The good and the not so good

An afternoon’s absent-minded browsing turned up the following…

First up, this simple yet effective website detailing the first season of excavations at Tolworth Court Farm on the outskirts of Kingston conducted way back in the year 2000. The site has still to be published in detail; a second season conducted in 2002 revealed “a large enclosure ditch” associated with mid Anglo-Saxon pottery and possibly post holes, which should add much to the understanding of rural settlement in Surrey during that period (see London Archaeologist, Volume 10 Supplement 2, page 47, available via ADS; also the Standing Conference on London’s Archaeology newsletter of that year). For now, the pictures of the artefacts found – as well as of a number of “site dogs” – provide a mix of interest and amusement; all in all, a template for the sort of site any archaeological dig, large or small, should seek to maintain.

On the flip side, a curious article (or knol – it’s a new one on me, too) by F. C. Harris I came across correlating Old English and Brittonic place-name evidence with Iron Age hillforts and their abandonment. Extraordinarily, Harris marginalises the Roman period, with his main thread of his argument leapfrogging from the hillforts and tribal territories of the Iron Age with the nascent kingdoms and dioceses of early Anglo-Saxon period. This evokes the work of G. R. J. Jones, pioneer of the multiple estate model, and in some of its details certain theories Gavin Smith has advanced in relation to Surrey’s place-names. While there are some admirable sides to it – notably the detailed maps and tables – and fresh ways of looking at different types of evidence should always be welcomed, the conclusions drawn are too confusing, and far from convincing, to pass the test of acceptability in my eyes. That said, in the spirit of open-mindedness and charity, I shall leave it to readers to form their own opinions of the validity and value of Harris’ study.

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