A selection of ceramics through the ages (5 second delay) Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology The Collections:
PotWeb: Ceramics online
@ the Ashmolean Museum
Early Europe & Near East
Classical to Medieval
Europe from 1500
Oriental & Islamic
Questions to be answered


As summarised on the previous page, Martin Biddle came to the conclusion that the village of Seacourt consisted of a number of dwellings, stretched out along both sides of a central road.


He also mentions the 'typical' Seacourt house, being some 25 ft by 14 ft, thatched, with hearth and no internal partitions.


However, the site was last looked at nearly 40 years ago under the pressure of being a 'RESCUE' excavation due to the impending western by-pass construction.


It must be remembered that any information gleaned from a site can only be as accurate as the evidence recovered and the techniques available at the time. Over 40 years have passed and technology, ideas and archaeology itself have progressed.


Seacourt is just one of a number of sites that has potentially more information to offer us than what was published in its original report. It is for this reason that we are once again 're-examining' these sites by means of reviewing the available documentary and material evidence.



' What is meant by the term RESCUE archaeology? '


The majority of excavations carried out in Britain today fall under the category of Rescue Archaeology. With an ever increasing rate of development, a need to record the archaeological information of sites, particularly those in towns, quickly and efficiently, is needed:

click within the green area for full article

source: Oxford News, 1958

Seacourt was one such a site, with the need to gather as much information as possible before the bulldozers arrived, scraping the whole area flat in preparation for the western by-pass. The photograph shows Area 4.



One of the first things to be done when examining any archaeological site is to analyse stratigraphical make-up. However, much of Seacourt was unstratified, other areas were very complex, and due to the four-week placement, a comprehensive study was not undertaken by this author.



'What is stratigraphy ?'


One of the first principles of archaeological interpretation states that where one deposit overlies another, the uppermost layer must have accumulated later in time than the lower, which could not have been inserted beneath a layer already there (See Fig. 4.1 below).

For this case-study we are going to take a closer look at two areas of Seacourt, comparing the excavated ceramic material of both to see if there are any significant differences which could perhaps lead us to a greater understanding of the function of the structures within.



Area 11 Almost exactly in the centre of the village, a stone building probably of early 14th century date was discovered. The plan is quite clear, with evidence of a cobbled entrance both inside and outside the building, eventually merging with the paved street. Inside the building against the back wall was a large oval hearth of burnt clay replacing an earlier hearth. On the right of the entrance was a stone-built drain falling towards the cobbled area. A semi-circular feature attached to the north end of the building was thought to be a staircase.


This building is quite different from the others excavated at Seacourt it is larger, it may have had an upper storey and it is situated at the centre of the village. Therefore, Biddle suggests it may have been an inn.



Figure 4.1 Sections from Area 11, 1958/59

The stratified sections of Area 11 can be seen clearly from these diagrams drawn by Martin Biddle, 1963.


source: Biddle (1963)

Check against the pop-up map of Seacourt, (Fig. 3) to locate the section points of Area 11.

Area 4 was described as a typical Seacourt house. Therefore, Area 4 was selected as a comparative measure to that of Area 11.


It is likely that the material excavated from the site of a house would differ from that excavated from the area of an inn. The possibility of Area 11 actually being an inn is rather interesting and will form the basis for our question to be answered.

It is extremely difficult to be 100% confident as to the function of a building through examination of potsherds and ground plans alone. However, through the use of visual and statistical analysis, we can elucidate whether, for example, a difference in activities between the two areas might be reflected in different proportions of ceramic materials.


Figure 4.2 Photograph revealing the ground plan of the typical house in Area 4, 1958/59.

source: Biddle (1963)

... Background ... Index ... Quantification ...
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