York is well-known for the archaeology of its Roman, Anglian, Viking, and medieval periods of occupation, but the prehistoric and Roman archaeology of its rural hinterland is much less visible, despite an increasing number of development-led excavations. The projected expansion of the University of York campus at Heslington, on the eastern edge of the city, prompted excavation between 2007 and 2013 of a considerable area of Iron Age and Romano-British landscape within five miles of the Roman fort and city. This is now reported on, or – perhaps more accurately, as its authors assert – this publication ‘considers the results’ of excavation, taking a thematic approach. The detail of finds and other specialist reports is to be provided as an internet resource hosted by the Archaeology Data Service.
The volume was published early in 2020, but one of the impacts of COVID-19 has been to impede the uploading of the Heslington archive, which as of the time of writing has yet to appear. Specialists and those with an interest in finds, perhaps looking for comparative information, might therefore consider that they are rather worse off than in the days of microfiche, particularly since the volume gives no indication of what reports have been prepared, their content or extent, although the acknowledgments do provide the dramatis personae.
The bulk of the volume comprises the thematic studies: bounded landscapes (food), productive landscapes (specialist manufacture), domestic landscape, consumption in the landscape, ideological landscapes, and, finally and more lengthily, transitions in the landscape. By and large, the thematic approach taken in this volume works, although there are problems when it comes to considering particular elements of the site, which may entail eliciting information from three or four widely separated points within the volume. Nevertheless, a coherent story of the settlement and utilisation of a somewhat plough-eroded landscape is presented. Referencing, however, is not as complete nor as up to date as it could be, and there is little comparison with other excavated Iron Age and Romano-British landscapes in the sub-regions around York.
Landscape and Settlement in the Vale of York: archaeological excavations at Heslington East, York, 2003-2013, Steve, Roskams and Cath Neal, Society of Antiquaries of London, £35, ISBN 978-0854313020. Review by Blaise Vyner.
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