SARF Conference Oct 2008

Surrey Archaeological Research Framework (SARF) Conference

Surrey Archaeological Society held its annual SARF Conference on Saturday 4th October 2008 at The Letherhead Institute. The Surrey Archaeological Research Framework was launched in 2006 and has been used as a basis for the development of further research in the County. The annual conference is a chance to assess how the Framework is being used and how it is evolving, and this year was ably organized by the Prehistoric Group.

Surrey County Council’s support has been instrumental to the set up and continuing development of SARF and so it was fitting that the Chairman for the morning session was none other than Joe Flatman, Surrey Heritage Conservation Team Manager .The first speaker to be introduced was Dr. David Field of English Heritage who started by suggesting that we need to look beyond the Channel and put aside boundaries to gain a wider view of prehistoric activity. The relationship between evidence for prehistoric activity (in the form of round barrows, banjo enclosures and artefacts, such as flint and BA axes) and geology, topography and rivers was examined. For Surrey, the convergence of geologies such as the Wey and Mole Gaps are likely sites for prehistoric activity, and wooded areas that remain removed from agricultural activity may shield archaeology that could be highlighted by the use of LIDAR (Light detection and Ranging). David Field concluded by discussing the hypothetical landscape of Doggerland which until the Mesolithic period joined England to Continental Europe.

Next, Becky Lambert from Surrey County Council Archaeological Unit (SCAU) spoke on the use of SARF within a commercial framework. She argued that rather than a divide between research and commercial archaeology all archaeology should be developmental. The Research Framework does have relevance in commercial archaeology where activity has expanded dramatically in contrast to the decline in university-based research. Becky used examples of recent SCAU activity at ChristchurchSchool, Guildford, and

Sandhill Lane
, Thorpe, to highlight the benefits of using the Research Framework. The final speaker of the morning was Peter Harp, of the Plateau Group, discussing work the group had undertaken over a period of two years at Nork allotments. Field walking had uncovered upwards of 10,000 flint tools, Romano-British pottery sherds, medieval shell tempered ware and roof tile. Peter concluded that the site had been useful for training purposes and allotments can be good sites to field walk as they are usually indicative of fertile soils and settlement. Discussion following the morning session concentrated on the potential benefits of LIDAR in Surrey and how it would require a grant or joint project with other counties/ societies to make it viable due to its expense.

After lunch the afternoon’s Chairman, David Calow (SyAS’s Honorary Secretary) introduced three diverse talks based on Farming and Farmsteads. Judie English discussed the latest on Bronze Age field systems: why they might have developed, how they are recognized, the difficulties in dating them, how they were aligned and current locations being researched in Wiltshire and East Sussex. David Bird (Vice President and Chair of Roman Studies Group) then tackled the subject of Roman-period farmsteads in Surrey and the lack of good evidence for this important aspect of Roman Britain. Evidence for rural settlement is scanty with little evidence for buildings, crops or animals; buildings associated with villas, such as at Beddington and Rapsley, may have been used for agricultural purposes. SARF highlights this dearth of evidence, as does the South-East Framework but Surrey is well placed to produce nationally important evidence and the Roman Studies Group plan to use its recently developed database as a basis for future work. Dennis Turner was the final speaker of the day delivering a paper on behalf of Peter Youngs on Medieval farmsteads (5th-15th century AD). Little evidence is known from Surrey thus a more national perspective was employed. Temperatures in the medieval period are known to have dropped after a late Roman high, population levels are thought to have declined and urbanisation was a thing of the past. Evidence for early churches and barns in Essex, the ability to build complex wooden structures, and the use of timber-framed wattle and daub were discussed as was animal husbandry. What little evidence there is suggests that Surrey settlements are more dispersed than other parts of the country and it was concluded that social change seemed to take place more rapidly than farming methods in this period. After the final panel discussion David Calow succinctly summed up the day’s events and thanked the speakers and David Graham, President of the Society concluded proceedings with comments on Taking Forward the SARF Process.

Nikki Cowlard and Lesley Hays