It is fashionable, and perhaps progressive, to talk of higher status individuals or elites, to avoid cultural bias inherent such terms as aristocracy. However, I use the term in its original cultural context precisely to reference that bias, or understanding, and also is to imply a degree of continuity between Prehistory and History.
I am going to look particularly at the Late Iron Age fort at Orsett, Essex,  now lost to the latest incarnation of the junction it guarded 2000 years ago. [below]. It typifies all the problems of interpretation associated with archaeology that has been ploughed. It was clearly a fortification at some stage, and only the aristocracy, have the resources, interest and right to build such things. Systematic and sustained fighting, takes considerable resources, training and expensive kit. It was after all, what maintained them at the top of the divinely sanctioned heap, and some might argue it was their raison d’etre.
In all the arts, including architecture and war, the aristocracy are over represented, since these things define the nature of their culture, and reinforce their essential otherness from ordinary people.
Historically, we can find a narrative thread that links and explains these processes, but this makes no sense in terms of the data that archaeology deals with; it is far to complex. Consider 1066; on January 5th the English king Edward the Confessor [left ] died childless, and Harold Godwinson, the earl of Wessex, seized the throne of England, prompting two foreign invasions; against the odds he defeats and kills King Harald Hardrada of Norway, only to be killed himself by William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, on October 14th at the Battle of Hastings. One of the largest and richest countries in Europe, with a population of at least 1.5 million, had been taken over with an army of less than 10,000, and now had a Norman French Duke as King, its 3rd head of state in a year.
- Plough reduced – no stratigraphy;
- Large areas of site damaged/ obliterated;
- Parts of site not available;
- Concentration on main crop mark;
- Most of the features are postholes.
Thus, I inherited an archive of slightly soiled records, and an interim report that had identified three circular buildings, the defences and Romano-british kilns. As the person responsible for preparing the final account of the site, I tried, but mostly failed to understand it; the majority of the features had no real explanation and contribute nothing to the picture. I might just be better at it now, but I have had 20 years to think about it, and time to develop theoretical structural archaeology.
- Phase I - Middle Iron Age Polygonal building and Pottery
- Phase II - Late Iron Age Square Enclosure [Fort].
- Phase III - [Conquest Period] Multi-ditch Fort
- Phase IV - [Romano-British C 1st ] Occupation / Farm Buildings
- Phase V - [Romano-British C 2nd] Occupation / Farm Buildings
- Phase VI - [Romano-British Late C 2nd - C 4th] Occupation / Farm Buildings? / Pottery Kilns
- Phase VII - [Early Saxon] Small Buildings [Grubenhauser]
- Phase VII –[Post-Saxon] Gravel extraction.
Any detailed understanding of this part of the story, hits the same basic problem; leaving aside the three circular buildings, without identifying structures it is hard to contextualise the fort, or distinguish between built environments from before, during or after the fort.
All this is in stark contrast to our understanding of Roman forts, which are an exemplar, however, the form of any fortification is governed by the same general considerations in this period. In terms of a built environment I would expect the following buildings and structures to be present in some form;
- Fortified Gateway
- Watch towers
The Perimeter is the most important concept in a fortification, and following the basic principle that a chain is only a strong as its weakest link, its scale and construction method should be;
- Defendable with the manpower available;
- Credible to deal with expected threat.
The entrance appeared to take the form of a heavy gate hidden behind a baffle to present direct assault, which leads to a narrow passage between rampart and a structure to the left of the gate. [It was normal to reinforce or put towers to the left of gate to attack the unshielded right side of the attackers]. This entrance is scarcely four foot wide, very defensive, and quite unlike the Roman approach.
The ditches themselves give material for the rampart, and present the attackers 18m of broken ground which make it harder for to keep in formation and discharge javelins [Pilum].
To sum up; to understand the nature site before the construction of the defences is difficult without a clear boundary, and it is therefore hard to detect the nature and extent of any existing built environment, and distinguish its structures from those associated with the defences or subsequent occupation. Too many unknown unknowns.
There were roundish things, all three are unique, but a vague circularity is all that is required for a “roundhouse” which are proof of prehistoric “occupation”, which any amount of rubbish pits and postholes are not, without circles it’s just “activity”. It is the circular logic of this tightening spiral of self-referential scholarship has impaired our understanding of built environments from this and other periods.
However, sacking all the school staff at the end of the year would make education cheaper and prevent the formation of effective “education” lobbies and representation. It works well for archaeology; thus, on many excavations a significant proportion of staff and workers will be beginners or inexperienced, but driven by low pay, no security or prospects of a career, most leave keeping costs and standards low. It’s a chronic waste of endeavour and human resources, but archaeology is only important up until the point where the money gets involved.
Orsett was the genesis of theoretical structural archaeology, driven my my own inability to progress with what was a tantalisingly significant piece of archaeology, [and more than just a fort]. There was clearly a need for a different set of templates, something more than roundhouses, not just for the Iron Age but also for Romano-British timber buildings outside of towns and villas, and those associated with the Romano-British Pottery whose product turned up on Hadrian's Wall. 
I consider that the difficulties of interpretation associated super-complex archaeology like Orsett and numerous other sites is part of the reason academic archaeology went in the direction of post-processualism, with its emphasis on the study of what archaeologist don't find. As a result, there has been little appreciation of the fundamental inadequacies of current thinking about built environments, or any systematic effort to address the problem.
Thus, an evidence based approach to modelling and reverse engineering timber structures represented by theoretical structural archaeology is destined to remain a post-university study for those who want to understand this aspect of the past.
Sources and Further Reading
 G. A. Carter (1998): 'Excavations at the Orsett ‘Cock’ enclosure, Essex, 1976'. East Anglian Archaeology Report No 86. Illustrated by L.E. Collett
 Translated by W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn
http://classics.mit.edu/Caesar/gallic.6.6.html [Accessed 13/04/11]