The aims of the project are set out in detail in the “WSI”. These are broadly grouped into period specific aims and more thematic aims.
Period Specific Aims
Pre – Roman
Is there any evidence of the Pre-Roman topography in the area of the site?
Is there any evidence for Pre-Roman activity or occupation in the study area?
If so, what was the character and nature of this activity.
How do the Roman deposits found on site relate to the wider “site” of the Eastern Cemetery? In particular attention should be paid to understanding the Roman deposits within their wider social and archaeological context. How far do the deposits on site fit into this context?
What was the character and nature of the Roman occupation of this part of the cemetery. How was this land used during the Roman period and is there evidence for changing use during the period?
Particular attention should be paid to dating the sequence of deposits in order to relate them to the other archaeological excavations in the cemetery.
Given that burials were found in only one area of the site during evaluation, is there evidence for different land uses across the site area and also in relation to the wider cemetery site. In what way can different land areas be defined? Particular attention should be paid to accurate dating of the sequence in order to address these issues correctly.
Are the linear features found on the site site evidence for land division during this period, if so, can these features be related to other analysis of land use to form a coherent picture of the way different parts of the cemetery may have been organised and used?
Particular attention should be paid to correctly dating and sequencing any burials encountered in order to allow more detailed analyses to follow.
Given that the site only represents a fraction of the wider cemetery area, analysis of population and demographic questions must be addressed as part of wider research into the cemetery. In order to facilitate this, it is essential to produce datasets which are compatible with those of the wider cemetery.
How far do the populations encountered on the study site follow the trends found in other parts of the cemetery and how far do they differ? Does this provide evidence for or against differential use and occupation of the cemetery?
Techniques such as GIS based spatial analysis which were not available during the last major cemetery excavations should now be used to look at distribution patterns across the wider cemetery site. These techniques may facilitate analysis of the distribution of particular artefact or burial types.
Other non burial remains dating to this period are also highly significant in terms of the way they allow us to address questions of land use in the wider cemetery area during this period. These activities may be related to funerary practice (eg cremation pyres) but equally they may relate to other types of activity that we would not typically expect in a cemetery. Particular attention will be paid to all deposits from this period in order to address these issues.
“Activities of the Living” are also highly significant (Bowsher: Pers. Comm.). The presence of rubbish pits and refuse from this period are highly significant in terms of understanding the way that the cemetery was used by the living. Environmental evidence may also be useful in understanding the extent to which the cemetery was maintained and how it may have looked. In addition any evidence for ancient land surfaces and occupation layers should be treated as highly significant.
What evidence is there for the ritual use of plant foods in London’s Eastern Roman cemetery? (Davis 2006)
Is there evidence for the way the cemetery was laid out initially, is there any connection with earlier landscapes or features?
Is there any evidence for the way that the cemetery stopped being used? Does the final use of the cemetery reflect changing populations?
At what date did the earliest post Roman use of the site take place? Is there any evidence that may be Saxon in date?
Is there any evidence that the medieval remains on the site related to the Roman layout in any way? Or is the site unoccupied during the early medieval period?
What are the nature of the medieval archaeological deposits? Evidence from the evaluation indicated that the medieval remains on site are not structural, but rather take the form of rubbish dumping.
What was the function of the medieval and post-medieval pits? Can they provide an indication of the nature and level of activity within the vicinity, and of the economy and status of the associated residents?
What was the nature, economy and environment of the late medieval activity?
To what extents is the late medieval rubbish dumping a ‘new’ phenomenon? At what date does it begin and is there any evidence for the nature of land use before this activity began?
What is the structure of the rubbish dumping on the site? Is this material produced from sporadic of disorganised activity or is it the result of a more structured waste disposal activity?
Rubbish deposits are often highly rich in environmental and artefactual remains, but particular attention to provenance of the material is key to understanding this material beyond it’s intrinsic value. There is in fact a risk of generating a huge volume of material that has little archaeological value. Therefore, in excavation of rubbish deposits, particular attention must be paid to attempting to understand in detail the date/nature/structure and provenance of the material.
Aside from the rubbish dumping activity, is there any evidence of medieval activity on the site and if so does this show change over time?
Post – Medieval
At least three distinct phases of post medieval activity on the site were identified during the evaluation. The aim of the project should be to elaborate theses phases and to try to understand the development of the site within the context of the growth of London as a city of international significance. At the same time, the social and cultural context of this change is reflected in the evidence on site and this is valuable evidence of the way that the population and way of life changed in the East End during this period.
How far is the earliest activity on site related to medieval land use? Is there a distinct break or perhaps evidence for continuity of land use?
What was the nature, economy and environment of the early post- medieval activity?
A putative “cultivation soil” was identified in the evaluation. What does this horizon represent?
Is there any evidence for large scale dumping of material following the Great fire of London in 1666? If so, can this material be sampled to provide archaeological viable assemblages?
The first phase of ‘development’ of the site is for high status residential buildings. How is this development reflected in the archaeological record? Is there evidence for the lives of the residents at this time? How far is this new land use a break with the earlier phases?
Changing status of the area during the later post medieval period meant that the nature of land use completely changed. Is this change manifested in the evidence on site, and if so, how?
Particular attention should be paid to the existing documentary sources for this period. The archaeological remains should be related to this material, but always with an open mind that the archaeology may either agree with or challenge the documentary evidence.
What was the nature and character of this occupation?
Does the distribution and nature of this activity give any evidence as to the type and nature of land use in this area of the city?
As far as possible, these aims have been defined with reference to the current London research framework (Museum of London 2002). The theme reference numbers have been quoted. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of these themes but is an indicator of the key themes that the evidence from the site seems most likely to address:
Demography, Death and Disease (TS5 p85)
This is perhaps the most obvious theme that the site should aim to address. The buried population on the site forms part of a wider cemetery group and this group as a whole forms a significant part of our knowledge of the population of Roman London.
Excavation of a cemetery gives an opportunity to study ancient populations but it also gives the opportunity to study lifestyle and diet issues.
This research aim seeks not only to address demographic and biological concerns about these populations, but also to consider wider issues of burial practices and religious issues.
Another key factor is understanding the way that the cemetery relates to other features of the Roman city and its layout and organisation functionally and spiritually.
Identity Ethnicity and Social Status (TS4 p.85)
Cemetery evidence is one of the most powerful tools for addressing these kinds of ideas within archaeology. In combination with analysis of the surrounding sites, patterns or groupings within the cemetery may become apparent and if so would be highly significant.
Likewise with theme TS1 questions of ethnic identity between native and immigrant populations may be addressed the issue for example of interaction between native Britons and Romans and the nature of this encounter.
Transition Periods (TC2 p.87)
The site is occupied from around the 1st century up to the present day. Some of the key transition periods fall within this timeframe. Evidence from the site may be relevant to some of these periods.
It is important to investigate the transition from the Roman to medieval period and evidence of the nature of this transition may be found.
The post medieval sequence on site also holds important data about London’s transition from medieval city to capital of the British Empire and status as a world city.
Consumption (TE3 p. 83)
The dumped deposits especially those dating to the post medieval period may contain contain valuable evidence of the way Londoners consumed and disposed of the remains of various classes of material from food to clothing to luxury goods. The presence of pottery, faunal materials, ecofacts and other classes of data provide an assemblage that can be compared to other deposits of similar material identified within different areas of the city (Theme TE3 Museum of London 2002).
Does the dumping give us any evidence for municipal organisation or the opposite? Are changes in this apparent over time and if so then why?
These aims are intended as a guide to way the excavation should be conducted these aims should be seen as a starting point, some will doubtless prove irrelevant as other aims will become apparent as we excavate the site.