Manifestations of Empire

Palaeoenvironmental Analysis and the End of Roman Britain 20-month project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Project Overview

What happened at the end of the Roman period in Britain is a contentious issue that both historians and archaeologists have struggled to fully explain. Some experts argue that there was widespread continuity between the late Roman and early medieval periods, whilst others favour discontinuity associated with abrupt short-term change. The problem is that there are few historical sources, a limited number of archaeological sites with good dating material, and very little evidence with which to explore the use and function of the sites that have been identified. This 20-month project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) will offer a new perspective on the debate by adopting an approach that spans both the Roman and Early Medieval periods and seeks to examine the transition between them through a programme of high resolution pollen analysis focused on South East Wales.

Pollen analysis has long been used by archaeologists to reconstruct past agrarian and land-use patterns, particularly for prehistoric periods, but for this project the technique is used to provide evidence about the patterns of land-use and agricultural exploitation associated with important Roman and early medieval settlement sites, including Dinas Powys promontory fort and Caerwent Roman town. The team will explore how the use and function of settlements changed, and assess the degree to which there was continuity between the late Roman and early medieval periods.

The project focuses upon South East Wales, an area identified as having special significance for the debate about the Roman to early medieval transition, as it represents a rare example of a part of the Western Roman Empire which, although ‘Romanized’, was not subject to 'barbarian' incursion following its collapse in the fifth century.

Public Engagement

We will be working in partnership with the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Angharad Wynne to deliver benefits from our research to the wider community. Engagement activities will include a programme of events with theVale Ambassadors and the development of a walking route guide and information pack. Together these initiatives will invigorate public understanding and enjoyment of the history and archaeology of the Vale of Glamorgan, and in turn strengthen the local tourist industry.

Project Team

Principle Investigator: Dr Andy Seaman, Canterbury Christ Church University

Co-investigator: Professor Stephen Rippon, University of Exeter

Post-doctoral Researcher: Dr Tudur Davies

Advisory Board

Dr Peter Guest, Cardiff University

Dr Alan Lane, Cardiff University

Professor Wendy Davies, Emerita UCL

Professor Ralph Fyfe, Plymouth University

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. For further information on the AHRC, please go to:


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Last edited: 13/12/2018 20:06:00