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‘Late Antique Field Archaeology’: A Legitimate Aim?

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Chapter Summary

This paper discusses some issues raised by Lavan et al. (2007) in relation to the study of everyday life: that is, do we need a distinctive set of fieldwork practices to investigate late antique sites? I will argue here that such an objective is both unnecessary and unhelpful. Instead, we should invest in reconnaissance and evaluation by using non-invasive techniques in advance of destructive excavation, then develop a more focused strategy by enhanced deposit modelling, involving a consideration of preservation levels, degrees of disturbance and deposit status. This has already been done successfully on several late antique sites, which I consider here. The above argument has important implications for the role of ‘interpretation at the point of the trowel’ in fieldwork practice. Counter to most recent commentators, I contend that, if we are to fully understand complex late antique archaeology, it is essential to retain a distinction between data gathered during excavation and interpretations reached as a result of their subsequent analysis.



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