The Strata Florida Research Project

As part of the Strata Florida Project as a whole, a major research programme has been developed, setting the site in its social, political and landscape contexts, to include the period of the Abbey’s existence, its antecedents from the later Iron Age onwards and its successors up to the present day. This is a multi-disciplinary project engaging archaeology, history, environmental science and the arts. It has involved a number of institutions led, until 2015, by the University of Wales School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology under the direction of Professor David Austin. Our key strategic research partners have been the Monastic Wales Project and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW). We have also worked closely with the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies.

Phase 1 of the Research Project began in 1999 and its field programmes were completed in the summer of 2015 and we shall be working towards the publication of a major monograph to disseminate the results and evidence. At the same time we shall be examining and designing Phase 2 in the light of all the recent developments in the Strata Florida Project as a whole. Phase 2 will begin in 2017. Phase 2 will continue under the direction of Professor David Austin with the Strata Florida Trust, the University of Wales and the World Monument Fund operating as a partnership to carry it forward.

Research Components

A. Research Design: The Project has a clear high-level research design working thematically across three main time periods, all within the general natural history of the Holocene:
The Celtic period: from the Iron Age c. 500 B.C. to the earlier 12th century AD
The Abbey in the Middle Ages: from foundation in 1164 to Dissolution in 1539
The Modern Era: from 1539 to the present day

The Project also works at three main scales of landscape and historical resolution (see below):
The Abbey and its Environs;
The Wider Historic Landscape;
The Historical Context of Wales and the World.

This Research Design was first devised and discussed in 2006-7 following some initial work to establish whether a long-term project was viable. This document will be revised as part of the shaping of Phase 2.

B. Work prior to 1999 and outside the project: Strata Florida has been the focus of Antiquarian interest since the 16th century, but it has been the subject of specific research relatively infrequently, perhaps because of the dearth of contemporary administrative documents from the Abbey. However, in the late 1880's there was an extensive excavation and study undertaken by Stephen Williams which exposed the remains of the Abbey much as they can be seen today. Very little more has been done on the archaeology until the beginning of this Project.

What does survive now in the form of documents and architecture has appeared in a small number of important general studies within a number of discourses.

C. Project outputs: There are a growing number of publications and other outputs from the Project. As well as academic publication it has been an important part of the Project aims to communicate with the public through a range of media and creative forms.

D. The Archaeology and History of the Abbey Precinct and its Environs: This consists of an area of some 2 square kilometres defined by the boundaries of the precinct and the land beyond, reshaped by the Abbey as a demesne of specialist farms and production zones to provide for its own direct consumption needs. We have established that the Abbey extent is exceptionally large, in the order of 45 hectares, and that there is great survival of field remains in both the precinct and its environs.

E. The Archaeology and History of the Wider Historic Landscape: This is an area in Central Wales of over 400 square kilometres which contained the estates of the Abbey. We are primarily interested in the Abbey's own land, but the area also includes the territories of secular owners and tenants and these are also being studied to provide contemporary context for the landscape study. It is clear from our Phase 1 work that the archaeological survival of related sites in this area in extensive.

F. The Historical Context of Wales and the World: This provides the spatial context for the role of the Abbey, monasticism and the Cistercian Order in political, economic and social history. In this research, working with our close partners in the Monastic Wales Project.

This page copyright © Professor David Austin, Chairman Strata Florida Trust

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