disputes between
neighbouring groups over access to grazing or water, or fears of loss of tenure or
ownership.
This complexity was also true of the Romano-British period, where the evidence for
centralised planning or even centuriation remains unconvincing (cf. Berry 1949;
Branigan 1989; Mason 1988; Peterson 1988). Even the claimed Roman imperial
estates in the East Anglian Fens with planned administrative and market centres
(Jackson and Potter 1996) have been questioned (Taylor 2000). Although agricultural
extensification and intensification undoubtedly took place following the Roman
conquest of Britain, due in part to the demands of the army, taxation and expanding
urban populations (Roberts 2008), these were also a consequence of acculturation and
changes to traditional forms of tenure and inheritance (Chadwick 2010, 2036).
It is human scales of experiencing the world that have been outlined so far. Yet
these extensive landscapes of field systems, trackways and settlements were also
inhabited and experienced by animals too. Features such as droveways, funnelshaped crushes and narrow races were partly constructed according to
understandings of the behaviour of livestock, and thus in a very real sense animals
too helped to shape these landscapes (Chadwick 2007).

26

ADRIAN CHADWICK

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figure 7 An enclosure ditch at Wattle


Syke near Wetherby, West Yorkshire,
completely excavated in controlled
machine-excavated spits after hand-dug
sections had been previously recorded.
In the foreground are the large
postholes of a wooden entrance
structure mostly exposed only after
machine excavation (Source: AS WYAS).

Sampling scales and improvements


I wish to end by examining the scales of on-site analyses, especially on commercial
developer-funded projects. Routine radiocarbon dating is vital, and dozens of
dates must be used to try and establish dates for the complex sequences of digging
and re-digging of ditches. Recent large-scale dating programmes for Neolithic
monuments, combined with Bayesian modelling of the results, have provided
evidence for activities that can be narrowed down to decades (for example Whittle
et al. 2011). It would be exciting to attempt such dating for later prehistoric or
Romano-British fields, to address the historicity of individual boundaries and
blocks of fields, and investigate if they were laid out relatively quickly, or were
constructed incrementally over a lengthier period of time. Where the geology is
suitable, Optically Stimulated Luminescence dating, soil micro-morphology,
pollen analysis and geochemical techniques such as magnetic susceptibility and
phosphate analysis could be employed (Chadwick 2010, 4513).
Scale is also an issue for excavation strategies and methodologies. Extensive open
area excavation has to be combined with nuanced, contextual approaches to the
individual ditch sections themselves, and the often subtle evidence for practices such
as re-cutting. Greater on-site sampling of features is productive, with some curators
and research frameworks insisting that 20 percent of all Iron Age and RomanoBritish field ditches are excavated by hand, and between 2550 percent of enclosure
ditches (Chadwick 2009, 137). Remaining enclosure ditch fills can then be fully
excavated in controlled machine-dug spits (Figure 7). This recovers far more pottery
and animal bone, providing better spatial and chronological information, and also
revealing previously unknown entrances and placed deposits.

Conclusions
Fields, enclosures and trackways were not a static, functional backdrop to peoples
rural existences, but instead held great social, historical and symbolic significance.
By combining GIS mapping and spatial analyses with detailed contextual
approaches to the evidence, and tacking back and forth between macro-scale

SOME FISHY THINGS ABOUT SCALES

27

and micro-scale modes of representation and methods of analysis, we can write


more nuanced accounts, and thus do honour to the lives of the people and
animals that created these landscapes. We must always remember that we are
dealing with past people and social practices, not just typologies or databases.

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History and tradition are important. People may use walls and fields to structure
relationships among themselves, but they choose these areas because they already
relate to them in their social lives, as with age or gender oppositions during the harvest,
because they are familiar with them, and because the fields were themselves
constructed as a means of social engagement in the first place and so have their own
depth of meaning in the social domain. (Evans 2003, 29)

Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Anwen Cooper, Chris Gosden, Letty Ten Harkel and Laura
Morley of the EngLaId project for inviting me to speak at the seminar at the
University of Oxford in April 2012, and for permitting me to contribute to this
special issue of Landscapes, along with their editorial suggestions. An anonymous
external reviewer made cogent comments on the previous draft. I have benefited
enormously over the years from discussions with many friends and colleagues,
whom unfortunately I cannot individually acknowledge here. I am extremely
grateful to Anne Leaver for the illustrations and to Toby Catchpole and Jane
Richardson for additional information. Colin Merrony and Robert Johnston of the
University of Sheffield provided access to and permission to reproduce some of the
images from the Sheffield Library of Aerial Photographs (SLAP) that belonged to
the late Derrick Riley. Jane Richardson and Ian Roberts of Archaeological Services
WYAS kindly gave permission to reproduce a photograph from the Wattle Syke
investigations. I am indebted as always to Catriona Gibson for reading through
early drafts of this article, and for all of her ideas and support.

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Notes on contributor

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Adrian M. Chadwick is Senior Project Officer (Research) for AC Archaeology.


Since 1990 he has worked for many British commercial archaeology field units,
where he has written or edited HLC, NMP and Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment
reports. He was a lecturer at the University of Wales, Newport, and has also taught
at the Universities of Bristol and Sheffield. His research interests include landscape
archaeology, field systems, human-animal relations, and archaeological theory and
practice. He edited Stories from the Landscape: Archaeologies of Inhabitation
(2004), and Recent Approaches to the Archaeology of Land Allotment (2008).
Contact: adrianchadwick@yahoo.co.uk