CBA Occasional Papers

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Council for British Archaeology (2013) CBA Occasional Papers [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]

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Archaeology and agriculture. A survey of modern cultivation methods and the problems of assessing plough damage to archaeological sites

George Lambrick

CBA Occasional Papers No. 8 (1977)

Oxfordshire Archaeological Unit Survey Number 4
ISBN 0 900312 44 0


Title page of report 8

Much interest has recently been aroused in the problem of ploughing as a destructive agent on archaeological sites. This renewed concern with the question has led to the undertaking of various pilot surveys of plough damage, mostly sponsored by the DoE in an attempt to define more clearly the extent of the problem and to reconsider the criteria for undertaking excavations on the grounds of plough damage. This booklet is a by-product of a feasibility study for a South Midlands Plough Survey which was carried out by the Oxfordshire Archaeological Unit in January and February 1975. This differed from most other pilot surveys in concentrating on an assessment of the available information and on possible methods of conducting surveys, rather than on actual field work. One result was that a great deal of information was accumulated on the technical side of cultivation methods and this forms the basis for the booklet.

The basic assumption on which the booklet rests is that, since different pieces of cultivation equipment are designed to produce different effects on the soil, they will ipso facto produce different effects on archaeological sites. The intention is not to analyse these effects in detail, which would be an elaborate operation and should form a basic part of a proper survey, but rather to demonstrate that such an analysis may be fruitful, and, in a practical way, to assist the assessment of sites by fieldworkers in general, not merely those working specifically on the effects of cultivation. To say simply whether or not a site is cultivated is insufficiently accurate to make a detailed assessment of its condition. Enquiries as to the present and also the past and prospective methods of cultivation need also to be made. Many other factors such as soil type, slope, type of site, etc. are important and must be considered carefully, but the basic information of what has been done, when, is probably the most critical factor. The booklet is designed to give the fieldworker, professional or amateur, some basic information to help him in such enquiries.

It is not, nor is it intended to be, a comprehensive compendium of information: the subject is too vast for that to be possible or even desirable. Many who read it may already be familiar with all it contains, but those who are not should on no account believe that they know all that there is to know once they have read it; such an attitude would be a most undesirable result. If the booklet leads to a keener awareness of the problems of working the land and a better understanding of the reasons why different methods are used, and, on the basis of these, helps to promote a more accurate assessment of the condition of sites, it will largely have achieved its purpose.


  • Title pages
  • Introduction (pp vii-viii)
  • Acknowledgements (p ix)
  • The purpose of cultivation (p 1)
  • Mouldboard ploughs (pp 1-6)
  • Subsoilers and panbusters (pp 7-9)
  • Mole ploughs (pp 10-11)
  • Chisel ploughs and rigid-tine cultivators (pp 11-14)
  • Spring-tine cultivators (pp 14-17)
  • Heavy discs (pp 17-19)
  • Powered rotary cultivators (pp 19-21)
  • Powered rotary cultivators (pp 19-21)
  • Direct drills(pp 22-26)
  • Forestry ploughs (pp 26-29)
  • Trends in modern cultivation techniques (pp 29-31)
  • Archaeology and cultivation: problems of assessment (pp 32-40)
  • Appendix I: Tables (pp 41-43)
  • Appendix II: Bibliography (pp 44-46)

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Archaeology and agriculture. A survey of modern cultivation methods and the problems of assessing plough damage to archaeological sites (CBA Occassional Papers 8) PDF 1 Mb

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