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Provenance of Coals from Roman Sites in U.K. Counties Bordering River Severn and its Estuary and Including Wiltshire

Journal of Archaeological Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1006/jasc.1996.0034
  • Archeology
  • Coal
  • Palynology
  • Provenance
  • Reflectance
  • Roman
  • Archaeology
  • Chemistry
  • Earth Science


Abstract A survey of investigations into the provenance of coals recovered from archaeological sites of the Roman period throughout Britain showed few data from an area of the West Country rich in sites with coal finds. This paper presents the results of analyses on the coals from 15 “new” sites obtained to fill the hiatus together with the results of earlier analyses from seven other sites. In order to determine the provenance of a coal it is necessary to know its geological age and its chemical/physical properties. By matching these properties with those of coal seams outcropping in the exposed coalfields it is possible to suggest likely sources. The method of age determination using the preserved plant spores which can be isolated from coal is described and the sequence of spore zones based on the known stratigraphic ranges of selected species is figured for that part of the geological succession relevant to the present study. The limitations of the former methods of characterizing coals from their chemical properties are mentioned. The advantages of the new method of ranking coal by microscopical analysis are evaluated and the method of determining reflectance under oil is described. Discussion of the provenance of the coals from the analytical results is preceded by consideration of the age and rank of coals outcropping in the relevant coalfields. For the purpose of the discussion the sites are grouped into the three geographical areas each likely to be sourced from a particular coalfield or group or coalfields. The temporal relationships with rank which occur on some sites are discussed and some estimates made of the distances and routes involved in the transport of the coals.

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