Stephanie Smith

Settlement and Connectivity in the English Channel: the Isle of Wight and its setting in the Iron Age and Roman periods

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council

This project investigates the settlement history of coastal southern Britain during c. 1000 BC to 500 AD and the character of connectivity across the Channel zone during this period.

Start Date: July 2016
End Date: June 2020
Themes: The 'lives' of objects from their making, use, reception, loss, collection and later use and understanding. What objects can reveal about the social, cultural, religious, creative and political history of their makers, users, owners, depositors and collectors.
Research discipline: Archaeology
Location: Europe
Staff member: Sam Moorhead
Departments: Learning & National Partnerships; Coins & Medals; Britain, Europe & Prehistory
University and department: Learning & National Partnerships; Coins & Medals; Britain, Europe & Prehistory
University supervisor: John Pearce

How can finds help us to understand ancient settlement on the Island?

Mapping the distribution of artefact findspots upon the landscape using mapping software can help identify areas of frequent, long-term or unusual activity and can connect known sites with other related activity.

What can coins tell us about the activity of ancient people?

Identifying where a coin originated can indicate the distance it travelled before it was lost. Coins with production dates are used to identify the date after which a site was occupied.

How many finds have been recorded by the PAS on the Isle of Wight?

Over 16,700 finds have been recorded from the Island, with more than 500 objects dating to the Iron Age and 4000 of Roman date.

About my research

Islands, by their very nature are often treated as isolated locations, internally-facing and remote from mainland society. However, recent discoveries suggest that the inhabitants of the Isle of Wight engaged in wider maritime activity within the Solent from prehistoric times. By the Iron Age and Roman periods the Island was part of a vast maritime network of interaction between coastal southern Britain and the Continent, extending as far as the Mediterranean.

Historical explorations of the Island were often limited to visible sites upon the landscape, such as Roman villas, and this has previously hindered our understanding of more subtle changes in settlement and connectivity over time. In contrast, PAS material is recorded at a high density and coverage for the Island and along coastal southern Britain. This project will develop a methodology for assessing both localized developments on the Island and compare insular developments to those identified from the greater Channel zone.

Aims of my research

This project seeks to:

- Understand the distribution of settlement activity on the Isle of Wight as documented by PAS finds, excavations and related resources.

- Assess the characteristics of settlement form and function on the Island by analysing finds assemblages and professional reports.

- Identify evidence for connectivity of the Island to the wider Channel zone

- Compare the nature and distribution of settlement on the Island to those of neighbouring regions, especially the southern British coast.

- Discuss the ways in which ‘community-sourced’ information supports the creation of archaeological data.