You are here: Original Evidence: Archaeology, Landscape and Buildings

The place of physical evidence

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The physical evidence of archaeology, artefacts, landscape and buildings is vital to understanding Oxfordshire history. For much of that history, until the 7th century AD, it provides the only clues, and thereafter takes its place in an evolving balance between the material, documentary and personal testimonies available to historians. The best local studies combine these elements wherever they are available.


This interdisciplinary approach has been at the heart of the 'new local history' developed since 1945. At the same time archaeology and building history have also grown in terms of their scope and questions, methods and techniques, volume of activity, range of practitioners and opportunities for participation and original contributions. There are many links to be made, and not for the first time. Archaeological features and finds, as well as buildings were always part of the  observations, and sometimes startling speculations, of early antiquaries from Camden to Plot, Hearne to Stukeley and beyond. This means that earlier printed histories of the county are of considerable interest to both archaeologists and historians.


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In 1972 the county’s existing societies for the study of history, architecture and archaeology amalgamated to form the Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society . Oxoniensia, the journal of OAHS, is the leading periodical publishing on Oxfordshire’s past, its articles, reports, notes and reviews reflecting present day Oxfordshire’s mixture of historical, archaeological and building studies. For an index to articles see the OAHS website. Digitisation of all past volumes is in progress and should be available during 2010. Oxfordshire material may be found in a variety of places including a national bibliography at The British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography.


Interdisciplinary approaches are followed by many individual researchers and local groups, a point well-illustrated by the work of the Wychwoods Local History Society, founded 1981. Their projects, undertaken by local people drawing on the advice of professionals, and subsequently published in WLHS’s annual journal give a good idea of range of possible fieldwork. (See Fieldwork Techniques_The Wychwoods Repertoire). For example of a fieldwalking project and findings view here. For a guide to original fieldwork see M.Bowden (ed.), Unravelling the Landscape. An inquisitive approach to archaeology (1999).

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