I have spent so much time agonising about having an interpretive framework, or theoretical ‘hook’ upon which I can base my fieldwork. I want to look at the maritime of western Sussex. The voice inside asks: “So what? You dig some stuff up. There’s a ditch there. How are you going to bring that into context?” My work, while it was interesting to me, lacked a way that this research could participate in national discussions. I knew I wanted to look at the waterscapes of this particular county, and looking at how the environment, proximity to the sea and overseas communication influenced the development of identities there. This allows for the inter-comparison of equivalent sub-regions elsewhere in Europe, simultaneously providing analogies as well as opportunities for further research. The abstract of my proposal:
This thesis explores the nature and extent of maritime contact between southern Britain and other North Sea societies during the early medieval period, c.450 to 1100 AD. Case studies within a sub-region, the coastal plain and tidal rivers of West Sussex, will be analysed to construct a systematic narrative of cross-channel contact and its impact on the development of social identities in the North Sea zone. The archaeological evidence for analysis is mainly composed of recovered portable cultural material, combined with surveyed and excavated evidence of sites within the landscape. Multidisciplinary analysis and use of multiple sources of evidence will be used to explore and illustrate the role of overseas contact in developing social complexity and change in this period and to challenge existing models.
At the core of this thesis are two related questions: to what extent was interregional contact affecting the creation and reproduction of social affiliations and identities? How did this play out in the maritime environment of West Sussex? This research is situated to construct an interpretive framework to address these issues as well as conduct original fieldwork to gather more data.
The full research proposal, with references, is available under the “About this Research” tab.