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The Roman Pottery of Kent
by Dr Richard J. Pollard  -  Chapter 2  page 24
Doctoral thesis completed in 1982, published 1988

   A second problem results from the treatment of very different quantities of material of any given pottery type as a single score on the matrices. Types of minor significance in terms of numbers of sherds are elevated to the same importance as major types. This raises problems of interpretation particularly where high-status sites such as towns, military bases, or well-appointed villas are concerned, for these tend to have a wide range of exotic ‘kitchen wares’ occurring in very small quantities that are far more common on sites in different locations. Thus, Canterbury has revealed one or two sherds of first-century West Kent shelly wares (abundant west of the Medway), and Richborough’s pottery includes a single Dales Ware jar (Bushe-Fox 1928, no. 147), the only site south of Caistor St. Edmund to do so (Loughlin 1977, 109, fig. 6). A high-status site in one distribution zone may be computed to have a much higher degree of similarity with a site in a second zone than visual inspection of assemblages would suggest.

The distribution map has long been a primary technique for presenting archaeological data and facilitating the interpretation of those data. The methodology of interpretation was one of the main aspects of the development of archaeological theory and method in the 1970s (e.g. Hodder and Orton 1976; Clarke 1977, with references) invoking and adapting a wide range of techniques developed by other disciplines, in particular geography and plant ecology. One of the main stimulants to this development was the recognition of the fallibility of subjective assessments of distributions: underlying structure may not always be easily discernible to the  human eye, and the recognition of only those patterns and structures which the researcher wishes to see is a distinct possibility. These problems have been discussed by Hodder and Orton 

(1976, 1—10) with particular reference to the archaeology of prehistory. Two aspects of this discussion may be focused upon: the plotting of both positive and negative data, and the distinction of random from non-random distributions.
   Fox’s classic study of The Personality of Britain (revised edition 1943) is criticised by Hodder and Orton (1976, 3) for failing to take account of the effect of differential patterns of site destruction and fieldwork intensity upon the recovery of archaeological material. The problem of interpreting blank areas on the map may be to some extent alleviated by plotting negative occurrences of relevant material on contemporaneous sites. This approach was applied to studies of Romano-British pottery by Hodder (e.g. 1974b), and has been adopted by the present author on the distribution maps of pottery types. However, the establishment of contemporaneity of sites and assemblages in itself can cause problems. In his studies of, for example, Savernake ware (Hodder 1974c) and Rowlands Castle wares (Hodder 1974a), Hodder assumed that all sites utilised the respective wares simultaneously; he thus plotted and discussed the gross distribution patterns of positive and negative finds. It is often the case that pottery of a particular type was not current in the same areas throughout its overall period of usage the example of BB2 jars, mentioned in the preceding section and plotted on Figs. 30, 45, and 47 may be cited and it should not be assumed that a type was in simultaneous use throughout its area of distribution at a certain time in its history. The example of Oxfordshire colour-coated wares indicates that this was not always the case; briefly, in the late fourth century these wares were eclipsed in East Sussex by ‘Pevensey’ ware (Green 1977, 177—8) but expanded their distribution in East Anglia (Drury 1977, 40). A cumulative distribution pattern may suggest

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