Where Rivers Meet: Landscape, Ritual, Settlement and the Archaeology of River Gravels

University of Birmingham, 2006 (updated 2012)

Data copyright © University of Birmingham unless otherwise stated

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Primary contact

Simon Buteux
Birmingham Archaeology
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT
Tel: 0121 4145513
Fax: 0121 4145516

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University of Birmingham (2012) Where Rivers Meet: Landscape, Ritual, Settlement and the Archaeology of River Gravels [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1000311

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Background to the Project

TheWhere Rivers Meet project is an Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund project that is studying the archaeological resource at the confluence of the Trent and the Tame rivers in south-eastern Staffordshire. This is one of the most intensively quarried landscapes for aggregates extraction in the country. It also contains a remarkable archaeological record, beginning with well-preserved megafauna from the Late Pleistocene and including a Neolithic/Early Bronze Age ritual landscape, an Iron age and Romano–British settlenment landscape, and an extensive Anglo–Saxon settlement and cemeteries. Most of our knowledge of these landscapes has arisen as a consequence of archaeological work carried out in the context of aggregate extraction.

The overall study area of the project measures 6km by 12km (72 square kilometres) — this is termed the 'Full Area'. Within the Full Area a smaller 'Focus Area', covering some 235ha of land, has been designated at the physical confluence of the Trent, Tame and Mease Rivers, at Catholme Farm. The Focus Area contains an important concentration of monuments, revealed as cropmarks through aerial photography and believed on morphological grounds to comprise a complex of ritual monuments of Neolithic/Early Bronze Age date. These monuments include a 'Woodhenge' type monument consisiting of multiple rings of postholes, a 'sunburst' monument consisting of a central ring ditch with radiating pit alignments, and a very large ring ditch with apparently associated linear features. These monuments, together with a series of smaller ring ditches, a possible cursus and a series of pit alignments, are colllectively termed the 'Catholme Ceremonial Complex'.

The Where Rivers Meet project was a contributor to the Big Data Project a programme for investigating preservation (storage methods), reuse (usability) and dissemination (delivery mechanism) strategies for exceptionally large data files generated by archaeologists. The project archive includes the Where Rivers Meet Geophysical Data that forms the basis of Volume 2 by M.S. Watters.

The Digital Archive

The digital archive is an integral part of the reporting process and comprises all files generated in electronic format generated during the course of the project, and for which permissions have been granted for deposit.

The main phase of the Where Rivers Meet project was completed in March 2004. The project comprised a number of elements, each of which has resulted in a report.

The archive contains the following:

  • Volume 1: Buteux, S.T.E. and Hewson, M.P. 2004: A Gazeteer and Synthesis of the Archaeology of the Full Area
  • Volume 2 (i): Bunch, M.A. and Riley, M.S. 2004: Hydrological modelling of the confluence zone to assess the potential effects of dewatering caused by aggregates extraction on archaeologivcal deposits.
  • Volume 2 (ii): Davies, N.S. and Sambrook-Smith, G. 2004: Where Rivers Meet: Geological, Palaeofluvial and Hydrogeological Analysis of the Study Area: Palaeofluvial Analysis of the Confluence Zone of the Rivers Trent, Tame, and Mease, Staffordshire.
  • Volume 3: Wilkes, S. and Barratt, G. 2004: GIS Data Integration and Topographic Modelling.
  • Volume 4: Watters, M.S. 2004: Multi–technique geophysical survey of the monuments in the Focus Area.
  • Volume 5: Buteux, S.T.E. 2004: A Draft Research Design and Management Plan for the Future Management of Archaeology Within the Study Area

It was part of the original design of the project that the geophysical survey of the monuments in the Focus Area should be followed up by a 'ground truthing' exercise with the principal aim of attempting to understand the sub-surface origins of the surface geophysical anomalies. The reports contained herein describe the results of this exercise and include recommendations for further research and analysis.

  • Volume 6 (i): Bain, K., Hancox, E. and Hewson, M.P. 2004: Catholme Ritual Landscape Ground Truthing Project 2004: Post-Excavation Assesssment and Updated Project Design
  • Volume 6 (ii): Watters, M.S. 2004: Geophysical Survey at Catholme Phase II Investigations
  • Volume 6 (iii): Jordan, D. 2004: The Geoarchaeology of deposits at Catholme
  • Volume 6 (iv): Hounslow, M. and Karloukovski, V. 2004: Geophysical Data Report for Magnetic Properties.

Non-digital Archive and Publications

In addition to the reports contained within the digital archive the Where Rivers Meet Project also produced the following non-digital outputs:

Article in British Archaeology magazine No 105 March / April 2009: "The Big Dig: New Woodhenges in Staffordshire". For more information see The British Archaeology website
Lectures / Academic Papers
Paper given at Staffordshire Archaeological Day. Staffordshire University, Beaconside Campus, Stafford. May 2005: Where Rivers Meet. Landscape, Ritual, Settlement and the Archaeology of River Gravels.
Meetings / Technical forums
'Central Rivers Initiative' at the National Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire. 2003. The Where Rivers Meet Project.
Herefordshire Archaeological Day. Hereford, 2003. The Where Rivers Meet Project.
Project Website