University of Sussex
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Middle and Late Bronze Age settlement on the South Downs: the case study of Black Patch

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posted on 2023-06-08, 14:00 authored by Richard Quinn Tapper
By integrating the corpus of existing knowledge with new information gained by applying geo-archaeological techniques as well as more traditional techniques to fresh archaeological investigations at Black Patch and elsewhere, the aims of the research are to look at the economy, social organization and ritual behaviour of life in the Middle and Late Bronze Age on the South Downs in the light of modern archaeological theory to consider the questions ‘Why were these areas chosen for settlement?’, ‘What caused their abandonment?’ and ‘What can we learn about the life of the people associated with the settlements?’. The combination of field walking, field survey and soil sampling has shown the presence of a Neolithic flint spread, woodland clearance and agriculture before and during the period of site settlement at Black Patch. The positioning of the Hut platforms and enclosures across existing lynchets, the modification of the existing field system, the establishment of a new one and the adoption of more intensive farming techniques (manuring, weeding and crop location and rotation) would imply a change of social order and the adoption of a sedentary lifestyle for some. The existence of centrally placed hearths in huts found at Black Patch brings into doubt the existing day/night life/death metaphor currently commonly used for this period. Structured deposition points to a society concerned with agricultural fertility. The abandonment of Black Patch identified by Drewett and the dearth of later dated artefacts, at about the same time as the abandonment of the only other positively identified Deverel-Rimbury site in the immediate area, Itford Hill, suggests another change of social order, with livestock becoming more important as the Downland area around Black Patch appears then to be used only by nomadic herders. Areas to the west of the River Ouse which had been settled earlier developed more complicated specialist production sites. These have yet to be found east of the River Ouse


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