Updated Period Resource Assessment: The Later Bronze Age and Iron Age

by Steven Willis

Part I: The Resource

1. Introduction to the Resource Assessment

1.1. The Geographic Area, Recovery of the Resource and the Context of this Assessment

This Assessment updates the one prepared nearly twenty years ago for this formative period in the East Midlands (Willis 2006). The preparation of that Assessment covered many months of collating information and as with the Assessments for other periods was submitted in March 2003 (see Cooper and Clay 2006, 3, for the genesis of the original Framework documents). A number of key sites for the era had at that time been excavated but were not published with provisional details available in some cases; these can now be drawn on in full. The years since 2003 have seen a huge expansion of information, particularly as a result of development related fieldwork, but also from other avenues including community projects, metal detecting and scientific advances. The practicalities of managing and assimilating all the new information are a challenge for the whole sector; for this update selectivity has necessarily been exercised given the scale of the recent interventions and discovery. The aim of this revision, nonetheless, has been even and representative coverage of the region to the extent this is possible, based on the variations in the geography of past investigations and records, and the quality of that existing knowledge.

This Assessment covers Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland. The administrative districts of North Lincolnshire and North-East Lincolnshire (between 1974 and 1996 part of Humberside, and previously parts of the historic county of Lincolnshire) were not included in the area designation of the earlier Assessment (see Cooper and Clay 2006, 1-3 for explanation), though some references to key sites in those areas were included given the geographic and past cultural proximity. The brief for the current Assessment specifies that they are formally included in this updated review, consistent with other organizational structures for the East Midlands (Knight and Owen 2020, 3).

Lying at the heart of England, the region spans the markedly different physical (lowland and upland) zones that reflect also economic and cultural contrasts. Archaeological remains of the first millennium BC are widely and liberally distributed across the East Midlands. In places these remains are dense, multi-phase and artefactually rich. In some areas there is exceptionally good preservation which is often not limited to isolated sites, but represents the extensive remnants of past occupied and experienced landscapes, for instance, in the major valleys of Northamptonshire, the Fens of Lincolnshire, and some parts of north Derbyshire. The varied character of the sites, monuments and feature types has led to various modern approaches – different archaeologies – as the particular nature of the remains requires. Everywhere the archaeological record attests to variation; both differences of detail within broader trends and themes, and contrasts of substance and form, and hence (presumably) meaning. Interest lies in defining the major trends and patterns of similarity, while exploring the balance of these strands of difference. Tracing and interpreting the information, as it survives, is the prerogative, challenge and reward of the archaeologist working in later prehistory and of those sharing a curiosity in the period. The first millennium BC was an era of comparatively rapid social and cultural developments, generating a dynamic archaeological record. Yet the expression and experience of life in the first millennium BC contrasted in some aspects region to region; Haselgrove et al. (2001, 22-5) noted that regional differences were a standard feature of the British Iron Age and that their definition and evaluation is an important objective for research. In sum, the East Midlands is a key area for observing and understanding these broad changes (cf. Haselgrove 1999a; 1999b), for it contains a diverse matrix of evidence, constituting a substantive resource.

The three decades since the introduction of Planning Policy Guidance 16 have seen an explosion in archaeological data. Commercially funded fieldwork, together with investigative projects, initiatives and publications have greatly enhanced the quality of the documentation available, for which there has been no shortage of interpretation of sites and of the period. That said our comprehension of the nature of society at this time still remains markedly patchy. As noted in the original Resource Assessment (Willis 2006) there remain areas of considerable weakness in our knowledge. Knowledge of the first millennium BC is still partial and variable across the region, being determined by familiar factors, but particularly now the uneven distribution of modern development, resulting in some areas being subject to numerous archaeological interventions while in others there is little such activity. The concentration of modern development along particular corridors and places in the contemporary landscape exacerbates the issue. Other factors include the variable visibility of the record (itself the consequence of various factors), the extent of arable cultivation (conducive to generating cropmarks, fieldwalking and metal-detecting), and endemic difficulties encountered in developing chronologies.

As with the original Resource Assessment this guide aims to outline and characterise the nature of the known record. It follows, to begin with, in Part II, a chronological path, and then a thematic/evidence type based review in Part III, sketching the extent of the exploration of the Resource and something of its potential (relating to Strategy and Agenda components of the Framework (cf. Knight et al. 2012)). Strengths, weaknesses and imbalances in our knowledge are highlighted. Regarding distillation of the broad picture, the later 20th century and turn of the millennium helpfully saw several synthesis studies appear, following a methodical, sophisticated approach drawing on the quality of the evidence from the region (cf. Knight 1984; Haselgrove 1999a; Knight 2002; Lane and Morris 2001) and others can be added to the list from recent work on specific categories (e.g. Leins 2011; Farley 2012; Markoulaki 2014). However, it must be admitted that for some sub-regions, periods, and evidence types the record is still too limited to permit anything approaching comprehensive synthesis. On the whole though, it is apparent that there is a rich and nuanced record of this period across the extent of the East Midland counties. The remains recorded to date, together with those yet to be explored, comprise a valuable and complex resource with tremendous potential for future engagement with this past, through fieldwork, analysis, interpretation, education and display, achieved through wide involvement and strong and accessible data archiving infrastructure. By this means a robust and textured understanding of practice, experience, environment and society continues to emerge.

1.2 Chronology: Challenges and Scope

Unlocking the potential of the archaeological remains of the first millennium BC is dependent upon our ability to construct a satisfactory chronological framework. Chronological frameworks allow us to place remains into sequence, to comprehend contemporary similarities and differences, to analyse developments and trajectories, and to undertake valid comparison. Although, in terms of human history, the first millennium BC was not an especially long period, it was an era that witnessed comparatively rapid fundamental developments, and preceded a period in which dating can be quite precise. One might therefore in principle anticipate the development of a subtle chronology. In fact, establishing a dating framework for the first millennium BC has been far from straightforward and precise. Rather it had proved an ‘Achilles’ Heel’ for studies of the period both more broadly (e.g. Willis 2002) and within the region (Knight 2002). This was due to several factors. Significant amongst these have been: (i) the conservatism and lack of elaboration of regional pottery traditions; (ii) the paucity of pottery finds for the earlier, and early middle, first millennium BC; (iii) the limited corpus of metalwork finds, especially in stratified association, when changes in metalworking technology and types has been traditionally accorded a key chronological status for the period (cf. Cunliffe 2005, 3-23; May 1976a, 102-201); (iv) the well-known problems with regard to the radiocarbon calibration curve during this era (Barnett 2000; 2001; Knight 2002; Willis 2002; Monckton 2006); (v) a previous lack of robust sampling strategies aimed at collecting absolute dates (see Haselgrove et al. 2001 where recommendations were made with regard to sampling procedures which remain useful guidance); and (vi) the nature of sites of the period and their survival is such that there is often little by way of stratified layering to link deposits and features, while intercutting features, where they occur, may have few finds, some of which could be residual. As regards the latter a case in point is the site at Holme Dyke, Gonalston, Nottinghamshire, where an Iron Age roundhouse sequence (Note 1) shows two phases of wall trenching and a later post-hole ring together with recut entrance post-holes all, physically, within an enclosure but not linked to the enclosure by stratification, where allocations to sequence, date and what features were contemporary are uncertain given the nature of the remains (Knight and Elliott 2008, 172, figs 10-11); another cases include pit alignments and multiple dyke systems, features which have become increasingly recognized as part of the East Midland first millennium landscape, which prove difficult to ascribe dates to (cf. Section 7).

As a con­sequence of the above factors, dates attributed to excavated sites and phases have been broad and vague, the ‘precision’ being stated in terms of centuries or half centuries. This constitutes a fundamental difficulty for our connection with the resource and its interpretation. The challenges are attested in many reports, as the monographs on the work at Billingborough, Lincolnshire (Chowne et al. 2001, 7-20 and 89) and Covert Farm, Crick, Northamptonshire (Hughes and Woodward 2015, 9-17), and report on the Iron Age enclosure site of Enderby II (Meek et al. 2004, 29) readily demonstrate. Knight’s work with regional pottery sequences (Knight 1998; 2002) has significantly assisted date attributions, albeit within the limitations that are a function of the nature and frequency of the ceramics of this period in the region. The utility of radiocarbon dating has improved over the past two decades as a consequence of more critically aware sampling strategies, multiple sampling, accelerator dating and Bayesian techniques. Multiple sampling for radiocarbon dates and the application of Bayesian statistics have resulted a more precise dating scheme bases on probabilities, where employed (Speed 2010, 36-7, table 2; Pearce and Davis forthcoming).

In contrast to that progress the early promise associated with luminescence dating in establishing chronologies for the period (e.g. Willis 2002) has stalled. As noted in the original Resource Assessment thermoluminescence dating of both ceramics and soils had been seen as a potentially useful chronological tool for the first millennium BC (Willis 2006, 129). The possibility that the method would provide close and reliable dating was, twenty years ago, uncertain, following mixed success through its experimental deployment through the 1980s and 1990s (e.g. Heslop 1987; Beamish 1998). The method was systematically deployed during the excavations at Covert Farm, Crick, but the results proved problematic in a number of ways and could not be adopted for dating the site phasing scheme (Hughes and Woodward 2015, 15). Dates arising from luminescence require corroboration: comparison of the results of different techniques remains important.

Comparatively little material has been recovered and subject to dendrochronology, the study of the wood from Fiskerton, on the Witham, being a significant exception (Field and Parker Pearson 2003). A small number of samples for dendrochronological dating were collected at the Late Bronze Age site at Washingborough, also on the Witham but no dates could be obtained for a variety of reasons, one important reason being insufficient (likely) contemporaneous sequences from the region (Tyers 2009).

Archaeomagnetic dating can provide useful results when suitable contexts are encountered, as demonstrated by work at the Rainsborough hillfort, Northamptonshire (Clelland and Batt 2010). To place these matters in a wider frame of reference, most dating in archaeology is inherently ‘fuzzy’ (Millett 1987) but given the main need is to locate data in sequences that can be related to each other our understanding of the chronology of the first millennium BC is improving.

Archaeological remains lie in ‘drifts’ through human lived pasts. That is to say the landscape of the archaeological past is uneven: there are periods and places where the remains are quantitatively thicker (and perhaps more pursued and studied), and there are others where the record is thin ( in actuality and/or through lack of exploration). This is very evidently the case with the East Midlands during the first millennium BC. The uneven character of the record in temporal terms has been considered elsewhere (Willis 1997), while its geographical imbalance will be readily apparent from the present Assessment. For instance, a high proportion of sites known from Northamptonshire occur in the Nene valley and on the Limestone; these were doubtless favourable areas for settlement and farming but are also locations conducive to cropmark generation and which have seen mineral extraction plus other development on a large scale leading to discovery or mitigation work prior to destruction from quarrying (Willis 2013a). Our ability to build chronological frameworks and to date sites and phases is determined by the nature of these ‘drifts’ in the archaeological record, the qualities of those remains (that is, whether, for instance, there is typological development such that we can determine sequences, or components suitable for absolute dating), and the utility of our methodologies (e.g. typologies and ‘scientific’ dating).

In this Assessment the evidence is divided into four phases in order to aid the identification of trends and to assist interpretation and discussion. These phases are conventional: the Late Bronze Age; the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age Transition and the Early Iron Age; the Middle Iron Age; and the Late Iron Age (for their approximate dates see Table 1). This separation is attempted for the settlement and artefactual evidence sets, in their broadest definition, although some evidence categories are considered under separate headings in Part III. Of course these four phases do not correspond with neatly discernible changes in site horizons, types and forms. Here, as in other works covering the period, dates and attributions are inexact (as noted above). Generally this is not problematic for the present review, which aims to unite the various strands of data into a broad picture of the nature and development of the region through this era, and to define areas of relative strength and weakness within the available archaeological data. The four phases conform to Hill’s structure for the period (Hill 1995a), and they are ‘ideal’ categories in the Weberian sense, that is to say there status is that of a tool created for purposes of helpful instruction; in this case approximations to periods of time and phases of cultural practice. The chronological attributions used here largely follow from (i) the labelling of the evidence in the original county Assessments drawn on for the original regional Assessment, which with the exception of Northamptonshire, essentially accord with the four-phase division, and (ii) those employed elsewhere, principally in the published and archived literature on excavated and surveyed sites and landscapes, as well as artefacts and ecofacts, and embedded in the county HERs (Historic Environment Records).

Developing this consideration of chronology further, we can recognize a difficulty arising from the fact that the pottery sequences for the region do not change comfortably in step with the four-fold periodisation employed here, although there is broad correspondence (Knight 1998; 2002). This is problematic since pottery is the main artefact class recovered, on which reliance has had to be placed for dating in the absence of other means. Specific difficulties exist in distinguishing ‘Late Bronze Age pottery’ from ‘Early Iron Age pottery’ resulting in an amalgam of sites which can only be broadly labelled Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age. The situation is exacerbated by the infrequency of other dating evidence through the earlier first millennium given that some sites have only pottery finds (often small quantities with few date-indicative rims), or where metal items do occur they are typically undiagnostic or not usefully stratified. Bone is often equally sparse at such sites (as at Milton Ham, Northamptonshire: Leslie and King 2021) or has been ‘lost’ in acid soils. Equally the debut of Middle Iron Age pottery styles is not securely anchored, and, moreover, these styles endured across parts of the region well into, and indeed, beyond what we term the Late Iron Age (e.g. Pryor 1984, 155; Rollo 1988; cf. Knight 2002). In other words pottery that is stylistically/technologically of Middle Iron Age tradition was still being made through the Later Iron Age, forming significant proportions of many assemblages alongside typologically later types. Consequently, as Kidd has pointed out in the case of Northamptonshire, a proportion of sites occupied during the period c. 100 BC to AD 50 have Middle Iron Age cultural associations (cf. Kidd 2004). This phenomenon raises interesting questions for those studying cultural expression, practice and change during the period, and awkward questions vis-à-vis the typological approach to chronology. For instance, sites occupied during the chronological ‘Late Iron Age’ may be ‘mis-dated’ because they seem earlier on the basis of their pottery. For this reason, in the original Resource Assessment for Northamptonshire, Kidd placed some sites which lack ‘Late Iron Age’ cultural indicators in the Middle Iron Age bracket or within a Middle/Late Iron Age bracket, at variance with the periods assigned by their excavators (e.g. some Wootton Hill style enclosures, such as Aldwincle and Brigstock; see Jackson 1989). Finally, it should be emphasised that there are few excavated sites of the period within the region which have long stratified sequences to assist sophisticated relative dating, though among these is the site of Dragonby, North Lincolnshire, where a long sequence of ceramic phases was discerned through conscientious study and where the pottery was very thoroughly reported (Elsdon and May 1996).

Conventional label for era during the first millenium BC Some diagnostic indicators in the East Midlands Approximate date range
The Late Bronze Age (LBA)Post-Deverel-Rimbury Plainware pottery; Ewart Park metalwork; ‘ringfort’ sites; absolute datingc. 1000 BC–800 BC
The Late Bronze Age–Early Iron Age Transition and the Early Iron Age (LBA-EIA)Plainware pottery (not chronologically specific); metalwork styles; absolute datingc. 800 BC–450 BC
The Middle Iron Age (MIA)Ancaster-Breedon style ‘Scored’ pottery;
metalwork styles, including certain brooch forms; beehive querns appear; absolute dating
c. 450 BC–100 BC
The Late Iron Age (LIA)More visible settlement and material culture record; elaborate pottery forms, some wheel-made, in some places; metalwork styles, including certain brooch forms; coinage; absolute datingc. 100 BC–AD 50
Table 1: ‘Ideal’ chronology of the first millennium BC in the East Midlands

Conventional label for era and evaluation of dating indicators Dating outcome
The Late Bronze Age (LBA)
Dating indicators are generally infrequent, but more readily diagnostic than for the succeeding era

Post-Deverel-Rimbury Plainware pottery is identifiable with some confidence, although recovered groups are uncommon

The possibility that LBA tradition pottery may have endured in the Peak region for centuries into the first millennium BC (cf. Bevan 2000) requires consideration

Ewart Park style metalwork is widespread across the region, but only occasionally recovered from settlement sites and is rarer still as a stratified site find

Confidence in previous radiocarbon dates may be questionable in terms of what was dated and given the implications of some subsequent re-dating programmes in southern Britain (Needham and Ambers 1994; Bell 1990)
Allocations of sites, phases and evidence to this period are probably reasonably reliable, although the beginning and end of the Late Bronze Age is chronologically fuzzy; neither was abrupt; both evidently being processes unfolding over many decades
The Late Bronze Age–Early Iron Age Transition and the Early Iron Age (LBA-EIA)
Generally dating indicators are infrequent and ‘weak’

Settlements and occupation traces attributable to the period are few

Plainware pottery styles predominate and are not chronologically specific Metalwork (such as stylistically Hallstatt items) is very uncommon; socketed axes are probably still in currency; some iron artefacts could be Bronze Age

Major problem with radiocarbon calibration curve begins

Absolute dating has been crucial in some cases, but suitable samples are sometimes elusive; some old samples and dates are now considered unreliable
The umbrella nature of this broad phase reflects a characteristic vagueness in the record and our present ability to chronologically categorize its associated elements / sites / evidence

Bayesian statistics are assisting in establishing better dating for the first millennium as a whole
The Middle Iron Age (MIA)
Pottery styles are conservative; Ancaster-Breedon style pottery is a long-lived tradition and continues in use into the first century AD

Metalwork, including brooches, is very rare, and often ‘unusual’ / atypical / ‘selected’ for deposition

Generally the artefact range is limited and chronologically unspecific

C14 dating continues to be problematic, while erstwhile sampling ‘strategies’ were un-robust before the 1990s ; Luminescence dating was looked to as an alternative prospect
Attribution of sites to this period has placed them within broad date ranges

Absolute dating had been imprecise; Luminescence dating has produced variable results

Erstwhile reliance on a few metalwork items for dating now seen as suspect

At some sites, on the basis of their material culture, the MIA extends to c. AD 50
The Late Iron Age (LIA)
More visible settlement remains and numerous material culture remains characterize the LIA in some parts of the region

LIA ‘fingerprints’ are far from universal

Coinage, where present, is very rarely stratified in unequivocally IA contexts

Metalwork finds are everywhere rare before the first century AD

Brooches, more common during the first half of the first century AD, are often not closely dateable; their dating is frequently not in accord with dates ascribed to the other artefacts

Not all LIA sites yield LIA evidence

In contrast to areas in the south, the East Midlands only see modest (relatively late) influx of datable imports from the Roman world
Dating is more readily accomplished, and is comparatively more reliable and ‘precise’ for this phase than for any other phase of the first millennium BC

Dating, nonetheless, lacks definition, with, particularly, a difficulty in attributing evidence to dates within the first century BC, rather than simply ascription to broad ranges

Changes in pottery styles (where they occur) are useful indices

The Roman ‘Conquest’ is not readily identifiable at site level
Table 2: ‘Actual’ chronology of the first millennium BC in the East Midlands

Table 2 characterises each of the four chronological phases and to reflect and summarise these uncertainties. Issues relating to first millennium BC pottery and chronology generally are discussed by Willis (2002), specifically by Jackson and Dix, in the case of Northamptonshire (Jackson and Dix 1987), and, for the region, with veracity, by Knight (2002). Issues relating to radiocarbon dating and sampling are discussed in Haselgrove et al. (2001). Many key questions can, of course, be addressed without the need for precise dating, although in most cases the quality and subtlety of the answers is improved by the existence of a refined chronological framework and ‘closely’ dated site evidence.

1.3 The Nature of the Evidence: Sub-Regional Differences, Differential Visibility and a Changed Record

Three inherent factors structure the evidence for the first millennium BC in the East Midlands and consequently affect its analysis and interpretation.

1.3.1 Geographic Differences in the Record for the First Millennium BC

Firstly, there are marked sub-regional differences in the quantity of evidence documented in the county/administrative HERs and other databases such as that of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (Note 2). This arises for a variety of reasons. A major variation, emphasised by Bishop (2000), is between the region’s ‘lowland’ and ‘highland’ zones. This is significant for all periods. Investigating these differences is a matter of considerable archaeological interest and potential, warranting specific attention (cf. Cockrell 2016). ‘Highland’ areas have much less arable land, with pasture predominant today, even in valley floors, plus forest and bracken scrub. This is relevant as arable regimes are conducive to the generation of cropmarks, site detection via fieldwalking, metal detecting and other types of survey, but have been associated with piecemeal erosion of underlying deposits, as is well known. The point is that sites are particularly visible under conditions of modern arable cultivation. The paucity of Iron Age sites identified in parts of the uplands of north-western Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire (especially the Peak District National Park region) may be partly due to the lack of modern arable cultivation at such places (cf. Bevan 2000). In the valleys of these areas, other means of site detection might be systematically undertaken and LiDAR data studies may be one of those approaches. Elsewhere, factors include post-first millennium BC cover deposit build-up, over slopes and in valley floors, as seen on a major scale in the Witham valley south of Lincoln (French and Rackham 2003; Rackham et al. 2004) and sea level changes in Lincolnshire in the Fens and Humberhead levels.

Equally, turning from detection to past settlement and farming preferences, across north-west Europe generally, river valleys with their sand/silt/gravel subsoils were preferred areas to settle and farm in later prehistory, with the possibilities of access to differing local environments (valley floors and flood plain, valley slopes and higher surrounding land) presenting a variety of conditions for mixed agriculture. Settlement and access routes were often on valley slope edges. These locations are often conducive to cropmark generation through the nature of the sub-soils and enable detection of past activity through modern arable cultivation as noted above. This is the case in the East Midlands. In consequence the proportion of records for the period is towards valley and lowland localities. This is illustrated by the case of the Nene valley, which has double the density of HER entries for the Iron Age than the next highest geology/density area of the county (Willis 2013a).

Caesar tells us that Britain in the mid-first century BC had an exceedingly large population and that the landscape was heavily dotted with homesteads (Caesar, Book V.1.12). There is a conventional view that population numbers increased strongly through the first millennium BC, especially from the mid-point of the millennium (Cunliffe 2005, e.g. 257; Hill 1995a, 61). As population rose through the Middle and Late Iron Age the wider landscape began to fill and farms and settlements develop in areas erstwhile less conducive to agriculture such as plateau and heavier soils, but by then iron and probably bigger and stronger livestock enabled colonization (e.g. Haselgrove 1982b; Gaudefroy et al. 2001; cf. Knight 2007). So, for example, by the Late Iron Age Northamptonshire has areas ‘filling-up’, with continuous harnessed landscapes, based on settled agriculture, especially along valleys in the central southern part of county. There is a general intensification which presages further change in the Roman era. Nonetheless, local details are likely to provide instructive contexts nuancing the broader picture. Mapping of sites and finds demonstrates varying distributions and densities for the period across the county as elsewhere relating to place, topography and cultural traditions, choices and access (Deegan 2007; Willis 2013a). At present for Northamptonshire there are relatively low heritage asset densities for the valleys of the Cherwell, Welland and Ise, though that may not be an index of the remains that actually occur (Willis 2013a).

By contrast, upland areas of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire were settled and in use by the Bronze Age though knowledge of these areas is comparatively thin.

1.3.2 A Thinner Record for the Earlier First Millennium BC

Secondly, a series of factors which are far from unique to the East Midlands continue to operate against the identification of settlement and other sites of the first half of the first millennium BC (e.g. Kidd 2000; cf. Pryor and French 1985, 306). They include a general lack of archaeological visibility resulting from the inherent nature of such sites and activities undertaken by people at this time. This was an era when the ceremonial monuments and marked burial features that had characterised earlier landscapes were no longer being constructed, and when domestic structural works and other daily undertakings leave limited physical trace. Typically Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age settlements in the lowlands of the region will have been characterised by wooden buildings leaving a ‘light footprint’. These dwellings and foci left, at best, only postholes and/or shallow ditches and gullies, as, in Nottinghamshire, at Station Road, Elton-on-the-Hill (Brudenell 2018) and perhaps Gamston (Knight 1992), or were arranged in open settlements. Yet remains may be very ephemeral. Load-bearing structural timbers may not have been set in the ground but positioned on padstones or simply stood on floor surfaces (potentially using the top of the tree root spread, sawn flat, as a splayed foot), held firm by the carpentry of structures and the weight of the roof; walling will have often not held weight so could comprise insubstantial screening and insulation, achieved by wattle and daub or perhaps turfs, either of which will have left little archaeological trace in normal circumstances.

Where sites were enclosed this was (on the basis of some evidence and supposition) often by means of wooden palisading, resulting in narrow trenches, much less traceable than earthwork ditches and banks which tend to appear from the Middle Iron Age . On the uplands roundhouses may have had stone walling and can endure, although again even here survival and identification can be challenging as a result of small sizes, reuse and colonization by vegetation, as on the Peak District Eastern Moors (Barnatt 1999; cf. Ainsworth 2001), while some upland roundhouses did not have stone walls. Detection therefore is difficult. Such archaeology is not readily detected by techniques like aerial photography and geophysical survey. Similarly, pottery at such sites is not likely to have been plentiful and is unlikely to survive long within ploughsoils due to its friable character and generally due to comparatively low firing temperatures. In addition, it is widely accepted that the population at this time was probably lower than in the later Iron Age (e.g. Knight and Howard 2004, 79-113; Knight and Elliott 2008, 180). Population appears to have begun to increase during the Iron Age, yet the characteristics of Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age settlements that affect their recognition remained unchanged well into the mid-first millennium. These characteristics have confounded the regular identification of settlement sites before the time in the Middle Iron Age when ditched enclosure, field systems and eaves-drip gullies appear. Detection methods are, however, becoming more sophisticated, especially in the domain of geophysics, LiDAR and drone survey, while comprehensive machine trenching for evaluation work and area-stripping in advance of development is now standard and can result in the detection of features likely to be otherwise missed. Now that geophysical survey and area strip-map-sample approaches, together with evaluation trenching, are routine, even where no previous archaeological remains are recorded on HERs, means that the records for this erstwhile less well documented period are increasing across the region, though remain limited in number.

1.3.3 The Changing Archaeological Record from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age

The nature of the archaeological record between the Bronze and Iron Ages changes fundamentally. Through the Early and Middle Bronze Age burials and monumental remains form a very prominent proportion of records for the East Midlands, with comparatively few settlements known. This configuration changes in the Iron Age. This reflects the pattern seen broadly elsewhere in Britain and north-west Europe, emergent over the past 40 years or so of research, but implicit beforehand. For the East Midlands the transformation can be illustrated by data from the Northamptonshire HER up till 2013, where, for the Bronze Age, settlement (domestic), agricultural and multiple ‘heritage assets’ (i.e. records) combined account for just 13% of all entries (Table 3). By contrast the equivalent figure for the Iron Age is 68% though the geologies on which the ‘assets’ are mainly located remain the same (Willis 2013a). Dominating the records for the Bronze Age are the religious, ritual or funerary records which mainly comprise burials and barrows, whereas the equivalent records for the Iron Age make up only 3% of the records for that period. Industrial assets number nine for the Iron Age compared to just one for the Bronze Age, where these are the iron smelting sites of the later period (Table 3).

Era
Asset Type
Bronze Age
(No. of Assets)
Iron Age
(No. of Assets)
Multiple1252
Agricultural & Subsistence26
Settlement (Domestic)1053
Find-spot records3728
Industrial19
Palaeoenvironmental21
Religious, ritual or funerary1144
Unassigned710
Water and drainage1
Table 3: Heritage Assets recorded in Northamptonshire for the Bronze Age and Iron Age by type. Source: Willis 2013a, based on county HER data till 2013.

PART II. The Resource by Chronological Periods

2. The Late Bronze Age c. 1000 BC–800 BC

2.1 Settlement Evidence

2.1.1 General Picture

Settlements of the later Bronze Age, as revealed by features, layers and stratified finds, are far from numerous across the East Midland counties (cf. O’Brien 1979, 301; Knight 2007, 193; cf. the original county Assessments for the first millennium BC), broadly reflecting the national picture. A number of sites have come to light only because they were found to underlie settlements of later date, as at Gamston, Nottingham­shire (Knight 1992), and Kirby Muxloe, Leicestershire, where discovery followed fieldwalking which had indicated Iron Age and Roman activity (Cooper 1994). The evidence is often ephemeral, spatially quite specific rather than extensive, and yields very limited cultural and fauna/palaeoenvironmental assemblages that cannot be closely dated. Some find-spots have produced Post-Deverel-Rimbury pottery which is a very helpful pointer, especially if radiocarbon dates can also be secured.

The ephemeral traces may in part be explained by seasonal occupation and indeed the ‘visiting’ rather than habitation of ‘activity areas’. Often pits are the only features identified (see below). Unsurprisingly there are regional variations in the frequency of known sites. Whether the limited current distribution of sites is representative of the actual picture – in terms of sub-regional trends – seems improbable. Later Bronze Age settlements are elusive in Leicestershire and Rutland (Clay 2000), although the number known compares well with other East Midlands counties. Development work in the past two decades has seen more discovery.

In the Winton Road area of Navenby by the A15 in Lincolnshire a number of pits were recorded dated approximately to the Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age which are somewhat typical of the evidence found across the region (Palmer-Brown and Rylatt 2011). Across an area c. 200m by 150m nine pits were discovered through evaluation trenching (hence there is a high probability there were more). Similar fills with small assemblages of mixed material were recovered, some burnt, including animal bone, pottery sherds, ash, fire-cracked stone, hazelnut shells and cereal grains; these contexts could not be well dated (Knight 2011). There was no evidence for direct burning in the pits. Although remains of a house mouse were recovered the excavators suggested this might not represent a settlement but an occasionally visited area (Palmer-Brown and Rylatt 2011, 13-4).

The identification of earlier first millennium BC cropmark enclosures is not straightforward, as there is a paucity of diagnostic indicators to distinguish them from mid- and later first millennium BC sites. Generally there has been a tendency to ascribe cropmark enclosures to the Later Iron Age or perhaps Roman era in preference to the Later Bronze Age–Earlier Iron Age. This should be borne in mind although there is no information on how frequently mis-dating of enclosure cropmarks occurs.

Since settlement remains and stratified features of the Late Bronze Age are comparatively rare and less well-understood, sites with foci of this period, when threatened by development, should be examined with the aim to maximize information return (e.g. of artefacts and palaeoenvironmental data) with perhaps higher sample percentages of features being excavated than may be stipulated for some other eras (Haselgrove et al. 2001, 9-14).

2.1.2 Hillforts

There are relatively few major defended sites in the region that can be categorized as hillforts or promontory forts and they are sparsely distributed (Lock and Ralston 2017; Ralston 2019, fig. 2.1). Whilst amongst these sites evidence of settlement can be marked, only a small number have yielded traces of Later Bronze Age occupation (Table 4). On the whole, these sites are not well characterised or explored, so further indications of Late Bronze Age occupation may be forthcoming and would not be surprising given that a proportion of hillforts in Britain have Later Bronze Age origins. As Scheduled Monuments, away from areas likely to be subject to development, future investigations are likely to be through projects concerned with preservation and conservation management in the light of visitor access, heritage presentation and associated mitigation. Relevant in these respects is the larger multivallate contour hillfort at Borough Hill, Daventry, Northamptonshire (RCHME 1981, 63–5; Jackson 1991; 1994a; 1997; Chinnock et al. 2020, 6), as it is possible it was established during this period following earlier use in the Bronze Age. It has produced Ewart Park metalwork, although pottery from the interior cannot be categorised more closely than Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age. Recent work at the site was designed to inform access and presentation agendas (Chinnock et al. 2020).

Elsewhere later Bronze Age occupation within some major defended sites is confirmed or probable at several locations. In Derbyshire the Peak District moorlands contain a range of surviving earthworks relating to settlement and agriculture of this period (see below). Important evidence comes from Mam Tor, a comparatively well-known if extraordinary site which has been something of a ‘magnetic north’ for later Bronze Age studies in the Midlands. Here some two hundred ‘house platforms’ occur on its exposed and barely accessible summit, indicating a large community, perhaps seasonally present. Several of the house platforms were examined in the 1960s when the earthworks were also sectioned. Pottery and other finds, including a socketed axe, found in association with the house platforms seem to attest occupation during this period, although questions concerning the nature of this activity and the chronology of the ramparts and occupation sequence still remain areas for debate and future investigation (Coombs 1976; Coombs and Thompson 1979; Barnatt 1995; Guilbert 1996; Bevan 2000; Barrett 2000). The occupation at Mam Tor is consistent with that seen elsewhere, for example, on a smaller scale, at Breedon Hill, Leicestershire (cf. below), or further afield at Eildon Hill North, Borders (Rideout et al. 1992). Occupation of what might be considered marginal locations could have been seasonal and relate to patterns of movement, perhaps tied to annual, especially agricultural cycles. More dramatically, such sites may be places of security in what has been cast as an endemically Hobbesian period of violence and threat (cf. Parker Pearson 1993: Thorpe 2013). Despite concerted fieldwork and scholarship at Mam Tor, this colossus of later prehistory remains enigmatic at a number of levels, and in a manner that is metaphorical for our presently limited understanding of the earlier first millennium BC in the region. The fort at Ball Cross, likewise in the Peak District, has also yielded pottery tentatively identified as Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age (cf. Coombs and Thompson 1979).

County/NameLocation and ‘Type’DateReference
Derbyshire
Ball Cross*Peak District
Small ramparted site
LBA and/or IAStanley 1954; Hart 1981, 75, fig. 7.2.7
Borough Hill, Walton on TrentTrent valley HillfortIron Age?Derbyshire HER
Burr TorPeak District
Hilltop earthworks, enclosing large area
Not known Iron Age?Barnatt and Smith 1997;
Hart 1981, 75, fig. 7.2.3
Carl Wark*Peak District
Promontory fort (part univallate)
Uncertain.
LBA-EIA?
Badcock and May 2014
Castle NazePeak District
Double ramparted promontory earthworks enclosing large area
Not known Iron Age?Hart 1981, 75, fig. 7.2.4
Castle RingPeak District
Small univallate hilltop enclosure of contour type
LBA and/or EIA?
Iron Age?
(LBA/EIA finds)
Makepeace 1990, 29; Makepeace 1999, 16
Cratcliff RocksPeak District
Promontory earthworks enclosing small area; postulated promontory fort
Not known;
Prehistoric/Later Prehistoric?
Makepeace 1999
Fin Cop*Peak District
Promontory earthworks (part bivallate)
enclosing large area
MIABarnatt and Smith 1997; Wilson and English 1998; Waddington 2010; 2012; Waddington and Montgomery 2017
Mam Tor*Peak District
Hilltop earthworks enclosing large area
LBA; and EIA?Coombs 1976; Coombs and Thompson 1979; Barnatt and Smith 1997; Guilbert 2001
Markland Grips*Magnesian Limestone
Promontory fort with triple ramparts
Iron Age?
(EIA finds?)
Lane 1969; Hart 1981, 75, fig. 7.2.6
Leicestershire
Bardon,
’Castle Hill’
Charnwood Forest
Small near circular enclosure defined by extant ditches
Not known
LBA? IA?
Liddle 1982, 22, fig. 16; Leicestershire HER
Beacon HillCharnwood Forest
Hilltop enclosures
Not known
LBA? IA?
LBA finds
Liddle 1982, 17, fig. 9; Leicestershire HER
Belton Castle, Belton*Charnwood Forest area
Small near circular earthwork
Iron Age?
M/LIA finds
Liddle 1982, 22, fig. 15
Burrough Hill*East (High) Leicestershire
Sub-rectangular single rampart enclosure hillfort
EIA–LIA
LIA finds
(Roman finds)
Wall 1907, 247-9; Thomas 1960; Brown and Simpson 1968; Thawley 1973; Liddle 1982, 22, fig. 12; Thomas and Taylor 2010; Taylor et al. 2012
Breedon Hill*Carboniferous Limestone uplands
Hilltop earthworks
(May start in LBA) EIA–MIA
LIA?
Wall 1907, 246-7; Kenyon 1950; Wacher 1964; 1977; Liddle 1982, 22
Ratby BuryLeicester Forest
Sub-rectangular earthwork enclosure
Not known? Iron Age LIA findsWall 1907, 252-3; TLAS 7, 23; TLAHS 47, 73; Liddle 1982, 26
Lincolnshire
Borough Banks, Old SomerbyKesteven uplandsNot known Iron Age?Lincolnshire HER
Careby Wood CampKesteven uplands
Double ramparted oval enclosure
Not known Iron Age?Phillips 1934, 102; May 1976a
Honington CampKesteven uplands
Double ramparted sub-rectangular
plateau fort
Not known MIA?May 1976a
Round Hills, IngoldsbyKesteven uplands
Small circular enclosure with single bank and ditch; putative hillslope fort
Not known
Iron Age?
May 1976a
Tattershall Thorpe*Lower Bain valley
Lowland enclosure of uncertain function, possible ‘marsh fort’; cattle enclosure
MIA to LIAChowne et al. 1986; Seager-Smith 1998
Northamptonshire
Arbury Banks, Chipping WardenHillfortNot knownRCHME 1982, 27-9
Borough Hill, Daventry*Large multivallate contour hillfortLBA/EIARCHME 1981, 63-5: Jackson 1994a; 1997;
Chinnock 2020
Borough Hill, northern hillfort*Smaller multivallate hillfort, superimposed at northern end of the aboveMIA?RCHME 1981, 63-5; Chinnock 2020
Castle Yard, Farthingston*HillfortEarly MIA?RCHME 1981, 86-7; Knight 1987
Crow Hill, Irthlingborough*Hillfort (univallate)EIA, MIA and LIAFoard and Parry 1987;
Parry 2006, 64-5, 139-46
Egg Rings, Salcey ForestEnclosure, possibly a small hillfortNot knownWoodfield 1980
GuilsboroughHillfortEIA and MIA?Cadman 1989; Pattison and Oswald 1994; RCHME 1993
Hunsbury*HillfortLBA/EIA to LIAFell 1936; Jackson 1994b; RCHME 1985; Jackson and Tingle 2012
Rainsborough*HillfortLBA/EIA and MIAAvery et al. 1967; RCHME 1982, 104-5; Clelland and Batt 2010
ThenfordCircular earthworkLBA
Iron Age?
RCHME 1982, 143-4; Northamptonshire HER
Warden Hill, ChippingPossibly a small hillfortNot knownKidd 2000
Whittlebury*HillfortIron AgeJones 2004
North Lincolnshire
Yarborough CampNorth Lincolnshire Wolds
Hillfort (univallate)
Not known
Iron Age?
May 1976a
Nottinghamshire
Burton Lodge,
Burton Joyce*
Mercia Mudstone uplands
Earthwork enclosure, located by a hill crest
Apparently Iron Age
(IA finds)
Mein and Revill 1951; Simmons 1963; O’Brien 1979, 309
Combs Farm, Farnsfield*Mercia Mudstone uplands
Promontory fort, defined by extant ditch, with rampart and possible second ditch
Not known
Iron Age?
Walters 1910, 26-7; Simmons 1963; O’Brien 1979; Bishop 2000
Crow Wood, Styrrup*Bunter Sandstone district
Lowland enclosure; possible ‘marsh fort’
Iron Age?Badcock and Symonds 1994; Parker Pearson and Sydes 1997
Dorket Head, Arnold*Mercia Mudstone uplands
Plateau earthwork enclosure
LBA and/or EIA; Late Iron Age;
(also Roman finds
Turner and Swarbrick 1978; Turner and Turner 1997
Fox Wood, WoodboroughMercia Mudstone uplands
Possible hillfort defined by ditch and bank with internal division
Iron Age?
(IA?, plus Roman finds)
Oswald 1939; Simmons 1963; O’Brien 1979, fig. 6
Bold Ox Camp,
Oxton
Mercia Mudstone uplands
(overlooked) multivallate hillslope enclosure
Not knownSimmons 1963; Bishop 2000
Rutland
RidlingtonChapter valley
Hillslope enclosure
LBA?Clay 2001
Table 4: Some hillforts and analogous sites of the East Midlands. Note: Excludes some certain ‘ringforts’; * denotes the site has been sampled via excavation.

2.1.3 Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire

At Gardom’s Edge, also in Derbyshire, fieldwork by the Peak District National Park Authority and Sheffield University investigated ‘house sites’ and field systems yielding important and varied artefactual material, dating the settlement to the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (Barnatt et al. 1995-2000; Barnatt and Smith 2004; Ainsworth and Barnatt 1998; Barnatt et al. 2017). C14 dating indicates a start date for the main floruit in the Late Bronze Age (Barnatt 2008; Barnatt et al. 2017, table 6.1). Three timber-built roundhouses were excavated, with relatively well-preserved features and associated pottery and other material, spatially recorded. The new understanding of the material culture from Gardom’s Edge, particularly the pottery assemblage (Beswick 2017a), has implications for chronology and interpretation of the period in northern Derbyshire, not least in the case of Mam Tor. The site at Gardom’s Edge has been suggested to be typical of the surviving prehistoric archaeological remains, including field systems, on the East Moors area. These remains have now been broadly dated from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age via comparison with Gardom’s Edge, and as a result of radiocarbon dating of environmental samples from settlements (cf. Barnatt 1999; Bevan 2000; Long et al. 1998). They seem to have been occupied over a prolonged period.

Elsewhere in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire evidence for Later Bronze Age and/or Early Iron Age settlement is insubstantial. In Derbyshire several sub–regions, such as the Coal Measures, lack firm evidence for Late Bronze Age settlement. That such sites may exist is suggested by the limited evidence from Tibshelf (Manning 1995; Barrett 2000). A roundhouse dating to the first half of the millennium has been excavated in the Trent valley at Swarkestone Lowes (Elliott and Knight 1999; Guilbert and Elliott 1999). In Nottinghamshire several very small collections of pottery (including post-Deverel–Rimbury Plainwares) seem to indicate Later Bronze Age and/or Early Iron Age settlement; yet this pottery is insufficiently diagnostic to facilitate close dating. A little of this material is associated with features and stratified contexts, although the artefact-yielding features tend to be isolated or loosely grouped, rather than representing clear structural evidence (cf. Pryor and French 1985, 306). These Nottinghamshire finds mainly come from sites with extensive later occupation (cf. Section 2.1.1). Although constituting only ‘glimpses’, such collections are nevertheless significant as they evidently represent forms of settlement activity. Occurring mainly on the eastern side of the county, they are otherwise dispersed. Cases include Dorket Head, Arnold, on the Mercian Mudstone hills (Turner and Swarbrick 1978; Turner and Turner 1997), Gamston on the Trent gravels (Knight 1992), Epperstone in the valley of a tributary of the Trent (East Midlands Archaeological Bulletin 1964, 25; 1966, 35-6; Challis and Harding 1975; S. Elsdon pers. comm.), and Red Hill, Ratcliffe-on-Soar, on the Keuper Marl by the Soar–Trent confluence, where postholes and gullies were revealed by the work of Greenfield (Elsdon 1982). The ceramics from the latter site may be Early Iron Age rather than Late Bronze Age. Scratta Wood, on the Magnesian Limestone, also produced pottery that is understood to be Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age (Bishop 2000).

Turning to the Don Valley area Cockrell’s thesis mapping Bronze Age monuments (Cockrell 2016, fig. 5.7) recorded more on the upland fringe of the southern Pennines and around the Don Gorge, but the distribution of Bronze Age find-spots of material culture (2016, fig, 5.8) shows a much more even distribution (albeit less on the Coal Measures and Sandstone, echoing the general archaeological record for prehistory). His conclusion was that all areas were in use. The issue for the period under scrutiny here is that settlement and pottery become much more elusive for the later Bronze Age.

2.1.4 Leicestershire and Rutland

Contrastingly, a comparatively good sample of Later Bronze Age–Earlier Iron Age settlement sites with buildings has been identified via excavations in Leicestershire and Rutland. Later Bronze Age settlement is recorded at Bardon Hill, Barkby Thorpe, Willow Farm (Castle Donnington), Eye Kettleby (Melton Mowbray), Glenfield, Glen Parva, Kirby Muxloe and apparently Ridlington (Clay 2000; Cooper 1994; Beamish 1997a; 1997b; 2002; Finn 1998; Liddle 1982, 19). Excavated evidence from the site at Willow Farm, Castle Donnington, on the alluvium/gravels of the Trent flood plain, had provisionally been ascribed a Later Bronze Age–Earlier Iron Age date (Coward and Ripper 1998; 1999; Willis 2006) but is now dated to the Later Bronze Age (Ripper et al. 2017); here at least one post-hole defined timber roundhouse (5.5 m in diameter with an entrance defined by posts) was identified together with numerous post holes that may indicate other structures, together with pits. A nearby pit alignment had sterile fills and may be Iron Age (Ripper et al. 2017, 24). At Ridlington, in Rutland, settlement is attested by a double-ring roundhouse (Beamish 1997a). Contemporary occupation is presumed at the hilltop site of Budden Wood, and possibly Beacon Hill, Woodhouse Eaves (Liddle 1982). Pottery scatters indicate a further 15–20 sites that may be of this date (Liddle 1982).

2.1.5 Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire

In Northamptonshire there are again few sites that can be attributed firmly to the Late Bronze Age. The ringwork at Thrapston is an exception to this (see below this Section). Features excavated at Harlestone Quarry, Northampton, include a shallow ditch system perhaps with an enclosure, that was undated but thought likely to be Late Bronze Age, with pits and for poster features within the system which were of Late Bronze Age date; two pits yielded loom weights and it is suggested there was probably occupation at this site at that time (Clarke et al. 2017). Another site in the vicinity of Northampton of this period is the settlement at Sandy Lane, Northampton (Garland et al. 2019). Here two likely roundhouses recognized from post settings lay adjacent and unenclosed, together with associated pits (Garland et al. 2019). A series of sites are, here too, pigeon-holed as Late Bronze Age–Early Iron Age. Flag Fen/Fengate, in north-west Cambridgeshire (Pryor 1974; 1978; 1980; 1984; 2001), was evidently a (?major) focal point at this time and, with others like it, may have been significant in the politics and culture of the Nene valley and its hinterlands.

Turning to Lincolnshire, in the mid-1970s May could only state that there was an absence within the historic county of firmly identified settlement sites of the Late Bronze Age (May 1976a, 109). Several important settlements of the transitional period are now known from the valleys and terraces approaching the Fens. Excavations to the south-east of Billingborough (1975-8), produced a range of features (Section 2.2), with evident longevity of the activity from the second half of the second millennium BC; by the Late-Bronze Age –Early Iron Age salt-working was being undertaken with possible structural evidence (Chowne et al. 2001, 7-16 and 89). Close dating of these activities was elusive though the site yielded a ceramic sequence showing a progression from Deverel­–Rimbury to post-Deverel–Rimbury styles, albeit with some qualification (Knight 2002; Chowne et al. 2001 31-56). Elsewhere, in some cases, preservation has been found to be particularly good. In the Lower Welland valley work in advance of gravel extraction at Deeping St James (Lincolnshire) revealed a well-preserved settlement of Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age date sealed by alluvium (Mouraille et al. 1996). The site included the following, but whether these features are specifically Late Bronze Age is not apparent from information available: an enclosure with double boundary ditch, surrounding post-built roundhouses, four-poster structures and rectangular buildings, with extant floors, hearths and associated pottery and faunal assemblages; earlier work had revealed a likely eaves-drip gully from a roundhouse (Mouraille et al. 1996); evidence for a field system was encountered, thought to relate to stock management with pastoral agriculture likely to have been important given the environmental setting (Membery 2002, 2). In Bourne Fen, Lincolnshire, Later Bronze Age – Early Iron Age pottery was found together with evidence of occupation including a hearth and fired daub (Lincolnshire HER). Further north in Lincolnshire identification of Late Bronze Age settlement has been very limited. This is emphasized by the near total absence of evidence for this period through the course of the Covenham to Boston pipeline (Bush forthcoming). Only two locations produced evidence for this period: at Covenham St Bartholomew (site A2), on the Marsh, a pit group was encountered with evidence of crop processing dated to the Late Bronze Age, or possibly Early Iron Age, while at Hundleby (site N2) on the south–east of the Wolds, a pit with an assemblage indicative of settlement/occupation was excavated (Bush forthcoming, chapter 2); a complete conical spindlewhorl of later Bronze Age type was recovered. By contrast a rectangular enclosure complex possibly of this date was located on the Lincolnshire Wolds at Kirmond le Mire; sherds attributed to the Deverel-Rimbury and post-Deverel­–Rimbury ceramic traditions were found, suggesting activity related to the time of transition, although it may pre-date the first millennium BC (Field and Knight 1992). In North Lincolnshire a small settlement site of Late Bronze Age date, with circular structures and post-Deverel–Rimbury Plainware pottery, was documented at Hibaldstow (Allen and Rylatt 2001; Allen and Knight 2001).

At Washingborough, by the Witham, downstream from Lincoln, work undertaken 2004-5 (Allen 2009), combined with earlier discoveries (Coles et al. 1979; Elsdon 1994a) has produced a series of significant finds dated to the Later Bronze Age (1100-800 BC). Here trenches revealed made ground and surfacing by the riverside, with a range of activities, perhaps seasonal, attested, including crop processing and animal husbandry, together with metalworking, and a heated tank possibly for brewing; the inference is that the river was used for transport, communication and trading (Allen 2009). The finds of dugout canoes (logboats) form the Witham may bear witness to such traffic. Extensive use of this river margin elsewhere during the first half of the millennium is likely though the dynamic nature of the river through the first millennium BC should be noted (Rackham 2009; Chowne 2015).

Few cases of smaller defended settlement enclosures, often termed ‘ringforts’ – of the type known at Springfield Lyons and Mucking (North Ring) in Essex and at Thwing, Yorkshire, during its final, Late Bronze Age phase (cf. Parker Pearson 1993; see Hull 2001 for references) are known in the region. In Northamptonshire, however, a part excavated evident ringfort at Thrapston yielded a post-Deverel–Rimbury Plainware assemblage and a single radiocarbon date centred on the eighth century BC (Hull 1998; 2001). The site was defined by a single ditch c. 1.8 m deep and a likely interior bank and measured c. 110-120 m in diameter with likely interior features. A number of evident placed deposits were encountered (see Section 10.2). Other possible or likely ringforts may exist, for example at Thenford in western Northamptonshire (RCHME 1982, 143-4), or amongst the small number of uninvestigated earthwork-enclosed sites in Leicestershire and Lincolnshire, such as Yarborough Camp (see Table 4). The possibility remains that such sites had a ceremonial dimension and indeed some evidence from Thrapston point to feasting and/or high status consumption.

2.2 Settlement Morphology

The sample of settlement sites known for this period is very limited and diverse, meaning that any attempt at the distillation of trends can only be provisional. On present evidence comparatively little can be said regarding the arrangement and organization of settlements, and the capture of such information via excavation remains a priority. It is likely that many Late Bronze Age sites were either unenclosed, or enclosed only by palisading. Several examined settlements within the Late Bronze Age–Early Iron Age envelope were unenclosed, as on the Eastern Moors of the Peak District (B. Bevan pers. comm.). Another unenclosed settlement within this chronological span is Wilby Way, near Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, where early development sees four roundhouses adjacent to an enclosure with no buildings within and interpreted as a stock enclosure (Enright and Thomas 1998, 32; 1999). The nature of the site at Swarkestone Lowes (Derbyshire) is uncertain as no features contemporary with the roundhouse were encountered (Elliott and Knight 1999; Guilbert and Elliott 1999); it is entirely possible that this Late Bronze Age–Early Iron Age settlement (if such it was) was likewise unenclosed. (Provisional assessment of the extensive settlement complex at Crick, Northampton­shire, had suggested occupation from this period (Hughes 1998; cf. Willis 2006); however, detailed study demonstrated this was emphatically not the case and that the occupation is Iron Age (Hughes and Woodward 2015)).

As noted, ditched enclosures of the Later Bronze Age are known at Billingborough and Kirmond le Mire (Section 2.1.5), as well as elsewhere (cf. Pryor 1996). Better evidence is required to clarify how frequently such features are settlement boundaries, or are concerned with the management of herds, or are communal meeting areas, etc. Phase 1 at Billingborough (Middle to Late Bronze Age) is thought to represent the remains of a settlement, defined by a U-shaped enclosure containing four post structures, pits, an occupation layer and a fence (Chowne et al. 2001). Evidence for buildings was absent, probably due to erosion.

2.3 Buildings and Structures

Some variety in building types occurs in the region. A rectangular building, of posthole and beam-slot construction, is recorded at Eye Kettleby, Leicestershire (Finn 1998; 2011), where post-Deverel–Rimbury Plainwares (of approximate eleventh- to ninth-century BC date) were associated. Rectangular buildings are also reported at Deeping St James while circular structures occur at several sites in the south of the region, including Kirby Muxloe, Glen Parva and Deeping St James (Cooper 1994; Liddle 1982, 19; Trimble 1996; Membery 2002; Lincolnshire HER). Double-ring roundhouses occur at several sites, specifically Willow Farm, Castle Donington, Leicestershire, Ridlington, Rutland (Beamish 1997a), and Swarkestone Lowes, Derbyshire (Guilbert and Elliott 1999), where the structure dates to the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age. The posthole ring of the latter, representing its inner roof supporting timbers, is c. 7 m in diameter. In the north of the region work at Gardom’s Edge, Derbyshire, revealed three circular buildings with substantive stakehole walls and posthole doorways with no stone footings recorded, and it is apparent that structural evidence in this landscape can have no visible surface indicators ((Barnatt et al. 1995–2000; Barnatt 2008, 52; Barnatt et al. 2017). The three roundhouses faced east and south-east measuring 5.25, 6.25 and 10 m in diameter. At Sandy Lane, Northampton, the post settings defining two roundhouses were approximately 8.5 and 6.8 m in diameter, though the report authors note that these timbers may have belonged to load bearing inner rings and not represent the outer wall, so the buildings may have been bigger (Garland et al. 2019). Both structures had pits within containing hearth type debris and the pit in the smaller of the two roundhouses produced a radiocarbon date of 1194-998 cal BC; it may have faced south-east. Loom weights were also associated with these structures (Garland et al. 2019). With a gap between the rings of 1.5 m it is possible they were not contemporary. At Gamston a post-built structure, perhaps of semicircular type, approximately of this date, was identified (Knight 1992). ‘D’ shaped structures are a known later prehistoric type, often thought to represent working areas. A pair of L-shaped gullies at Billingborough open (?) to the west, with an apparent entrance on the east may represent the partial survival of structural footings or perhaps screening associated with salt-winning (Chowne et al. 2001, 16, fig. 8).

2.4 Environment

As is well known, the early part of the first millennium BC was a period of comparatively poor climate, with increased ground wetness and lower temperatures. More recent work has refined the trend and it is now recognized to have had its greatest effect somewhat later than previously thought, falling within the earlier first millennium BC. Hence Waddington and Passmore, referencing specific studies (Van Geel 1998a; 1998b; Yeloff et al. 2007) emphasize the ‘profound climatic downturn to very wet and cold conditions c. 900 –c. 500 cal BC, the latter sometimes being referred to as the 2.7 ka event’ (Waddington and Passmore 2016, 187). As they point out ‘More localised climatic conditions will have no doubt also affected different regions and upland massifs across the British Isles throughout this period but within the context of [this] broad trend’ (ibid.). Flooding and inundation occurred, for instance, in the Fens and Fen margins (Pryor 1984; Pryor and French 1985, 305–6). Nonetheless, on the East Moors of the Peak District pockets of arable cultivation associated with field systems and settlement appear to have continued in use from the second into the first millennium BC, with pastoral activity also likely (Long et al. 1998). This begins to ‘correct’ earlier interpretations suggesting the abandonment of upland areas in Britain around the end of the second millennium BC (cf. Burgess 1985).

Cockrell’s thesis looking at the Don and its catchment (Cockrell 2016) has collated a range of evidence for the environment of that area during this era drawing on various sources. On the Hatfield Moors east of Doncaster pollen data (dated 1540-1280 cal BC) was interpreted as indicating that on drier areas livestock grazing was taking place before the first millennium BC (Smith 2002, 32). To the north Cockrell noted that on Thorne Moor (on the North Lincolnshire – South Yorkshire border) pollen from plant taxa indicated areas of open water, open woodland and pastoral farming; here lower amounts of tree pollen combined with the presence of hazel, grasses and sedges (cf. Buckland 1979; Smith 2002, 36); sampling included the vicinity of a trackway dated to the Late Bronze Age (Cockrell 2016, 135). Cereal cultivation perhaps continued on higher land in the area at this time. Oak pollen at the trackway side was found to reduce markedly and insect fauna reflecting wet environs increase in the context of sustained warm temperatures (cf. Buckland 1979, 47, 136; Buckland and Smith 2003, 42) associated with a date of 1450-950 cal B.C. (Chapman and Gearey 2013, 29, based on Birmingham 358: 980+/- 110 BC (Buckland 1979, 16)), that is just prior to the climatic downturn. Cockrell speculated that the increase in wet environs may be related to local factors. At Leash Fen (in north-east Derbyshire, southern Pennines) the evidence suggests grazing and continuing clearance in the earlier Bronze Age from a sample dated c. 1790 BC (Cockrell 2016, 135; Heath 2003, 35); clearance seems to have peaked c. 1500 BC with evidence of some arable cultivation until the Late Bronze Age, but then declines with the expansion of peat (Heath 2003, 35 and 40). Thereafter climate deterioration has been suggested to account for a decline in cereal production in upland areas (Long et al. 1998, 517-8; Heath 2003, 38).

Later, at Thorne Moor, there was an increase in grassy environments and likely continuity in the intensity of use (dated c. 870-540 cal BC) although by that time the levels included more raised mire (cf. Smith 2002, 36). Broadly speaking, a pattern of pastoral activity with some arable cultivation endured (Smith 2002, 49; Cockrell 2016, 140). To the south-east, around the Isle of Axholme, metalwork finds suggested to Cockrell significant activity (Cockrell 2016, 33). Here a wetter landscape with bogs and less trees will have endured through the first millennium BC; accordingly, this environment will have been less suitable to cattle (cf. Cockrell 2016, 316-7).

Elsewhere, Clay had highlighted the fact that the palynological information garnered from the Leicestershire and Rutland sites of Croft (Smith et al. 2005), Hemington, Kirby Muxloe and Oakham (Greig et al. 1999) identify a pattern of increasing clearance from the Later Bronze Age and a predominance of grassland (Clay 2000). Instances of erosion dated to or attributed to the early and mid-first millennium BC are seen as a consequence of concerted clearance and farming, though Knight has suggested this becomes marked by the later first millennium BC in the Trent valley (Knight 2007). In Lincolnshire, environmental change in the Witham Valley and the Lincolnshire Fens has in part been characterized for later prehistory (Hayes and Lane 1992, e.g. figs 7-10; Rackham et al. 2004; Chowne 2015). Instructive pollen, wood, insect and molluscan samples are published from Washingborough on the Witham dating to the Late Bronze Age (Allen 2009, chapter 5, see specialist reports). With reference to Washingborough we may note that bones of the house mouse were recovered from two contexts at Washingborough, these rodents probably feeding on cereal grain, and representing the earliest records for the species in Britain (Rackham 2009, 97-9, 140, table 5.10); beaver bones and beaver gnawed wood was also recovered (Wood 2009; Taylor 2009a). Beaver was also represented in the faunal assemblage from the 1981 work at nearby Fiskerton, probably later in date (Field and Parker Pearson 2003, 128), as well as from Welland Bank Quarry (cf. Section 2.1.5; Rackham 1996); here sampling for pollen was conducted but assessment suggested the method had low potential given the nature of survival (Mouraille et al. 1996). Pollen sampling was undertaken at Willow Farm, Castle Donington, with results reported for the Bronze Age (Ripper et al. 2017).

Turning the Trent valley, pollen samples, insect remains and plant macrofossils show areas of the valley to have been cleared of woodland for cereals by the Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age and in agricultural use, though woodland pasture will have been important during this period when an emphasis on livestock raising is suggested (Knight and Howard 2004, 83; Monckton 2006, 269; Knight 2007, 192-3). In the Lower Trent valley, coring and palaeobotanical remains from north of Girton and Waycar Pasture show arable cultivation underway in the second millennium BC enduring into the Roman era though livestock rearing was evident from indicators such as dung beetles (Knight and Howard 2004, 84). Following the period of climatic deterioration, as the first half of the millennium progresses, there occurs further clearance of the Middle and Lower Trent valley and increased attention to cereal cultivation (cf Knight 2007).

2.5 Material Culture

2.5.1 Metalwork and Metalworking

One of the main sources of knowledge for the Later Bronze Age in the region remains metalwork. This is especially significant for areas where documented settlement and other evidence is meagre. The regional collection is an eclectic ensemble, deriving from piecemeal discoveries and reporting, supplemented more recently by PAS records, as for instance, in the case of the fine Ewart Park type sword recovered by a digger operator during gravel extraction at Church Wilne, Derbyshire (Hughes 1999, 6, fig. 18). Comparatively few items come from modern controlled fieldwork from settlement sites or elsewhere. A number of Later Bronze Age hoards are known, for instance, in Leicestershire and Rutland, the important groups from Beacon Hill, Cottesmore and Welby (cf. Liddle 1982, 17, fig. 8; Boughton and Scott 2014 – for the Welby hoard). In Northampton­shire a Late Bronze Age hoard was recovered at Ecton (Kidd 2000). The Nettleham hoard from near Lincoln is also of regional importance (cf. May 1976a, 103), as are the Hallstatt Gündlingen type swords found together near Tattershall in the east of the county (Cowen 1967, nos 189-90). The corpus covering Lincolnshire published by Davey (1973) includes much Later Bronze Age metalwork from the historic county, while May’s (1976a) volume on Lincolnshire continues to provide a valuable summary. May included a distribution map of Late Bronze Age bronze objects (ibid., fig. 63), which shows clearly areas of numerous finds (e.g. the Middle Witham valley and its immediate hinterland) and those for which there is an absence (e.g. the Middle and Outmarsh areas bordering the coast, the Fens, and the middle and northern Wolds). More recently the Isle of Axholme has been noted as a cluster point (Cockrell 2016, 33) though most of the finds are older records. Cockrell noted that the distribution of later Bronze Age loped and socketed axe heads and spearheads must indicate the importance of the Magnesian Limestone and adjacent wetlands at this time (Cockrell 2016, 316-7).

Turning to production, evidence for Late Bronze Age copper alloy metalworking was recovered at Washingborough by the Witham in the form of two crucible rims and three mould fragments for multiple identical pin heads (Northover and Bridgford 2009). A fragment from a clay mould for a chisel or socketed axe was found in one of the pits in the Winton Road area at Navenby (cf. Section 2.1.1) associated with Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age pottery (Palmer-Brown and Rylatt 2011, 14; Bayley 2011). At Girton Quarry, Clifton Hill Fields, Nottinghamshire, fieldwork in 2008-9 located a solitary pit dating to the Late Bronze Age (Poole et al. 2018). This contained 98 fragments from bipartite refractory clay moulds for the manufacture of peg-socketed spearheads as well as, perhaps, leaf shaped swords of Wilburton type (c. 1140-1020 BC); the pit also yielded 62 sherds of Post-Deverel-Rimbury Plain ware (Percival 2018). In the vicinity of Fiskerton and Washingborough on the Witham a series of Late Bronze Age finds are recorded, both single finds and hoards, including a hoard of four or five socketed axes (Washingborough 1 hoard) plus a mould for a socketed axe (Field and Parker Pearson 2003, 155).

Riverine contexts for such metalwork are frequent, echoing patterns observed across northern Europe (Bradley 1990). Most of the 19 instances of Late Bronze Age metalwork on the Nottinghamshire HER c. 2003 were associated with the River Trent (see now Pearce and Davis forthcoming). From this river have come both local and imported Hallstatt swords (Cowen 1967, nos 191-3; MacCormick 1966, 36, fig. 7.7–8). West of Scunthorpe a hoard of Late Bronze Age socketed axes was found buried in the bed of the Trent when Keady Bridge was constructed in the early 20th century. Finds are also known from the Witham, including the extraordinary antennae-hilted sword (Hawkes 1946, 12, pl. 3a–b; Davey 1973, fig. 20 no. 199; May 1976a). Chowne has noted the comparatively high number of Later Bronze Age metal finds from the peat fen between Lincoln and the Slea (Chowne 1980). He eschewed an interpretation of these items as part of a ritual phenomenon, suggesting instead that since these items were particularly associated with the edge of the fen, where the peat layer was thinner, they came from settlements subsequently buried by peat growth.

Elsewhere, Late Bronze Age metalwork has been found at sites with domestic occupation. These include the ridge top settlement at Glenfield, Leicester, and Gardom’s Edge, Derbyshire. In Northamptonshire, Ewart Park metalwork was found in the interior of Borough Hill, Daventry (RCHME 1981, 63–5; Jackson 1994a; 1997). A significant find comprises the fragments of a socketed axehead from Mam Tor, typologically Late Bronze Age, but manufactured in lead (Guilbert 1996), raising the possibility that lead was being extracted in the Peak District during later prehistory (cf. Section 3.5.1 regarding socketed axeheads). Waddington and Montgomery have pointed up the possibility of lead and copper extraction from White Peak ores in later prehistory era (Waddington and Montgomery 2017, 55).

Assessing the evidence from Lincolnshire, May pointed out that the frequency with which bronzes of Late Bronze Age date have come to light indicates that bronze must have been plentiful at this period (May 1976a, 103). A case could be made for this being so for the whole of the East Midlands. Significantly, May deduced that this indicated ‘a well-organised and secure supply of metal, since there were no local sources either of copper or tin’ (ibid.). In sum, the region has yielded a large number of Late Bronze Age metal artefacts, some of which are magnificent items by any standard. Certain types of tool, martial equipment and ornamental pieces predominate, as they do elsewhere in Britain. These bronzes indicate the wealth of the region, and its cultural and economic articulation with southern and western Britain and the northern Continent at this time. Some at least of these pieces were presumably fashioned locally and constitute an index of technological awareness within Late Bronze Age communities in the region. The nature of many of these pieces and of their find-spots suggests attention to symbolism and ritual. They remain important items both for materials analysis research and also for considering society and social practice.

2.5.2 Pottery

Assemblages and collections of Late Bronze Age pottery are not numerous, nor are they well characterised. Key references are Knight (2002) and the Gazetteer of Later Prehistoric Pottery Collections (First Millennium BC) accessible through the Archaeological Data Service (Earl et al. 2007).

Spanning the very end of the second millennium BC until c. 800 BC are the post-Deverel-Rimbury Plainware styles, which are succeeded by (overlapping) Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age styles (Barrett 1980; Cunliffe 2005, 88-90; Knight 2002, 123-6). Post-Deverel–­Rimbury Plainware is known from a select number of sites particularly from the Peak District and the Fen hinterland, including Ball Cross, Derbyshire (Stanley 1954) and Mam Tor (Barrett 1979 (superbly drawn by Jenny Coombs); see below), Billingborough (Chowne et al. 2001), Deeping St James and Hagnaby near Stickford (Knight 2002). Large Plainware assemblages from Langtoft and Welland Bank in south Lincolnshire (Pryor 1998a; D. Knight pers. comm.) may be dated via radiocarbon determinations on associated organics [Update]. Elsewhere, May published details of pottery finds from the period recovered at Brigg and Washingborough in the northern and central areas of the historic county (May 1976a, 109-13; cf. Coles et al. 1979; Elsdon 1994a). The pottery items from the latter site can now be seen more readily as Late Bronze Age given the evidence from the site recovered 2004-5; overall this is a significant pottery assemblage for the region which has received comprehensive attention (Allen 2009, 41-57). Further north again in Lincolnshire pottery of the period with everted rims and finger impressions has been published from Barnetby (Didsbury and Steedman 1992). In Leicestershire comparatively little Late Bronze Age pottery is known/reported. Some 776 sherds of post-Deverel-Rimbury plain wares are mentioned in a note on the site at Willow Farm, Castle Donington, and four vessels are illustrated, but no details are published (Marsden 2017, fig. 23). A reassessment of the pottery from Mam Tor is required in the light of the finds from Gardom’s Edge (Barrett 2000; Bevan 2000; Beswick 2017a). Thin-sectioning of pottery samples from the 1960s fieldwork at the site provided new insights with regard to the typology and other aspects of this important collection (Guilbert and Vince 1996), further demonstrating the research potential of archived materials.

At Tibshelf, in north-east Derbyshire, adjacent to the M1, a Late Bronze Age upland enclosure on Coal Measures was excavated (Manning 1995). Pottery ascribed to the Late Bronze Age by the excavators (135 sherds from 2 vessels) has been in need of further study to verify the ascription (cf. Barrett 2000, 4). Elsewhere in the north of the East Midlands region there is a lack of confirmed pottery of the Late Bronze Age in the Don Valley area (Cockrell 2016, 312), reflecting the lack of settlement sites for this period.

Finally, in the case Northamptonshire, the ringwork at Thrapston produced a significant if small assemblage for this period (cf. Section 2.1.5) with another small assemblage of pottery dated Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age forthcoming from Harlestone Quarry (Clarke et al. 2017, fig. 18); a small and generally undiagnostic pottery group for this era is, however, reported from Sandy Lane, Northampton (Garland et al. 2019).

2.5.3 Other Artefact Categories

The Late Bronze Age riverside site at Washingborough has yielded a range of notable finds. In 1973 a cheek piece from a horse bridle fashioned from antler and showing use-wear was recovered (May 1976a, 111, fig. 61.6; Coles et al. 1979, fig. 4). Excavations in 2004-5 produced a range of bone implements and a large part of a finely made wooden bowl showing from a full profile that the form mirrored that seen with contemporary pottery styles (Taylor 2009b). Present too were shale items including a ring and bracelet with the latter repaired with lead (Allen 2009, fig. 4.15); the shale source is potentially Swine Sty in Derbyshire. ‘Shale’ or more accurately cannel coal was evidently being worked in the Late Bronze Age at the settlements at Gardom’s Edge and Swine Sty to fashion large jet-like rings for bodily adornment (cf. Beswick 1994; 2017b). Also from Gardom’s Edge came four annular blue (turquoise) glass beads for which a Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age date is ascribed on typological grounds, these items originating from a source in the Near East (Jackson 2017). At the extraordinarily well-preserved Late Bronze Age site at Must Farm, Cambridgeshire (just to the south of the East Midland region), over 100 beads were recovered, including many glass beads, plus amber, glass, stone and jet beads from a necklace, suggesting beads may have been quite common in ordinary domestic contexts at that time (w w.mustfarm.com). An amber bead was also recovered at Washingborough, the source of the amber being the Baltic or possibly the eastern coast of Britain (Allen 2009). Illustrations of the artefacts in the 2009 Washingborough monograph (Allen 2009) are of particular high quality, being mainly the work of the late Dave Hopkins.

Amongst the bone tools from Washingborough was a polished weaving batten indicative of textile manufacture at or in the hinterland of the site (Allen 2009). Textile manufacturing was also attested at Harlestone Quarry, Northampton, where a group of loomweights came from a pit dated to the Late Bronze Age by a radiocarbon determination, with a stone spindle whorl also found at the site (Clarke et al. 2017). Loom weights were also recovered at the Late Bronze Age settlement at Sandy Lane, Northampton (Garland et al. 2019).

On the Fen edge in Lincolnshire, at Hagnaby Lock, work in advance of the Covenham to Boston Pipeline (site Y1) recovered a large assemblage of struck flint (comprising 274 items) indicative of flint working, mostly from midden deposits but also ditches (Bush forthcoming; Bishop forthcoming). Along with pottery, burnt stone and britquetage, the assemblage dates to the Late Bronze Age and was thought probably associated with more extensive deposits (cf. Lane and Trimble 2010). Bishop suggests the total number of flints at this site “could amount to many thousands of pieces” (Bishop forthcoming). A series of dumps for midden or possibly ‘burnt mound’ debris may parallel the ‘seeded’ middens of the Late Bronze Age-Early Iron Age known from southern Britain (Waddington 2009; Waddington and Sharples 2011; see also Knight 2007, 196, for Trent valley parallels). This assemblage is a reminder that flint implements were still being used and created, often in an ad hoc manner, through the first millennium BC.

2.6 Agriculture

(Monckton’s synthesis for the original Resource Assessment remains valid and an useful summary for this period (Monckton 2006)). Yates’ study of field systems, settlement, population, and ‘political economy’ identified processes of change in the Late Bronze Age in southern England (Yates 2007), with field and settlement abandonment and perhaps population decline arising from various pressures and dynamics and partly to do with climate changes (cf. Section 2.4). His findings and interpretations have not been widely addressed in the East Midlands in recent work and here the impacts may not have been so marked, but this requires more investigation (cf. Section 2.4).

A few Later Bronze Age sites have yielded evidence for cereals, spelt being noted on drier sites, there having been an increase in the identification of such remains in recent years. Elsewhere spelt is not so apparent (cf. Monkton 2006, 269). Deeping St James, Lincolnshire, yielded evidence of barley, bread wheat, and emmer cultivation during the Late Bronze Age (A. Monckton pers. comm.), with flax and hazelnut shell also represented. Emmer and nut shell were also recovered at the Lincolnshire Fen-edge site at Hagnaby Lock near Stickford (Murphy 2010). On the south-eastern Wolds recent work at Hundleby (cf. Section 2.1.5) sampled a pit ascribed to the Late Bronze Age which contained some cereal grains and hazelnut shell plus a hulled wheat glume base (Fosberry forthcoming). At Covenham St Bartholomew on the Marsh (cf. Section 2.1.5) a Late Bronze Age pit group yielded hulled wheat chaff and grains with spelt present and a minor emmer component, and in the round thought likely to represent the final stages of cereal processing (Fosberry forthcoming). Emmer, barley and nut shell were present at Eye Kettleby (Monckton 2011). Querns come from a number of sites or contexts believed to date to this period, like Tibshelf, where a saddle quern is reported (Manning 1995) and Gardom’s Edge (Barnatt et al. 2017).

At Rectory Farm, West Deeping, near the river Welland, southern Lincolnshire, an extensive co-axial field system was established in the Late Bronze Age with a groups of associated pits yielding much pottery of this period (Savage et al. forthcoming). In the valleys leading to the Fens, livestock, particularly cattle, appear to have become increasingly important (Pryor and French 1985, 306). Excavations at Washingborough, Lincolnshire, between 2004-5 at a site dated to the Late Bronze Age, showed cattle dominated the faunal assemblage, the interpretation being that they were principally for dairy, with pigs important for meat rather than sheep (Rackham 2009); earlier finds from the area likewise showed cattle to comprise half of the faunal assemblage, the remainder consisting of a mixture of domestic and wild animals, birds and fish (Coles et al. 1979), though with the fish bones from the 2004-5 work Rackham concluded these were likely mainly to be the consequence of natural deposition at this riverside location, with some possibilities of food use in specific contexts (Rackham 2009, 141).

 In a cogent article Pryor (1996; cf. 1998b) outlined a case for identifying large-scale sheep raising on the western Fen margin during the Later Bronze Age, with many of the enclosures and ditches of this landscape seen as relating to flock management. He suggests the regime did not continue much into the first millennium BC, due to flooding of summer grazing areas with sea level change and climatic deterioration. Salt ‘winning’ at this time may in part have been directed towards the provision of licks for sheep and other animals, providing them with vital dietary supplements (ibid., 322).

Mixed agricultural regimes were evidently practised at this time in favourable pockets on the East Moors, Derbyshire (cf. Long et al. 1998), where extensive field systems have been recognised, and indeed continued through the first millennium BC.

3. The Late Bronze Age to Iron Age Transition, and the Early Iron Age c. 800 BC–450 BC

3.1 Introduction

Difficulties of evidence and methods (cf. Section 1.2) mean that chronological resolution around this period is often difficult such that it is impossible to assign archaeological evidence as either Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age. Yet in any case the shift from the use of bronze to iron tools, and the other changes associated with the emergence of the Iron Age, were part of an unfolding process that did not occur at a fixed moment in time but was made over several generations. In this section, therefore, the evidence lying within the approximate parameters of the transition and the Early Iron Age is grouped together. Sites, activity areas and finds of this period are infrequent and often elude remote sensing and survey methods; where found it is frequently as a precursor to a firmer footprint of evidence during the Middle Iron Age (cf. Willis 1997; Clay 2000; Kidd 2000; Beamish and Shore 2008, 63-4). On the basis of a range of changes, recognised as having taken place in the century between 850-750 BC (e.g. Needham 2007), the date of c. 800 BC is taken here for the start of this transition.

As with the Late Bronze Age, since settlement remains and stratified features of Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age ascription are comparatively rare and less well-understood, all sites with foci of this period, when threatened by development, should be examined with the aim to maximize information return, with perhaps higher percentages of features excavated than may be stipulated for some other eras.

3.2 Settlement Evidence

The archaeological visibility of settlements is at best only marginally higher during the Earlier Iron Age than during the Late Bronze Age, largely because the character of sites is not markedly different. Defended settlements of the period might be thought to be more readily identifiable, but there has been only limited investigation of potential sites, with a concomitant lack of diagnostic material.

As noted above, a number of sites have produced modest evidence for occupation during the Late Bronze Age and/or the Early Iron Age: in the Trent valley these include Dorket Head, Epperstone, Gamston, Red Hill and Willington, Derbyshire, while also in the north of the region, evidence assigned a similar date has been forthcoming from Scratta Wood, on the southern slopes of the Ryton valley west of Worksop, and at Gardom’s Edge (cf. above). Further south, both Crick and Wilby Way, Wellingborough (Enright and Thomas 1999), in Northamptonshire, and Empingham, Rutland (see below this Section), have yielded evidence of activity/occupation of this period (attribution to this phase in the case of Wilby Way being confirmed by radiocarbon dates). In all these cases this evidence represents the earliest phase of a settlement which is long-lived, with either apparently continuous occupation through the Iron Age and into, in some cases, the Roman period, or where subsequent occupation through these periods is evident but not necessarily unbroken. At least some of these sites were, during this initial period, unenclosed.

At Hamilton, outside Leicester, a trackway and structural evidence on a valley side were dated by radiocarbon to the end of the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (Beamish and Shore 2008). Evidence for perhaps four roundhouses was recovered. South of these the trackway, defined by a series of parallel ditches and vestigial metalling, was interpreted as a livestock management feature for channelling, processing and separating cattle (or maybe sheep and goats if hurdles were employed). In other words this was interpreted as a droveway with races in line with the suggestions for the morphology of such arrangements outlined by Pryor (1996) and similar to features found at Pegswood Moor on the Northumberland coastal plain, likewise interpreted (Proctor 2009; cf. Section 6.2).

Two major Leicestershire hillforts, Breedon Hill and Burrough Hill, appear to have earlier Iron Age origins (Clay 2000). However, the chronology of these two important sites is obscure [Update?]. A Late Bronze Age start date is possible for Breedon Hill, while concerted activity and occupation at Burrough Hill could have started in the Bronze Age or earlier Iron Age (cf. Liddle 1982, 22; Taylor et al. 2012). Kenyon’s seminal work at Breedon Hill indicated that occupation pre-dated the construction of the defensive works (Kenyon 1950, 20), which may also have been the case at Mam Tor. Whilst the sequence of the defences at Breedon Hill is fairly well understood, the dating of the site’s development during the first millennium is vague, and the nature of the remains inside the earthworks is not clear (e.g. Wall 1907, 246–7; Wacher 1964; 1977; Liddle 1982). In Northamptonshire occupation at several hillforts is attributable to this phase (for instance, at Hunsbury (Kidd 2000) and Rainsborough (Avery et al. 1967)).

Away from the hillforts, earlier Iron Age occupation/activity has been identified at several sites in the south­-east of the region, namely at Empingham (Cooper 2000, 46–8), Stamford Road, Oakham, and perhaps Ridlington (Beamish 1997a), all in Rutland, while settlement of this period is also attested on the Welland and Nene valley gravels. Just over the border in Cambridgeshire, work on the Deepings’ bypass revealed an Early Iron Age settlement with circular structures, in the Welland valley; pottery from the site is transitional, from Early to Middle Iron Age (perhaps sixth to fifth centuries BC).

At Gonalston, in the middle Trent valley, possible structural evidence was encountered at an unenclosed site, with post-Deverel-Rimbury Plainwares and Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age pottery in association. Features included scattered pits, post holes and what may be the truncated foundations of roundhouses; these features occurred in dispersed fashion along a gravel ‘island’ (Elliott and Knight 2002). This pattern of scattered unenclosed features is quite characteristic for the period.

By contrast two small contemporary Early Iron Age ditched enclosures have been excavated at Station Road, Elton-on–the-Hill, Nottinghamshire, lying 500m apart and dated by C14 (Brudenell 2018). The most complete was in Area 1 being sub-circular and 26 m in diameter with at least two phases; phase 2 dated 761-429 cal BC at 95.4% probability. In Area 2 the second phase included a sub-rectangular enclosure 18 x 8 m. A date from bone at Area 2 was 411-231 cal BC at 95.4% probability. These are perhaps the earliest dated Iron Age enclosures in the region (Brudenell 2018; see Section 3.3).

In Northamptonshire sites of Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age date occur along the Nene valley. Small-scale sites are also known at Gretton by the Welland (Jackson and Knight 1985), and in the undulating terrain between Corby and Kettering, specifically at Weekley Hall Wood (Jackson 1976) and Great Oakley (Jackson 1982), where the subsoil is clay. At Foxhills, Brackley, an isolated pit [722] produced a radiocarbon date 500-400 BC consistent with the attribution of associated pottery as Early Iron Age. The pit contained bones of cattle, sheep and dog and although solitary (bar a later adjacent pit) a case is made that this is a domestic assemblage indicative of a short live settlement suggested to be typical of the light traces of this period when structures may have been ephemeral (Morris 2019, 90-1). In sum, in Northamptonshire, sites attributed to this date are concentrated on the permeable geologies of the Nene valley, but as in Leicestershire and Rutland occupation on claylands is precedented. In western Northampton­shire defended sites on the higher ground are believed to be occupied during this period. Fewer sites are known on the clay subsoils of southern and western Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, but this may be due to difficulties of archaeological visibility and non-intensive research input.

Kidd (2000) notes that the distribution of likely domestic activity is very much broadened when the incidence of Late Bronze Age–Early Iron Age pottery collections is plotted using the Gazetteer of Later Prehistoric Pottery Collections database (Earl et al. 2007). This applies particularly to Northamptonshire, and to a lesser degree to Leicestershire, Rutland and parts of Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire where such material has been collected, especially via surface survey.

3.3 Settlement Morphology

As noted the evidence for settlement for this period is infrequent. A significant proportion of the evidence is limited in extent, of low density, non-structural (typically pits and shallow gullies), often truncated and, indeed, unenclosed by ditches or palisades – a significant contrast to the subsequent Middle and Later Iron Age evidence. With such a modest sample of settlement sites, the identification of spatial trends and morphological characteristics is largely precluded. One deduction can be made: the morphology of occupation sites is not distinctive or prominent enough to make them regularly visible to current survey and prospection methods.

The site at Station Road, Elton-on–the-Hill, Nottinghamshire produced evidence for two enclosures (Section 3.2; Brudenell 2018). In Area 1 the initial enclosure was defined by discontinuous ditches with breaks – possibly entrances – with a ditched funnel-like entranceway to the north-east. In a second phase a regular penannular enclosure, slightly smaller, was instituted again with an entrance on the north-eastern side; the funnel may still have been extant. Likely postholes suggest a gate at the entrance while the ditches could be palisade slots (Brudenell 2018). In Area 2 the earliest features were a series of curvilinear ditches representing a boundary. This was superseded by an enclosure 18 x 8 m with an entrance to south-east, thought probably part of a larger ditched complex. Given that the two enclosures are approximately contemporary but differ in that one was curvilinear and the other rectangular it was suggested this may represent a functional difference (Brudenell 2018, 96). It was suggested that the enclosures represent farmsteads and that they may have had associated roundhouses now lost (Brudenell 2018, 96). At Sileby in Leicestershire two small Early-Middle Iron Age enclosures were recorded approximately contemporary with the enclosures at Elton-on-the-Hill ; one had traces of a roundhouse within (Luke and Barker 2014). In sum these sites demonstrate that ditching was occurring at settlements and field systems by the end of the earlier Iron Age (cf. Knight 2007, 197) with a parallel being drawn with Gamston (Brudenell 2018; Knight 1992). At Gonalston, Nottinghamshire, comparatively rare evidence for a bank besides a major boundary ditch was extant (Elliott and Knight 2003; Knight and Elliott 2008, 165, 67 fig. 6).

Sites excavated in Northamptonshire may be broadly typical of non-upland sites in the region as a whole. In Northamptonshire the small number of sites recorded to date, at Gretton, Great Oakley and Weekley Hall Wood (see above and Kidd 2000) demonstrate that settlements are often unenclosed and of small scale, containing perhaps only one to a few timber structures and pits. This pattern is seen also in areas further south, as at Bancroft, Milton Keynes (Williams and Zeepvat 1994, 20–40). At Weekley Hall Wood a probable circular, or possible semicircular structure was recorded (Section 3.4); of the six four post structures discerned, five occurred in an east-west string indicating zoning; two post structures were also present, but pits were few (Jackson 1976).

3.4 Buildings and Structures

The evidence from Weekley Hall Wood is suggested as perhaps likely to be fairly representative for much of the region (Jackson 1976). Here, the probable circular structure was represented only by an incomplete ring of postholes defining a semi­circle; if genuinely semicircular, this structure may have been a shelter (as at Gamston); alternatively, the other half of the circle may have been lost, potentially as post settings were shallow. If it was a circular building, a south-east facing entrance is possible (ibid.), and its diameter will have been c. 13 m, hence very much at the larger end of the size range for such structures. Similarly, at North Hamilton, outside Leicester, three apparent roundhouses (perhaps four) of this era were detected from partial, varied, remains of slot-like lengths for walling and post settings from which they were extrapolated to be c. 13.5 m in diameter and placed on the southern edge of an enclosure, not necessarily contemporary and perhaps successive; in one case an entrance was discernible, and it faced east (Beamish and Shore 2008). One feature seen too at Wanlip (cf Section 4.4, Beamish 1998) was that the walls seem to have been constructed as a series of straight panels not a circle.

The four post structures at the Weekly Hall Wood site are of broadly similar dimensions with a long axis of c. 2.5–3.8 m, bar one which is c. 1.5 m square. Four post structures are normally thought to represent granaries, although other functions have been suggested: drying frames, funerary platforms, shrines and towers (Ellison and Drewett 1971; Gent 1983; Knight 1984, 154; Beamish 1998, 29). A variation on this theme may be a post structure at North Hamilton with five posts (Beamish and Shore 2008). Covered, but maybe open sided, storage functions for wood or other resources may be imagined.

3.5 Material Culture

3.5.1 Metalwork and Metalworking

Metalwork of this period is scarce across central eastern England (cf. Boughton and Scott 2014, 37, referencing the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the HERs). By this time hoards are not a common practice. Occasional finds for this general period include socketed axe types which may have had a currency to c. 500 BC. One of the few recovered items is a socketed axehead from Mam Tor attributed to the late seventh century BC (cf. Bevan 2000, 147). This item, in copper alloy, is of Sompting type and was recovered at platform 4 at the site in the 1960s (Coombs and Thompson 1979, 44). Another example, found by a metal detector user, though in this case complete, came from Hathern in north Leicestershire; in reporting this find Boughton and Scott discuss the date of this axehead type and the few instances of Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age socketed axeheads in the Leicestershire and south Nottinghamshire area (Boughton and Scott 2014). Another example came from Shardlow Quarry, south Derbyshire, a location by the River Trent which has yielded a number of items of Bronze Age metalwork including two swords, two spearheads, a chisel and four other axeheads all of Late Bronze Age date (Davies 2006; see Section 10). A further example, again a find made by a metal detector user, came from Preston Capes, Northamptonshire (Boughton and Cassidy 2012). A variant of a Yorkshire type socketed axe, being a chance find reported from Little Bytham, Lincolnshire, is dated by its reporters to the period 1000-500 BC (Bennet and Phillips 1997).

Early Iron Age brooches are rare in Britain generally. An example from Dragonby, North Lincolnshire, comprises the lower bow and foot of a copper alloy brooch of La Tène I type. May (1976a, 125; 1996) suggested a date in the fifth century BC, whereas Hull and Hawkes (1987, 110) preferred one in the fourth century BC. Either way, there is no evidence of occupation or activity at Dragonby at this time (May 1996). In Northamptonshire a Swan’s Neck pin was recovered at Wilby Way, Wellingborough, a type that was in circulation from the Early Iron Age (Bircher 2003). A complete ring-headed pin was excavated at Station Road, Elton-on–the-Hill, Nottinghamshire, and given the context should date to the Early Iron Age (Brudenell 2018). Another example was recovered from a pit alignment at Gretton, Northamptonshire, (Jackson 1974; see Section 7.4), while others are known from Flag Fen and (in Lincolnshire) Crowland Abbey in the lower Welland valley, and the upper ditch filling at Giant’s Hills I long barrow, where the explanation could be that it was an offering at an older monument (May 1976a, fig. 66.1 and 2).

Very early evidence for iron smelting was recovered at Greetwell Hall Farm, Messingham south of Scunthorpe in 2007-8 and 2015, with slag mounds and excavation revealing a furnace containing 630 kg of slag; samples from charcoal obtained from without and within the furnace provided a date of c. 780-590 cal BC (Pitts 2016; Halkon and Jinks-Fredrick 2018; North Lincs HER MLS21192; see Section 8.6).

3.5.2 Pottery

Towards the very end of the Bronze Age an increase in finger decoration occurs, as evidenced by assemblages from further south in England. However, the East Midlands lacks sites where this shift of emphasis from post-Deverel–Rimbury Plainwares to Decorated vessels occurs (cf. Thrapston: Hull 1998; 2001). A significant assemblage comes from North Hamilton where C14 has assisted in dating the material to this era of transition, where T-shaped rim forms apart, the form typology might have suggested a later Iron Age date (Cooper 2008); no Ancaster-Breedon types were present in this assemblage which is taken as a chronological indicator. Typologically Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age pottery has been recovered at Harborough Rocks, Derbyshire (Makepeace 2004). Residue analysis was undertaken at Thrapston (Hull 2001).

A significant assemblage of typologically Early Iron Age pottery was forthcoming from Station Road, Elton-on–the-Hill, Nottinghamshire (Brudenell 2018). The great majority of the pottery was tempered with shell which is typical of groups from Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire during the earlier Iron Age and so this assemblage is broadly consistent with the slightly later groups from Fiskerton and Billingborough (Lincolnshire), Gamston, Red Hill (Ratcliffe-on-Soar) and Clifton Park and Ride , Nottinghamshire (Brudenell, 2018, 89 with references). At least 67 vessels were represented, with ovoid or barrel jars with short up-standing or out-turned rims (one with finger-tip decoration) and a slack shouldered jar with everted rim present. No Ancaster-Breedon Scored ware was present, which is a dating indicator consistent with the suggested Earlier Iron Age and possibly transitional date for the material of c. 500-350 BC (Brudenell 2018, 91).

3.5.3 Other Artefact Categories

A small assemblage of lithics was recovered at the North Hamilton site and is seen as typical of such groups from sites of this period (L. Cooper 2008). Fragments from two or three shale bracelets were recovered associated with house platforms at Mam Tor in the 1960s consistent with other cases of items of this type from Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age contexts; one was 7 cm in internal diameter (Coombs and Thompson 1979, 44).

3.6 Agriculture

Cereal grains in the form of barley and spelt were recovered in very low numbers from features associated with the roundhouses at North Hamilton leading Monckton to suggest the site may have concentrated on livestock production whilst noting that very low frequencies of grains are typical of samples from prehistoric sites (Monckton 2008). Beamish and Shore suggest that the scale of the droveways and races at the site will have been best suited to large herds, and so probably represent a facility used for a number of herds perhaps belonging to different groups (Beamish and Shore 2008). The possibility of seasonal occupation was floated by these authors. They point up the juxtaposition of the archaeological record of the period which on the one hand is typically thin and ephemeral and suggests modest population numbers, with a fairly open landscape with divisions by pit alignments (cf. Section 7.2) not enclosures, and on the other an installation for processing hundreds of animals. Only three charred cereal grains were recovered from bulk sampling at Station Road, Elton-on–the-Hill, Nottinghamshire, all from Area 2, either due to poor preservation, taphonomic aspects or because crop processing was not undertaken at the site (Brudenell 2018). So these absences of evidence may not mean crops were not being grown in quantity.

Comparatively few saddle querns have been found in the East Midlands. No querns were present at the Station Road, Elton-on–the-Hill, site (Brudenell 2018). Examples are known from Breedon Hill and Wanlip, Leicestershire, Ancaster Quarry, Lincolnshire and Swarkestone Lowes, Derbyshire, where the item is a fine grained sandstone (Elliott and Knight 1999, 124, fig. 16.1). Where present saddle querns often occur in contexts with imprecise dating. A case in point is the saddle quern fashioned from Millstone Grit, which perhaps dates to the Middle Iron Age, present in a pit at Aston-on-Trent, Derbyshire (Hughes 1999, 185). It is possible that fragmentary or not they are not consistently recognized by excavators, who may not be aware of the characteristics of such items, especially at sites with significant other stone present. Consequently numbers and presence (catalogued in site reports) may under-represent the actual occurrence. The improvised use of locally available stone (e.g. river and boulder clay cobbles) seems to have been common.

4. The Middle Iron Age c. 450 BC–100 BC

4.1 The ‘Identity’ of the Middle Iron Age and the Nature of the Record in the East Midlands

As Clay and others have pointed out, the Middle Iron Age is as much a cultural phenomenon as a chronological entity (Clay 2000; Kidd 2000; Hill 1997a). Like the preceding periods it does not have hard and universal chronological parameters but relates to a set of practices that were of comparatively long duration and which were replaced gradually and at differing times. A large number of sites attributable to this phase are known from Northamptonshire where they may be described as ubiquitous (Kidd 2000). Elsewhere in the region fewer sites have been identified, but the corpus has been steadily accruing as a consequence of interventions arising from PPG16 and its successors. In Lincolnshire, for instance, if one goes back just a quarter of a century only a tiny number were known (cf. May 1976a; Willis 1997); now the picture in the region is transforming through a cascade of evidence, albeit from some specific ‘hot spot’ areas of development. For the original version of this Resource Assessment it was noted that there was a marked imbalance in the numbers of sites recorded and published for Northamptonshire compared to the rest of the region (Willis 2006). The question then (c. 2003 when the Assessment was essentially completed) was whether this arose due to differential archaeological survival, potentially reflected an actual difference in settlement spread and density or was due to factors around the intensity and long term investment in archaeological investigation, perhaps related to different levels of mineral extraction and the spread of modern settlements in the later 20th century. Now the density of records from Northamptonshire for the Middle and Later Iron Age is matched by areas around Leicester, especially to the north of Leicester (Beamish and Shore 2008, 72-3 and fig. 16; Speed 2010, fig. 23; Kipling and Beamish 2018, fig. 94), the Trent Valley (Knight 2007) and the Humber Bank in the Killingholme area (see Section 5.1.3 and for general observations 5.1.1). The emerging picture from these areas seems likely to be representative of many others in the region yet to be investigated and documented.

With one or two exceptions, sites have not yielded the quantity of remains found where sizeable interventions have taken place in other regions, for instance, at Little Waltham in Essex (Drury 1978), at Wetwang and Garton Slack in the East Riding (Brewster 1980), or in the Upper Thames valley. That said that calls into question how frequency of finds is established, given that volumetric analysis (i.e. ratios of finds per volume of deposits excavated) is almost never practiced despite the relative ease with which this can be undertaken. .

4.2 Settlement Evidence

Rectangular ditched enclosures, generally not covering more than c. 0.5 hectares and typically of c. 2 ha and containing one or two circular buildings, together with ancillary structures, have been seen as the customary site type of the Middle and Late Iron Age in central Britain (e.g. Parry 2006, 61). Evidently they represented the farmsteads of small family or kin groups (ibid.). Sites of this type dated to the Middle Iron Age have been excavated across the central band of England and further north (cf. Haselgrove 1984), for instance at Bursea Grange in the south-eastern Vale of York (Halkon and Millett 1999, 67–74), Weelsby Avenue, Grimsby (see below) and at Fisherwick, Staffordshire (Smith 1977; 1979), a site which became particularly influential in our understanding of the Iron Age in central Britain.

Such sites are well known from aerial reconnaissance and field survey in Northamptonshire, where a number have been excavated (Kidd 2000). Some continue into the Roman era, for instance at Weekley (Jackson and Dix 1987). However, the sample of sites that have now been investigated display considerable variation, and generalisations should proceed with caution. This degree of variation mirrors the pattern observed in Cambridgeshire (C. Evans pers. comm.) and Leicestershire, though broad trends can be discerned.

One of the better known settlements of this period in the region during the later 20th century was the site at Ancaster Quarry, despite the fact that it was not fully published, simply because so few sites had been explored. The site, located on a shelf on a limestone slope overlooking the Ancaster Gap, was excavated in the early 1960s and a summary was published by May (May 1976a, 133-41). This apparently open settlement was discovered following quarrying. Features recorded included two circular structures, with, remarkably, ovens and fireplaces, and a series of pits, most of which contained occupation ‘refuse’. Bell-shaped pits were reported which may parallel the familiar grain storage pits of Wessex and elsewhere. The pottery typifies the Middle Iron Age East Midland handmade tradition and constitutes one of the ‘type-collections’ of Cunliffe’s Ancaster–Breedon style, also referred to as ‘Scored ware’ (Cunliffe 1978, 43; 2005, 109-11; see Section 4.5.2). In Northamptonshire another open settlement of Middle to Late Iron Age was fully excavated in the 1990s at ‘The Lodge’, Crick (Chapman 1995; Masefield et al. 2015); c. 20 circular structures were recorded, relating to several phases. At Main Road, north-west of Crick, c. 1.5 km to the east of The Lodge, settlement of this date seems to have been enclosed as a sub-square enclosure covering 0.3 ha. contained the remains of five likely roundhouses in the later Middle Iron Age, although the chronology of the sequence and associations proved imprecise (Mudd et al. 2017).

A number of other important sites have been examined, and some are now fully published. At Wanlip, near Leicester, excavations in advance of road construction revealed a variety of occupation features outside a comparatively small enclosure, c. 20 by 17 m, thought to be associated with cattle/stock management rather than occupation (Beamish 1998). This site, lying on sand and gravel was recorded previously as a cropmark. An integrated programme of radiocarbon and luminescence dating indicated that the settlement was in use c. 450 to 350 BC. Two further significant additions to the corpus of Middle Iron Age settlement sites are published from Leicestershire; both sited on boulder clay. They comprise the Elms Farm/Manor Farm agglomerated settlement, Humberstone, where the partly open arrangement of the initial settlement (cf. Elms Phase 1b) develops through perhaps five centuries over an area of c. 13 ha. (Charles et al. 2000; Thomas 2011a), and Coventry Road, Hinkley, dated by C14 to the third century BC, with roundhouses within and without a sub-rectangular enclosure and yielding sparse cultural material (Chapman 2004; see Section 4.3).

A site of different type was discovered by chance in 1990 at Sleaford. This comprised a large palisaded enclosure, which measured at least 50 m across (Elsdon 1997). Excavation revealed massive close-set postholes, an entrance and a ‘cross-wall’. Only a small proportion of the interior was excavated, with no evidence of domestic structures coming to light. Ancaster–Breedon pottery was recovered, suggesting a date of c. fourth to second century BC. Monuments of this type and date may not have been particularly rare in eastern England during the Early and Middle Iron Age but their identification and excavation is rare. Elsdon (ibid.) suggests that the site might parallel that investigated at Fisons Way, Thetford, Norfolk (Gregory 1992), but the function is uncertain, due to the lack of archaeological features and the lack of excavated parallels. There are indications that the enclosure included stock management and arable crop processing, and whilst suggesting that the site was defensive or ritual, Elsdon did not rule out a domestic function. Around ten palisaded enclosures of the period are known in Northamptonshire including the sub-rectangular example at Briar Hill, measuring 20 by 10 m (cf. Kidd 2000).

Middle Iron Age occupation is reasonably well-attested in Northamptonshire, the greatest concentration of known sites occurring, unsurprisingly, along the Nene and Ise valleys and in some instances on the clay subsoils (Knight 1984; Taylor 1996; Kidd 2000). Again fewer sites are logged in the south and west of the county, probably due to limited survey and intervention needs (cf. Kidd 2000). One site that has been examined in this area is Banbury Lane, King’s Sutton, where a settlement was established in the Middle Iron Age and which, in common with at least three other sites in the area, does not continue through the Late Iron Age (Ingham 2017, 83).

Overall, the Iron Age is poorly represented in the Fenland Survey (T. Lane pers. comm.; Hall and Coles 1994) and was specifically targeted in follow-up work to establish whether this was a reliable pattern. A different picture emerged as excavations in the 1990s revealed a series of sites of the first millennium BC, while sites examined previously have been published. Along the western and southern edges of the Lincolnshire Fen in particular, an array of sites has yielded evidence for salt production (salterns) and domestic settlement. Data from the survey implied that perhaps a third of the sites, that is those yielding briquetage but no pottery, could be satellite salterns away from the domestic base. Where occupation evidence occurred, it was suggested that such ‘settlements’ were sporadically occupied, perhaps seasonally (cf. Lane and Morris 2001). These sites have been sampled rather than extensively excavated but a fairly consistent picture is clear, as exemplified by the small-scale work undertaken at Helpringham Fen and at Cowbit Wash (Healey 1999; Lane and Morris 2001).

At Helpringham Fen, in addition to evidence for salt production, pottery, quern fragments, and animal bones were recovered indicating domestic activity at the site or close by. Two radiocarbon dates were obtained (Healey 1999, 19 and appendix), which together with the pottery suggests use in the third century BC. The salterns at Cowbit also produced pottery and animal bone. This complex site yielded evidence of various phases of use, principally during the Middle Iron Age (as denoted by radiocarbon and archaeomagnetic dating), with fairly strong indications that this was seasonally organised (Lane and Morris 2001); the chronology of the earlier phases could not be established. Similarly, excavations at Langtoft, Outgang Road, north of Market Deeping (Lane 2001) where ceramics indicated a Middle Iron Age saltern, also revealed a circular structure c. 8 m in diameter, defined by a gully with a series of postholes within. This may well represent the remains of a domestic building; again the faunal record is consistent with other indices suggestive of occupation. At Hoe Hills, Dowsby, on the Fen edge, two comparatively well-preserved successive circular structures of first millennium BC date were also excavated as part of the Fenland Survey follow-up programme. Associated Ancaster–Breedon pottery indicates a Middle and/or Late Iron Age date (T. Lane pers. comm.; Lane and Trimble 1995).

These interventions have established that stratified remains of salterns dating to the first millennium BC (and Roman period) are often extensive, can be comparatively well-preserved, with a variety of cultural and palaeoenvironmental indicators represented, and with some level of domestic occupation. Unequivocally, the Fens are an important resource for studies of the first millennium BC in eastern England. However, these sites remain subject to serious threats from ploughing and the drying out of the Fens (Hall and Coles 1994; Lane and Morris 2001). The environmental circumstances and histories of such sites mean that excavation and post-excavation are likely to be complex, and this aspect requires careful consideration when costing archaeological work. Work in recent decades has generally seen interventions of modest scale, often to do with infrastructure easements (e.g. Bush forthcoming); there is a strong case for area excavation at such ‘sites’, since results to date suggest these are extensive complexes with dispersed functional areas.

Work in advance of the Covenham to Boston pipeline recorded extensive utilization of the southern Wolds during the Middle Iron Age but the southern part of the Lincolnshire Marsh (sites D3-D6) showed denser activity, possibly explained if they were a seasonal focus for summer livestock grazing (Bush forthcoming, chapter 3; Percival forthcoming). The works shed light on an area hitherto little known for this era. On the Marsh apparently unenclosed sites occurred at North Cockerington (site D3) where two circular structures were detected along with a rectangular structure, while at South Cockerington (site D5) two circular structures were also recorded (Bush forthcoming). On the southern Wolds a site at Brinkhill (site V3) had two circular structures and one possible D-shaped structure and may have been enclosed. An enclosed site was recorded at Harrington (site W4) again on the south Wolds, being of possible D shape but was only partly exposed, measuring 29 m internally; ditch fills suggested there had been an internal bank; it had a 3 m wide entrance on its north-west side with boulders placed in ditch terminals by the entrance. The function of the enclosure was unclear as it was only partly exposed (Bush forthcoming, chapter 3). Less work has been undertaken along the North Sea coast. Here cover deposits mask ancient land surfaces at many locations (Kirkham 2001; J. Rackham pers. comm.). A cluster of salterns, however, is recorded in the vicinity of Ingoldmells, via piecemeal work over decades (Baker 1960; 1975; Kirkham 2001). There is some likelihood that circular features c. 9–12 m in diameter recorded by Warren (1932) by salterns at Ingoldmells Point, represented buildings of this period, associated with salt production. Again, these may not have been domestic structures in continual use, but seasonally occupied dwellings, or they may have served some other purpose, perhaps specifically related to the salt production process.

Turning to the defended sites, Breedon Hill and Burrough Hill in Leicestershire, and Crow Hill, Hunsbury and Rainsborough in North­amptonshire were evidently in use during this period (cf. above; Thomas 1960; Brown and Simpson 1968; Liddle 1982; Parry 2006; Jackson 1994b; Avery et al. 1967). The hillfort at Castle Yard, Northamptonshire (Knight 1987), as well as the plateau fort at Honington Camp (Lincolnshire) may have been constructed during this era. The sizeable double-ditched enclosure near the Fen edge at Tattershall Thorpe, Lincolnshire, was also apparently in use at this time, as indicated by radiocarbon dating and ceramics (Chowne et al. 1986; Seager Smith 1998). Its firm interpretation is doubtful, in part because little of its interior has been explored (or for that matter, its immediate exterior). A central agricultural role in a pastoral economy was favoured by its excavator (Chowne et al. 1986), but now it might be suggested that the identity of the site involved domestic, high status and/or ceremonial functions. Proposing that the site is a ‘marsh fort’ analogous to those at Burgh, Suffolk (Martin 1988) and Sutton Common, (north of Doncaster) South Yorkshire (Parker Pearson and Sydes 1997; Van de Noort et al. 2007), whilst legitimate, only raises further questions given the limited evidence to hand (see Section 6). Information about the interiors of these East Midland forts and enclosures is generally meagre, hindering our understanding of their chronology, character, status and function/s.

There is little firm evidence for Middle Iron Age settlement in the Peak District, but this apparent absence of occupation may derive from a lack of archaeological input and an inability to recognise diagnostic Middle Iron Age material and to discriminate sites from those thought to be Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age (cf. Radley and Radford 1969). These aspects of the evidence are discussed by Bevan (2000) and Chadwick and Evans (2000, esp. 118–9; see above), along with older assumptions about the use of the area at this time, which they understandably see as flawed. Small amounts of typologically Middle Iron Age tradition pottery (but possibly still current into the Roman era) have been recovered from the Peak region although not, as yet, associated with settlement features (Bevan 2000, 147).

In the Trent valley the enclosure of settlements during the Middle Iron Age by ditching has facilitated their recognition (e.g. Gamston: Knight 1992). The shift towards more enclosed ways of living and structuring activities and routines has been outlined by Knight for the valley area (Knight 2000). Site 1 at Holme Pierrepont on the valley gravels, and Aslockton, further east in the Devon valley, may both have begun in the Middle rather than the Late Iron Age (O’Brien 1979; Palmer-Brown and Knight 1993). Another site, at Fleak Close, Barrow-upon-Trent, on the Trent flood plain spans the Middle to Late Iron Age with recut enclosure, centrally placed roundhouses and a range of material culture (Knight and Southgate 2001). During works for the A453 widening scheme by Barton in Fabis, Nottingham, an enclosure of Middle Iron Age date c. 50 m by 50 m was examined with a centrally occurring roundhouse defined by penannular gully 12 m in diameter; the entrance faced east and the building may have been of two phases (Fairhead and Burgess 2013).

A lack of identification and investigation of Middle Iron Age sites in Lincolnshire, particularly in the middle and north of the county, is more likely to do with the infrequency of modern development rather than an enduring absence of enclosure via ditching, as seen at Ancaster Quarry and Sleaford. In North-East Lincolnshire a small settlement, presumably a farmstead, existed at Weelsby Avenue, Grimsby, during the Middle Iron Age (Sills and Kinsley 1978; 1979; 1990; Wise 1990; Sills 2001; see the latter for the fullest details). The site, located on a till spur with clay subsoil, was enclosed by a single ditch and bank which demarcated an interior c. 40 m square; within were two circular structures (roundhouses) and a four post structure. Subsequently the enclosure was used for non-ferrous metalworking (Section 8.7). Approximately contemporary is a banjo enclosure site at Timberland Estate, Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire (North Lincs HER SLS3984).

Some degree of continuity is observable in site location, in so far as a high proportion of Middle Iron Age sites either continue into the Later Iron Age at the same location, or nearby, as at Ancaster, Helpringham Fen, Sleaford and Rectory Farm, West Deeping (Savage et al. forthcoming). Aggregated/agglomerated sites – that is where a geographically close set of settlement clusters occur – emerge as a feature of the Middle Iron Age in the region (perhaps they are seen first in the Early Iron Age elsewhere in eastern England (Medlycott 2011, 29), though this needs investigation). In the East Midlands there is some continuance into the Late Iron Age; these sites, including Covert Farm, Crick, and Brackley, Northamptonshire, are considered below (see Section 5.1.6). Covert Farm has a northern boundary ditch, with another possible boundary to the east, these features probably dating to the 5th century BC, but that apart the site could be seen as ‘open’ (Hughes and Woodward 2015). Brackley too appears to have been an open site. Here some details for one of the Brackley clusters can be provided. At Foxhills the Middle Iron Age saw a much stronger human imprint than previously (cf. Section 3.2) with four roundhouses 11, 13, 13, 15-16.5 m in diameter plus twelve in a roundhouse/auxiliary structure category (Morris 2019, table 15; see Table 5). Pits apparently for grain storage appear from the earlier Middle Iron Age plus four and six post-hole ‘granary’ structures. The latter become the predominant storage method in the Late Iron Age. Finally, the settlement at Beaumont Leys, Leicestershire, like Covert Farm, Crick, lay one side of a linear boundary (rather than being enclosed); dating to the earlier Middle Iron Age it comprised post-built roundhouses, four post structures and enclosures for livestock (Thomas 2011a).

SiteNumber of
Roundhouses
Diameter Range
Foxhills/Sawmills1610-15m (av. 12m)
Northampton Road269-16m (av. 10.2m)
Radstone Field386.5-13.8m (av. 11.4m)
Crickc. 2605-19m (av. 11m)
Wilby Way118-12.5m
Table 5: Roundhouse numbers and internal diameter range at three agglomerated sites in Northamptonshire: Brackley (Foxhills/Sawmills, Northampton Road and Radstone Field), Crick (comprising Covert Farm and adjacent clusters) and Wilby Way, Wellingborough. Note that most of the measurements are of the diameters of the eaves-drip gullies. Source: Morris 2019.

4.3 Settlement Morphology

No standard, regular, pattern of settlement morphology is discernible for the Middle Iron Age in the region. Instead, sites display variations in layout (in terms of landscape setting), aspect, internal arrangement and enclosure type, doubtless reflecting different environments, functional needs and ideas. That said a series of familiar elements in terms of archaeological features occur, as in the preceding and succeeding periods, both within the region and beyond. The ‘footprint’ of occupation and activities becomes significantly more marked. In the East Midlands morphological elements occur in differing combinations and configurations; sometimes certain elements are present, sometimes not. No precise template for settlement morphology was being followed but the ‘grammar’ is similar in so far as some ordering principles were clearly adhered to in the materialisation of individual sites (Speed 2010, 66-71). Some clustering of family/kin/other groups is implied by the number of apparently contemporary roundhouses in certain areas. Enclosure become more common from the earlier Middle Iron Age and at some sites this took the form of palisading but the general trend was for ditching and banks, probably with hedging. Palisades take more effort to construct and besides wood resources for structural purposes were probably becoming less accessible, judging from environmental indicators such as pollen and hence were likely to be curated for essential uses in many locations. In time palisades gave way to earthworks. One proviso with roundhouses within enclosures is that almost invariably there is no stratification that links the two: their contemporaneity is usually assumed due to relative placement (and orientation), sometimes via finds (though dating may not be precise) and as simply a reasonable deduction (a case in point is the site at Holme Dyke mentioned above, Section 1.2).

The publication of Wanlip (Beamish 1998) had highlighted a number of significant aspects in the anatomy and biography of this site which reveal a ‘grammar’ in the human and social practices undertaken there. Through careful analysis and presentation of the evidence, various trends noted elsewhere in the British Iron Age were shown to be reflected in the archaeology of this site. To be specific: buildings and enclosure entrances were systematically oriented in, what was seen following the conventional thinking of the time, relation to cosmological events but which now may be explained by other imperatives and practices and the phenomenon has been much discussed (e.g. Pope 2003; 2007; Speed 2010, 46-7). Two post structures occur at Wanlip in an east–west band across the site (reminiscent of the band of four-posters at Weekley Hall Wood) aligned roughly north–south (Beamish 1998). Another is suggested at North Hamilton, Leicester (Beamish and Shore 2008). There is an overall symmetry to the arrangement of the major site elements; zones with pits occur, with the interior of the enclosure essentially clear of pits.

The settlement at Elms Farm, Humberstone (Charles et al. 2000) at this phase comprises a cluster of several penannular gullies, plus other gullies, a small enclosure (containing no structures or features), and two four post structures; not all features are contemporaneous. The settlement is apparently open, but lies within and seems to respect a Bronze Age enclosure that may have been vestigially manifest at this time. Building orientation is to the east. The largest penannular gully presumably denoted the largest building and this lies to the front of the rest, four out of five of which are in a row. At Coventry Road, Hinkley, all seven roundhouses faced east, as did a sub-rectangular enclosure containing four of these structures, including a large example 12 m in diameter and one with a pair of post-settings by the entrance; one of the roundhouses outside the enclosure was of similar scale (Chapman 2004). No internal features survived. A 2 m deep feature at the site could be a well or water pit. It was suggested that the site was shorted lived and occupied by a single family over perhaps just one generation on the basis, seemingly, of the lack of obvious roundhouse replacement and low finds count (Chapman 2004).

Variety in the morphology of settlement enclosure is further highlighted by sites in Northamptonshire. Enclosure A at Stanwell Spinney, Northamptonshire, dating to this period, was oval in plan and seems to have enclosed a circular building (Dix and Jackson 1989). At Banbury Lane, King’s Sutton, at least two roundhouses were located west of a broad ditch but replaced by a number of rec-cut small rectilinear and penannular enclosures, while the boundary system was remodelled on more than one occasion on a co-axial theme, all within the Middle Iron Age (Ingham 2017). One of the roundhouses (G6) was defined by an eaves-drip gully c. 14 m in diameter and the actual structure was probably 10 m in diameter; the entrance was to the south-east. A second eaves-drip was 13 m in diameter and this structure faced east, while traces for two further possible roundhouses were noted. The occupation could have lasted into the early Late Iron Age but there was probably only one roundhouse standing at any one time (Ingham 2017, 83). To the south three four post structures were present in a separate ‘zone’ (Ingham 2017). Bones from two dogs of medium size, probably from complete burials, were encountered, one in a ditch and the other in the eaves-drip gully of G6 and this is not uncommon for sites of this period (Maltby 2017). Important to note is a phenomenon reported from Wilby Way, Wellingborough, from both study of the distribution of the pottery and animal bone at this relatively extensive site: both categories show evidence for patterning in discard practices which may indicate zonal organization of activities or interventions to do with waste management decisions and practice (Thomas and Enright 2003).

Excavation of the Middle Iron Age site at Hallam Fields, Birstall, Leicestershire, in 2004-5, showed two adjoining ditched enclosures (one larger than the other), each with a centrally placed roundhouse, sub-divisions and zones of pitting, and, with the overall layout of the enclosures mirroring each other (Speed 2010). To account for this ‘symmetry’ the excavator suggested that a template may have been followed or the close similarities arose from the practicalities of the way people acted and moved (ibid., 37). Zoning and functional divisions of space were identified, such as pit concentration, while phosphate analysis – a sampling method perhaps seen less in recent times than might be expected – suggested specific enclosure locations for the accommodation of livestock (Speed 2010, 50-5, 61). Magnetic susceptibility study was also undertaken as part of the soil micromorphology strategy. The site, which may have been in use for c. 140 years, was set within an immediate wider landscape showing broader spatial organization during a period when settlement sites show a trend towards enclosure.

It is characteristic for settlement sites of this period to include evidence for circular buildings and ancillary structures, particularly four post and two post structures. These components are present at Wanlip, with one of the four-posters, which happens to be exceptionally large, having a centrally placed cremation. What two post structures represent is often not clear. They may be drying frames, upright looms, or the remains of entrances to circular buildings otherwise not visible (cf. Knight 1984, 159; Ellison and Drewett 1971); the latter is suggested at Wanlip (Beamish 1998, 34–6). During the life of the sub-rectangular enclosure at Wanlip, a south facing entrance continually existed, with a least one other opening to the east during one sub-phase. Weelsby Avenue, Grimsby, also had a south facing entrance in its Middle Iron Age phase. The palisaded enclosure at Sleaford had an entrance (perhaps the main entrance) facing south-east.

 On the Lincolnshire Marsh the two circular structures recorded at North Cockerington (Section 4.2) were both small at 7 m in diameter, possibly for functional reasons, with one facing east or south-east and the other east; the rectangular structure (c. 8.5 m by 4.5 m) had beam slots on three sides and a cluster of post settings within but its purpose is unknown (Bush forthcoming, chapter 3). Of the two circular structures at South Cockerington (at site D5) one faced east and was 13 m in diameter and the other was 7-8 m in diameter, represented by part of an arching gully (Bush forthcoming, chapter 3). On the south Wolds at Brinkhill (see Section 4.2) one circular structures measured 10 m in diameter internally with an opening to the south-west, while a later circular structure was 11.7 m internally with a possible north-east entrance, with a pair of post holes set the within entrance way (Bush forthcoming, chapter 3). The morphology of the settlements associated with salt winning on the Lincolnshire Fen edge, however, remains to be well understood. In sum, it is apparent that archaeological data gathered for sites at this period is often more extensive than with settlement sites for the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age but also more informative of the layout, organization and use of space.

4.4 Buildings and Structures

In contrast with the variations in site morphology at this period, the buildings and structures are more coherent in type and size, but there can occur variations. Roundhouses predominate and their maximum size is considered to be 10-12 m for the structure (cf. Thomas and Enright 2003, table 11), so gullies beyond that diameter should normally be eaves-drips. Considering variations, the one certain circular structure at Wanlip had a ring groove suggesting polygonal construction (Beamish 1998; see above Section 3.4). It was c. 13 m across and had one entrance facing east-north-east, and perhaps a second aligned due west; postholes within the ring groove were probably related to its construction and use. One of the two circular structures at Ancaster Quarry was defined by a gully of c. 12.5 m diameter, which according to the excavator could have been for the inner (load-bearing timbers) or outer wall, though these would be at the upper scale of size for this period (May 1976a, 133). Whichever, this building is fairly large and of a similar magnitude to the structures at Wanlip and (probably earlier) Weekley Hall Wood (cf. Section 3.3). It had an entrance facing north-west, providing a panoramic view looking out from the doorway. The second Ancaster Quarry structure was much smaller at 4.6 m in diameter for its outer wall. Weelsby Avenue, Grimsby, also has asymmetric sizes as the enclosure contained two circular structures, of c. 9.5 and 5.5 m diameter respectively (Wise 1990; Sills 2001). Where this asymmetry in size occurs different functions are suggested as a possibility if the structures are potentially contemporary. The excavated enclosure complex at Fisherwick (Staffordshire) also contained two circular structures, one being 11 m in diameter, so on the large size (Smith 1979). The largest circular structure at Elms Farm (Leicestershire) was represented by an eaves-drip gully, the internal diameter being a substantial 18 m; no internal features were identified. Of the five or so others of this phase from the site, two are defined by gullies c. 10 m in diameter and two others by gullies c. 8 m in diameter. The eaves-drip gullies at Hallam Fields, Birstall, had diameters of 13.2, 10.7 (at the same location as the previous structure) and 10 m; post settings may have been part of these structures (Speed 2010).

Four post structures, of the type normally thought to represent granaries (cf. Section 3.4), are recorded at Sleaford, Elms Farm, Humberstone, King’s Sutton, and Wanlip, as well as Weelsby Avenue, Grimsby, although not at Ancaster Quarry, where, possible grain storage pits occur. Those at Banbury Lane, King’s Sutton, were of the size range 2.4 – 2.8 m square (Ingham 2017, 74). Two four post structures at Wilby Way, Wellingborough, measured 2.2 x 2 m and 1.9 x1.6 m (Thomas and Enright 2003, 30, fig. 6). Two post structures are known from Ancaster Quarry, Sleaford, and Wanlip, as well as elsewhere.

4.5 Material culture

4.5.1 Metalwork and metalworking

Iron smelting was presumably widespread in parts of the region by this period (cf. Condron 1997; Kidd 2004). By Norton Disney villa, from land east of Folly Lane, a large collection of iron slag from fieldwalking, including items apparently from pit-furnace bases is believed to indicate large scale iron smelting (Evershed 2020, 2, 5; Lincs HER 67072; cf. Evershed 2021). A sample examined using XRF analysis resulted in a suggested Middle Iron Age date, perhaps utilizing locally sourced bog iron (McDonnell 2018; Lincs HER MLI125345; B. Garlant in correspondence with D. Knight). A ceramic tuyère was recovered from a secure Middle Iron Age context at Foxhills, Brackley, indicating use of bellows, potentially for either iron working or non-ferrous smelting (Hylton 2019, 69).

Turning to iron tools and utensils, Wilby Way, Wellingborough, produced three iron knives, an iron file fragment and an iron rod for woodworking (Bircher 2003). Northampton Road, Brackley, also in Northamptonshire, likewise produced examples of iron knives (Morris 2019, 100). Also from the Brackley Middle Iron Age agglomerated site an iron reaping-hook (for harvesting) came from the Sawmills site, and a pruning hook from Northampton Road (Morris 2019). An iron knife or sickle was recovered at Ancaster Quarry, Lincolnshire (May 1976a, fig. 69.3).

One of the earliest La Tène items found in Britain is likely to have been unearthed on the Lincolnshire–Cambridgeshire border before the mid-nineteenth century. The item comprises part of a bronze scabbard and iron blade now in Wisbech Museum (Jope 1961a; 1961b; May 1976a). The scabbard is decorated in early La Tène style. It may be considered a harbinger of the nationally significant ensemble of fine Middle and Late Iron Age metalwork from the eastern East Midlands.

In contrast to the general infrequency of metal items from settlements of this period a series of important metalwork finds has come from the region’s rivers, particularly the Witham and Trent. These items, dating to this period (or the Late Iron Age), are generally interpreted as ‘votive’ offerings in the style of Llyn Cerrig Bach or La Tène itself (as conventionally seen; Cunliffe 2005, 566-7). A finely decorated bronze sword scabbard plate from the Trent at Sutton belongs to this period (May 1976a, 128-9, pl. 4), as do three iron swords from the Witham, two having plain bronze scabbards and the third, an elaborately fashioned bronze scabbard mount (ibid., 129-30, pl. 3). Also from the Witham is an iron bladed dagger with a hilt fashioned with a anthropoid figure as a pommel, which was recovered with its bronze scabbard; May suggests a second, or possibly first, century BC date for this unusual find (ibid., 130, pl. 5). In addition, parts of two shields, well-known and magnificent by any measure, have been recovered: the Witham Shield (ibid., 130–3) and the La Tène style decorated shield boss from Ratcliffe-on-Trent (Watkin et al. 1996). Collectively these pieces add much to our understanding of Iron Age Britain at a series of levels – in terms of technology, art and cultural practice – and are of international significance. It is likely that further items will be forthcoming from these rivers in future years.

Many of these riverine finds are ‘old’ discoveries (May 1976a), although a more recent important collection of martial finds and tools was made at Fiskerton, east of Lincoln (Lincs HER MLI52904; Field and Parker Pearson 2003). The iron tools from the site were analysed and reported by Fell, with attention to the technology of the iron working (Fell 2003). At Fiskerton a wooden causeway, dating no earlier than c. 600 BC and maintained for more than a century, had been constructed perpendicular to the river Witham, traversing boggy ground to the river front. It has conventionally been understood as having had a ceremonial function associated with object sacrifice into a watery context (cf. Section 8.2). A terrestrial hoard came to light in 2013 during the excavations at Burrough Hill, including copper alloy fittings for a chariot or ‘cart’ and three iron tools, recovered from a pit dating from the later Middle Iron Age (Farley et al. 2017). Such finds have great potential for insight into many aspects of life in later prehistory, not least because they are often complete or largely so and in a good state of preservation. They may come to light at any moment, during controlled archaeological fieldwork, or as chance discoveries. However found, such items have the power to enthral, excite and animate the public, and stimulate the imagination of the archaeological community.

Two lead artefacts that seemingly date to the Middle or Late Iron Age were recovered from deposits suggesting very deliberate selection and actions. At Great Houghton, Northamptonshire, the skeleton of a bound and trussed female of c. 30-40 years of age was found with a torc-like neck ring of lead with high tin content, which would have given the impression of silver; the nature of the burial – placed by radiocarbon to a centre date of 390 cal BC — suggested deliberate, perhaps ceremonial, actions (Chapman 2001). From Gardom’s Edge a pit located at the centre of House 2 in its final phase was found to contain a centrally placed decorated lead terminal from a neck ring or armlet that had been deliberately chopped through to terminate its use; a radiocarbon date of c. 350 BC to 10 AD obtained from the site was suggested as likely for this item (Beswick 2017c).

Brooches of this period are also rare (Willis 1997). An iron brooch was recovered from Burrough Hill (Thomas 1960, 52), presumably the La Tène I variant brooch illustrated by Challis and Harding (1975 ii, fig. 11 no.1). A copper alloy brooch of La Tène I affinity came from Ancaster Quarry (May 1976a, 140, fig. 69.1), together with a long iron involuted brooch of Middle Iron Age affinity (ibid., fig. 69.2). An early La Tène II iron brooch, dated approximately to the third century BC is recorded from Market Deeping (Lincolnshire HER). A La Tène style brooch with coral mounting was recovered from a cave at Harborough Rocks (Derbyshire HER), seemingly more likely to date to the Middle than the Late Iron Age (Smith 1909, fig. 4). One of the best known Iron Age brooches from the East Midlands is the ‘bird brooch’ from Red Hill, Ratcliffe-on-Soar (Hawkes and Jacobsthal 1945). This is an involuted type and is now thought to date to the fourth century BC (Elsdon 1982, 24). The general vicinity of its find-spot seems to have been a place of special meaning or status throughout the later prehistoric and Roman periods.

4.5.2 Pottery

The Middle Iron Age was a long era and as noted above is as much a cultural phenomenon as a chronological era: one of continuities and transition. It is marked ceramically with both typological conservatism and some change (cf. Elsdon 1996).

At Barton-upon-Humber several near complete handmade vessels of simple form were recovered, with C14 dates suggesting the majority of the pottery dates to the Middle Iron Age (Rowlandson 2011). The majority of the pottery was tempered with fragments of locally sourced erratic rock or with mixes of shell and grog, with some ‘sandy fabrics’. The forms and erratic tempering are known from vessels from East Yorkshire (Rigby 2004) and elsewhere on the Humber estuary (Willis 1993, 83; Challis and Harding 1975). For Rowlandson this assemblage served to confirm that some forms dated to the earlier first millennium BC (cf. Rigby 2004) may have continued to be produced into the second half of the millennium.

A major regional tradition spanning the Middle Iron Age in much of the East Midlands is the so-called Ancaster–­Breedon tradition (Cunliffe 1974; 2005, 109-11; Elsdon 1992a; Willis 1993, 68-75), of which ‘Scored ware’ is a significant part. This tradition is widely reported particularly from sites in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and southern/central Lincolnshire (e.g. Speed 2010). Important assemblages of this general date come from Wanlip, Beaumont Leys and Humberstone in Leicestershire (Marsden 1998b; 2011). At Manor Farm, Humberstone, Marsden reported patterning in the contextual and spatial discard of the pottery (Marsden 2011).

In addition, two sub-regional decorated traditions copy La Tène style ornamental patterns: the Dragonby–Sleaford tradition (Willis 1993, 75-8; 1998; Elsdon 1997; Elsdon and May 1996), and the Northamptonshire group (cf. Jackson and Dix 1987). All these wares are considered by Knight (2002). The Dragonby–Sleaford tradition probably dates from the late Middle Iron Age whereas the Northamptonshire group may have earlier origins.

An intriguing find at Polwell Lane, Barton Seagrave, Northamptonshire, was apparent pottery manufacturing debris and a part ‘failed’ load dated to the Middle Iron Age. The pottery manufacturing debris took the form of lumps of shelly clay smoothed and heated on one side, probably structural material, and was in a pit with evident refiring activity (Simmonds and Walker 2014, 19-20, fig. 11). Alongside this feature was a pit with large carefully placed sherds from four storage jar wasters from at least a part failed firing (Chapman 2014, 42, fig. 27)

4.5.3 Rotary querns

From the Middle Iron Age into the Roman period rotary querns can be conspicuous finds. In the East Midlands rotary querns come to largely replace the saddle shaped querns that had evidently been employed to extract flours from grains in the Bronze Age and earlier Iron Age. Rotary querns (which were likely to have been oscillated back and forth via a handle rather than turned 360°) enabled grains to be processed for flour much more rapidly than did use of saddle querns. Saddle querns do not necessarily disappear entirely as such rubbing stones could be utilized for other processes, though as site-finds they may occur as residual items if there had been earlier activity on a site (cf. Speed 2010, 63). Some stones used as saddle querns seem likely to have been deliberately selected and there was probably some trade and exchange of suitable stones such as fine-grained igneous items and sandstones, though many look to be adopted fieldstones or apt stones recovered from local glacial deposits.

The main sources of Iron Age rotary querns in the East Midlands include Millstone Grit from the southern Pennines and Peak District, Red Sandstones from Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, and Spilsby Sandstone from the northern Wolds escarpment of Lincolnshire, together with igneous rock from the Charnwood Forest area and elsewhere in Leicestershire, and occasional imports of Puddingstone (Conglomerate). A fragment from a quern fashioned from gneiss was recovered from an Iron Age roundhouse eaves-drip gully terminal by Allen Archaeology at the Able Logistics/Able Marine Energy Parks development, North Killingholme, which is thought not to be a from a glacial boulder but represent a traded item (pers. comm. Chris Casswell).

Iron Age rotary querns of the East Midlands often have a beehive shape to the upper stone but when recovered as fragments these items can be undiagnostic of specific shape, especially when worn; moreover, fragments from rotary querns were often reused as abraders or sharpening stones for metal and so can have additional worn surfaces from this repurposing. A key site in the early study of querns in the East Midland and more widely in Britain was Hunsbury hillfort in Northamptonshire (Ingle 1994). Important for regional studies is Ingle’s thesis research (Ingle 1989) and Wright’s report on the querns from Dragonby, North Lincolnshire (Wright 1996).

Turning the focus more towards chronology, Covert Farm, Crick, in Northamptonshire produced 13 quern stones, comprising four saddle querns and nine rotary querns, including beehive forms; these were mainly of Millstone Grit (Bevan and Ixer 2015). This was said to be a large group (Hughes and Woodward 2015) but given the site had extensive occupation over 12 hectares for c. 500 years the tally seems particularly modest (and the figure may be compared with the 150 quernstones known from Hunsbury hillfort, mostly recovered during salvage work in advance of quarrying in the later 19th century). Whilst the numbers are small it may be relevant that three of the saddle querns came from Middle Iron Age features (the further one was unstratified) with no saddle quern examples amongst the five querns from Late Iron Age deposits (Bevan and Ixer 2015, table WS2). At Coventry Road, Hinkley, the Middle Iron Age site dated to approximately the third century BC produced one quern, being a saddle quern fashioned from granite (Chapman 2004b). At Foxhills, Brackley, only saddle querns were recovered, consistent with the picture at the adjacent Sawmills site, with both sites dating mainly to the earlier Middle Iron Age (Chapman 2019). In discussing the absence of rotary querns Chapman notes radiocarbon dating suggesting an introduction for the rotary quern between c. 300-200 BC but noting earlier dates suggested by thermoluminescence (cf. Heslop 2008). On the evidence from the Brackley sites Chapman concluded that their appearance dated no earlier than 250-200 BC (Chapman 2019, 68).

Beehive querns of Hunsbury type have a wide distribution in Leicestershire, as shown by Liddle’s map which is now forty years old (Liddle 1982, 22, fig. 17; Clay 2000); a large proportion of these finds are likely to be of Iron Age date rather than Roman. Some 40 examples are known from the Iron Age site at Breedon Hill. Other examples from the county include a beehive quern in Millstone Grit and of Hunsbury form type recovered from an Iron Age ditch fill at Mill Lane, East Shilton, Leicestershire, where it is ascribed a Late Iron Age or Middle to Late Iron Age date (Thomas 2011b), and two complete upper and lower stone querns from the 1960s excavations at Burrough Hill in the county (Cooper et al. 2012, 94-6). Another example in Millstone Grit was recovered from the Late Iron Age trackway surface at Overstone Park, Market Harborough (Guy and Leslie 2020b, 2). Leahy reports an example from Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicester Museum (Leahy 1979, 57). By contrast a more modest corpus of beehive querns is recorded for Derbyshire, particularly from the eastern margins of the Peak District (cf. Bevan 2000, 148, fig. 2). It is likely that arable cultivation continued in the valleys and favourable upland pockets of the Peak region during this period; the occurrence of querns is an indirect indicator of this probability. Further Derbyshire finds are reported from Willington and Swarkestone (Leahy 1979), with a complete example (of an upper stone, in millstone grit) from Midway, Derbyshire (Leahy 1979, fig 4). See also Sections 4.6 and 9.4.

4.5.4 Other Artefact Categories

As with the proceeding periods Middle Iron Age artefacts other than pottery are generally infrequent finds, despite the increased traces of activity and greater deposit accumulation seen in this period. Even at the site of Foxhills, Brackley, where extensive remains were found and sampling was concerted the range of artefacts recovered was limited, though the items are instructive, including a glass bead and a shard thought to be from a glass vessel – and if so a remarkable item, if not intrusive (Hylton 2019). A cooper alloy segmented ring thought to be a dress fitting and sections from two copper alloy armlets were recovered, one from a Middle Iron Age context the other from “subsoil” (Hylton 2019). A possible iron awl for leather working was also found. Two glass beads were forthcoming from the settlement at Ancaster Quarry, one in pale green glass, the other blue with pale wavy lines having Iron Age parallels (May 1976a, 140, fig. 69.4).

A shield made from bark was excavated at Soar Valley Way, Enderby, Leicestershire, in 2015; dated by C14 to c. 395-345 BC it was constructed from composite layering of bark, with a central boss made of coiled and stitched nettle fibre, with wooden handle detached (Kipling 2016; Kipling and Beamish 2018). The shield had been damaged priory to deposition probably by spear holes. The find sheds significant light on technology in the Middle Iron Age, while it was established that the shield would have offered an effective means of personal defence.

4.6 Agriculture

There is in the Middle Iron Age clearer evidence of an organized, cultivated and accessed landscape than in the preceding periods in the form of field systems and trackways. The evidence for this is strong in many locations, for instance, the Trent valley (Knight 2007; Knight and Elliott 2008). Establishing the chronology of boundaries and field systems largely identified by aerial photography and geophysical survey is, of course, problematic. In some instances, however, these systems have been examined together with settlement sites (and in some rare cases supported by pollen sampling), whereby Middle Iron Age origins are apparent, or a Middle Iron Age date has been deduced from absolute dating, artefacts and/or sequences. These landscapes show strong continuity and evolution through the Late Iron Age and into the Roman period. Of course, Late Iron Age and Roman period systems are more readily detected, not least since they were probably more numerous.

A significant aspect of the evidence for this period, as noted for the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, is (still) the typically low levels of charred plant material recovered by sampling and the low frequency of charred cereal grains, despite the strong likelihood that cereal cultivation was expanding. This low level of carbonization may simply mean that crops were being processed away from areas where charring may occur, that care was being exercised and/or chaff etc. was not being used for kindling.

Considering firstly the evidence from Northamptonshire, land boundaries, field systems and trackways of Middle Iron Age date are well documented in the county, through both survey and excavation. Relevant sites in this respect are Weekley (Jackson and Dix 1987), Wollaston (Meadows 1995; 1996), and Courteenhall (Ovenden-­Wilson 1997; Thomas 1998). At Wollaston, land divisions apparently initiated in the Early Iron Age developed in the Middle Iron Age with ancillary and settlement enclosures appearing within the established landscape system. Meadows (1995; 1996) has argued that this development was connected with a shift from pastoral to mixed agriculture (arable and pastoral). Unsurprisingly the fullest data for these agricultural landscapes comes from areas of permeable subsoil, productive of cropmarks and also subject to the quarrying of aggregates. Kidd noted that presumed Middle Iron Age enclosures and landscape systems are known on non-permeable subsoils in Northamptonshire (Kidd 2000), for instance at Brigstock (Foster 1988).

Querns may be an index of crop raising, or more precisely, processing but the relationship is not straightforward, as noted elsewhere in this Assessment. At Wilby Way, Wellingborough, despite being a location of relatively intense and extensive activity during the Middle Iron Age, the site has only one reported quernstone (a saddle quern), but on the other hand all environmental samples yielded at least some spelt or emmer grains, while close study of the pottery found that vessel sizes were increasing with time, a trend interpreted as suggesting this was to effect more food storage capacity, perhaps centralized, and maybe related to cereal storage in particular, with Hunsbury noted to have a similar ceramic pattern (Thomas and Enright 2003). At Wilby Way crops appear not to have been processed immediately following harvest. Given the location in the Nene Valley where clearance had occurred prior to the Iron Age, grazing land was likely to have been plentiful for livestock (Thomas and Enright 2003), though competition for grazing land may have been an increasing factor (cf. Knight 2007).

At Polwell Lane, Barton Seagrave, Northamptonshire, the Middle Iron Age sees raising of sheep as central to the mixed farming economy but by the Late Iron Age cattle were to become the more important livestock (Simmonds and Walker 2014, 22). Maltby noted that at King’s Sutton the horses were relatively small but nonetheless all bigger than those from the broadly contemporary site at Wilby Way, Wellingborough, leading him to speculate that they were from different breeds, despite the close geography of these sites (Maltby 2017). At King’s Sutton there is some evidence horse meat was consumed, with the economy quite likely to have been particularly focused on raising cattle, though the evidence is limited (Maltby 2017).

At Covert Farm, Crick, Northamptonshire, on the western fringe of the region, contexts yielded spelt, plus some emmer and barley; by the later Middle Iron Age there is greater production of cereals here than at other Midland sites (Monckton 2015, 280). The site at Main Road, north-west of Crick, in the Middle Iron Age practiced mixed farming (Mudd et al. 2017). Elsewhere in Northamptonshire, during the Middle Iron Age, the agricultural economy at Foxhills, Brackley, was also one of mixed farming (Morris 2019). Cattle and sheep raising was evident from faunal remains plus enclosures interpreted as pens, corrals and paddocks. Overall, the interpretation argued that the economy was predominantly based on grain production. Not uncommonly for the period, although charred cereal remains were recovered in every sample (including the roundhouse related contexts), they were often few in number and not well-preserved; wheat (Triticum sp.) and hulled barley (Hordeum sp.) were the most frequent grains (Hunter Dowse 2019). No field system was certainly associated with the occupation. A marked characteristic of this site are its grain storage features. Some 160 pits were recorded, interpreted as having a grain storage function. Yet at the adjacent sites of Northampton Road and Radstone Fields there were even greater numbers of storage pits (see Table 6). These were broadly of early Middle Iron Age date. Over 80 four and six post structures interpreted as granaries were the predominant storage method in the late Middle Iron Age at Foxhills (Morris 2019). However, just eight saddle querns were recovered making for an interesting ratio of querns to storage capacity. Similarly, the open settlement at Polwell Lane, Barton Seagrave, Northamptonshire, during its Middle Iron Age phase had numerous (shallow) pits seemingly for grain storage (Simmonds and Walker 2014, 15-9, fig. 8).

Storage type

Brackley Cluster
Grain storage pits4 or 6 post structures
Foxhills/Sawmills16080+
Northampton Road32857
Radstone Field42853
Table 6: Grain storage facilities at the Brackley agglomerated site by settlement cluster and facility type. Source: Morris 2019.

Midland clays have been less revealing of landscape organizational features as they are less conducive to the generation of cropmarks. However, Clay has discussed the growing evidence for agricultural landscapes in Leicestershire, Rutland and beyond in such environs (Clay (1989; 1996; 2001). Agricultural landscape features on boulder clay and mixed geology dating from late in the Middle Iron Age are recorded at Normanton le Heath in north­-east Leicestershire (Thorpe et al. 1994). Livestock raising was evidently important for the site economy too at Beaumont Leys, in Leicestershire, with the site being located on a boulder clay ridge and near the Rotheley Brook and tributaries of the Soar, which should have provided grazing potential and represented a setting more suited to pastoralism than arable (Browning 2011b).

In terms of agricultural use though the pattern in Leicestershire and Rutland is patchy and varied, probably reflecting local circumstances at the time. At Stamford Road, Oakham, a waterlogged deposit dated from charcoal to between 190 BC-AD 5 (at 95%) suggests an open landscape with cereal pollen throughout the profile, and some indication of nearby pasture on the basis of the insect assemblage (Greig et al. 1999). At Soar Valley Way, Enderby, insect remains indicated open grassland in this period with ample dung suggesting cattle and/or horse grazing at these environs near the Soar (Hill and Smith 2018). On the other hand, the evidence for an agricultural landscape around the site at Wanlip is limited, with few detectable cropmark features (Beamish 1998, 2). From deposits of Middle Iron Age date at this site came spelt, plus a little emmer and bread wheat type grains, together with hulled six-row barley; typically for this period, quantities were small, with pits the most productive contexts (Monckton 1998b). Legumes, possibly beans, were also consumed, together with gathered foods (hazelnuts and sloes). A small number of querns of both saddle and rotary type came from a structured deposit (Marsden 1998a). At Wanlip bone did not survive, although as generally in the region, a mixed agricultural economy is likely (cf. Beamish 1998, 42). At Middle Iron Age Elms Farm, Humberstone, on the outskirts of Leicester, mixed agriculture was practiced; spelt was the main cereal, with a little possible emmer, and hulled four- or six-row barley as a second cereal; a small quantity of hazelnut shell was indicative of ‘wild’ resources (Pelling 2000) though the gathering is as likely from coppiced/managed stands as otherwise.

Valuable cropmark evidence for Lincolnshire became available through the national mapping programme undertaken some thirty years ago, enhancing a long history of aerial photography in the county (Bewley 1998). It is probable that mixed farming was undertaken at the Ancaster Quarry site where wheat and barley were recovered, together with a series of saddle and rotary querns (May 1976a). According to May (ibid., 137) sheep were the most numerous animal; cattle were also comparatively well-represented, ages at death indicating that these animals were used for meat, with a proportion presumably employed for traction; horses the size of ponies were also present. Large quantities of animal bone, including sheep, cattle and horses are reported from the Weelsby Avenue enclosure during its Middle Iron Age phase, together with a fragment of rotary quern (see references above). At Helpringham Fen, southern Lincolnshire, fragments of rotary quern were recovered; amongst the small faunal assemblage sheep predominated, then cattle; pig and horse were also represented. Butchered animal bone was also recovered at Cowbit (Albarella 2001). At Tattershall Thorpe the large low-lying double enclosure, potentially a stock management compound, produced little animal bone and this was in poor condition due to soil acidity (Chowne et al. 1986; Seager Smith 1998).There and elsewhere the evidence points to stock rearing occurring alongside salt making in and around the Fen margins, two activities which were likely to be complementary, if meat products were preserved by salting.

In North Lincolnshire pollen sampling undertaken at Crosby Warren and (during the excavations) at Dragonby (Holland 1975; Hayes 1996) remain comparatively rare pollen datasets. These samples, which showed an on-site and off-site correlation, were valuable evidence used for establishing the environment around Dragonby, being an important reference point for the writing up of that site (May 1996). The earliest pollen phase at Crosby Warren dated to the time of the establishment of the Dragonby site and had been calibrated to 710-210 BC (Holland 1975; May 1976a, 188; 1996), indicating hazel scrub giving way to mixed oak woodland followed by a period of clearance. Hayes’ study of samples collected from fortuitously suitable waterlogged archaeological features at the site demonstrated an environment of intense mixed agriculture during the second and first centuries BC (Hayes 1996).

Overall, the faunal assemblages are consistent with those from parts of lowland eastern England (cf. Hambleton 2009). Generally the Middle Iron Age is seen as the era when extensive arable production takes off with the conventional view that this produced high yields that sustained population growth (cf. Section 1.3.1). Wild animals, including, notably, wild fowl, and fish were evidently not consumed with any regularity, even where the environs may have presented such options (Dobney and Ervynck 2007). Bulk soil samples taken at sites to recover environmental remains are routine but fish bones are essentially absent from such samples of Iron Age date across most of Britain. This lies in contrast with the fact that 24 basketry work fish traps were recovered during the work at the exceptionally well-preserved site of Must Farm in Cambridgeshire dating to the later Bronze Age (Marchini 2017); these traps were probably to catch eels, the bones of which are particularly fine and may not always survive well in archaeological deposits. A crane was represented amongst the bones from Hallam Fields, Birstall, Leicestershire, and it may have been targeted for its feathers (Speed 2010, 61).

5. The Late Iron Age c. 100 BC–AD 50

5.1 Settlement Evidence

5.1.1 Visibility and Frequency

Across most of the region the Late Iron Age sees far more evidence for settlement and land use than in the preceding centuries. The Leicestershire and Rutland HER, for example, already listed over 220 locations of Later Iron Age occupation by 2003. Settlement is more identifiable for this period through more readily discernible traces via cropmarks (Pickering and Hartley 1985; Hartley 1989), chronologically diagnostic artefact scatters and other surface survey work, plus excavation. Clay pointed out that densities of one Late Iron Age farmstead/enclosure per 1.8-2 sq km can be deduced in certain well-surveyed areas of Leicestershire and Rutland (Clay 2001; 2002, 81; cf. Clay 1996; cf. Network Archaeology Ltd 1999). Such frequencies mirror patterns discerned in other areas of Britain, for instance the Upper Thames valley (Hingley and Miles 1984) and the Tees valley (Still et al. 1989). During this period the majority of farmstead sites seem to have been enclosed by ditches, whether they had unenclosed origins or not, assisting visibility.

5.1.2 Continuity and Development

There is clearly a fairly strong trend of continuity: many settlements which originated in the Middle Iron Age continued to be occupied into the Late Iron Age. This was evidently the case in Northamptonshire, as, for instance, at Covert Farm, Crick (Hughes 1998; Hughes and Woodward 2015) and Kings Heath, Northampton (Shaw et al. 1990). Elsewhere, other cases are apparent at Burrough Hill (Thomas 1960; Brown and Simpson 1968; Liddle 1982), Elms Farm, Humberstone (Charles et al. 2000), and Sleaford, albeit in an adjacent area (Elsdon 1997). Settlement enclosures making their debut during the Late Iron Age such as Clay Lane (Windell 1983) and Enderby, Enclosure I (see below) seem to follow Middle Iron Age traditions. Similarly, landscapes were not so-much re-ordered, rather existing boundaries and divisions were developed and ‘filled in’ (cf. Kidd 2000). Continuity is not, however, universal: neither the Wanlip nor Ancaster Quarry sites continued into the Late Iron Age, whilst Weelsby Avenue, Grimsby, became a different type of site and agglomerated sites such as Covert Farm, Crick, diminished in size from a Middle Iron Age heyday.

5.1.3 ‘Farmstead’ enclosures and settlement in the landscape

By the later Iron Age it has appeared that the commonest type of site is the farmstead, placed within a distinct enclosure and/or placed with a landscape/field system (cf. Jones 1988; Parry 2006, 61). Certainly enclosure was becoming more normal, as for instance, at Polwell Lane, Barton Seagrave, Northamptonshire, where a Middle Iron Age settlement, at first unenclosed, continues into the Late Iron Age and early first century AD with enclosure (Simmonds and Walker 2014). Enclosure 1 at Navenby, Lincolnshire (Palmer-Brown 1994; Palmer-Brown and Rylatt 2011, chapter 2), is a ‘classic’ sub-rectangular ditched enclosure containing circular structures; nonetheless this is an element of a wider system of land management features. On the other hand, the farmstead at Normanton le Heath, Leicestershire, during its early phase, appears not to have lain within a discrete defining enclosure, but to have been placed within a field system (cf. Hingley 1984, 74; Thorpe et al. 1994, 30; Willis 1997). This need not indicate an emphasis on livestock farming. Similarly, the partially excavated Late Iron Age farmstead at Aylesby (Steedman and Foreman 1995), which lies just within North-East Lincolnshire on the Lincolnshire Marsh, seems to be placed within an agricultural landscape rather than to occupy its own enclosure.

At North Killingholme, North-East Lincolnshire, extensive investigation between 2013 and 2015 by Allen Archaeology, engendered by the Able Logistics Park (ALP) and Able Marine Energy Park (AMEP) developments, together with other interventions, established that the whole of the Humber bank hereabouts appears to have been occupied and in use by the Late Iron Age, with occupation continuing into the Roman era (North Lincs HER SLS7523; pers. comm. Chris Casswell; Allen Archaeology 2019). Grazing of cattle and sheep was likely to have been a major element of the economy, possibly on a seasonal basis. Late Iron Age enclosures were excavated along with roundhouses: at the AMEP 1 site a Late Iron Age D-shaped enclosure, with a rectangular enclosure added to the south, was examined along with eaves-drip gullies; at the AMEP 3 site roundhouses had an internal diameter within the eaves–drip of 10 m; at the AMEP 4 site ring gullies were recorded and one well-preserved example had a diameter of 6 m; at ALP 1 a line of ring gullies appears to represent an unenclosed Late Iron Age settlement while at the ALP 3 site a square enclosure with circular structures was reminiscent of the site at Weelsby Avenue, Grimsby (Section 4.2), in its initial phase (pers. comm. Chris Casswell; Allen Archaeology 2019). A further site in North Killingholme was investigated in advance of cable laying in 2016 by Wessex Archaeology, with a further square ditched enclosure (c. 50 m by 50 m) dated to the Iron Age containing two curvilinear features indicative of eaves-drip gullies for roundhouses (one 11 m in diameter), with the enclosure ditch yielding pottery, animal bone and fired clay; evidence for a possible palisade or fence interior of the ditch was recorded and conceivably this may have been the original form of enclosure, replaced by a ditch and bank (Rajic et al. 2016; Dabill 2017). South of the previous site but still within North Killingholme parish a ditched complex found through the same development showed several phases of Middle to Late Iron Age date with possible structural evidence, and is thought to represent enclosures for stock etc. (Rajic and O’Neil 2016). Another settlement site with remains of likely eaves-drip gullies and other settlement features was examined straddling North and South Killingholme parishes as part of the same development. Here concentric ring gullies indicate a likely large roundhouse (inner gully 10 m in diameter), with a second prehistoric phase certainly Late Iron Age (with a ring gully 6 m in diameter) as the site develops, with continuity, into the Roman era (Batchelor and O’Neil 2016). Nearby, in Immingham parish, excavation work as part of the same development revealed a curvilinear, likely eaves-drip, gully and ditch complex of Iron Age date (Bromage and O’Neil 2017). Further characterization of these sites is anticipated once the finds and samples for environmental analysis have been processed and reported. This fairly recent expansion of evidence transforms understanding of the period in this area of Lincolnshire where hitherto there was almost a complete blank for stratified archaeology, Weelsby Avenue apart, as reference to the Loughlin and Miller gazetteer demonstrates (Loughlin and Miller 1979).

Further south, beyond Grimsby, but also on the Lincolnshire Marsh, work associated with cable laying in the parish of Holton le Clay, revealed a sequence of evident roundhouse eaves-drip gullies and other features indicative of settlement, with associated pottery; this is ascribed broadly to the later prehistoric period prior to detailed examination of the finds assemblage but appears to show a comparatively long lived occupation site probably of Middle or Late Iron Age date (Maier 2017), in an area where few sites are known of first millennium BC date. This site adds to the otherwise comparatively sparse recorded evidence of settlement and activity on the Lincolnshire Marsh during the first millennium B.C. Sites such as Weelsby Avenue, Grimsby, and Aylesby, near Laceby, have been known for some while but away from the development of the Humber Bank north of Grimsby (cf. above) few interventions have occurred other than pipeline related monitoring. The identification and investigation of these Iron Age sites is significant given that the Marsh, east of the Lincolnshire Wolds, is hitherto under-explored. The landscape hereabouts has proved less conducive to the generation of cropmarks, with aerial reconnaissance frustrated by geology, cover deposits, reclamation and rigg and furrow. The evidence so far, along with that of salt-making (cf. Section 8.8), demonstrates occupation and use of this sub-region bordering the North Sea at least from the Middle Iron Age. Significant new findings have been forthcoming through work in advance of the Covenham to Boston pipeline, which suggest that on the Lincolnshire Marsh and south-eastern Wolds ditched enclosure was more common through the later Iron Age. Ditched enclosures were recorded at North and South Cockerington on the Marsh (sites D3 and D5), with the latter showing more regular organization than seen in the Middle Iron Age (Bush forthcoming). At Authorpe (site H1), on the eastern edge of the Wolds, part of an apparently sub-rectilinear ditched enclosure was encountered 35 m by at least 20 m internally with the ditch c. 3 m wide, having an entrance on the north side (Bush forthcoming). Bush draws parallel to the Wootton Hill style enclosures of Northamptonshire (Section 5.1.5) with which it may be contemporary. One circular structure was recorded within the enclosure 10 m in diameter but may predate the enclosure; the entrance was to the north-east (Bush forthcoming). Work ahead of the construction of the Partney Bypass, on the south-east Wolds revealed evidence for three ‘farmstead’ enclosures seemingly established in the later Middle Iron Age including two of sub-rectangular form though internal widths varied, being 17 m, 35 m and 40 m (Atkins forthcoming). Roundhouses associated with these enclosures were between 12 m and 13.4 m in diameter; a larger feature at 17 m is thought possibly a stock enclosure (Atkins forthcoming).

Late Iron Age enclosures are well-attested in the Trent valley, as at Chapel Farm, Hemmington (Knight and Malone 1997; 1998), and Holme Pierrepont (O’Brien 1979). Four ‘sites’ were investigated on the gravel terrace at Holme Pierrepont in the 1970s; these have yet to be fully published and are not well-dated. The four ‘sites’ are essentially windows upon an evolving wider system of landscape use and settlement, emerging (it would seem) from the end of the Middle Iron Age. The complex is very significant in terms of the Middle Trent valley, having revealed eight circular buildings at one of the areas investigated (S. Elsdon pers. comm.) which is a high number for Nottinghamshire. This complex is potentially important for understanding the economy of the area, the chronology of Ancaster–Breedon pottery, and the landscape in the valley, as well as for comparison with more recent interventions. Since the work was conducted decades ago sampling and recovery methodology may not be comparable with present approaches, hence the value of some results may be lessened. Elsewhere, at Hollygate Lane, Cotgrave, Nottinghamshire, geophysical surveys in advance of development over a 12 ha area suggested Iron Age and Roman occupation features including rectilinear enclosures and circular structures (Krawiec and Poole 2020, fig. 3). During evaluation work Trench 5 revealed a section of a ring gully previously observed as a geophysical anomaly; it contained eight sherds of typologically Middle Iron Age pottery (Krawiec and Poole 2020, 16). Trench 11 located the terminal of a ring gully as well as ditches (Krawiec and Poole 2020, 18). Whether these features are contemporary with the enclosures will only be clear from further work. Overall, several sherds of Mid-Late Iron Age tradition pottery were recovered from the evaluation works, alongside sherds of Transitional type, c. AD 1-70 (Evans 2020a). Evans thought the date emphasis was later Iron Age with the pottery “probably no earlier than the 1st century BC” (Evans 2020a, 25-6).

At Market Harborough, Leicestershire, excavations works at Overstone Park on the south-east side of the town examined an area of c. 10ha (Guy and Leslie 2020a; 2020b). The earliest settlement activity was Late Iron Age, dated from c. 100 BC, including a boundary ditch defining the north side of the settlement. Occupation continued into the Roman period. In the eastern area, south of the northern boundary ditch a large enclosure (c. 0.5ha in area) contained a roundhouse (ibid., 2020a, 2; see Section 5.3) while a number of small enclosures occurred to the south-west. A feature interpreted as a potential burnt mound with trough below was circular with a spread or ‘mound’ of fire-cracked stone and charcoal c. 0.3m in thickness. Below was a “deep pit with a trough at its base … along with a ring of postholes” (ibid., 2020a, 3). It is suggested by the excavators that the clay subsoil may have retained water in the trough that was warmed by heating stones. In the western area of the site sub-circular enclosures are thought to potentially define corrals or were designed to enclosure domestic space; they were examined together with a trackway and a likely eaves-drip gully of a roundhouse. The latter lay immediately south of the northern boundary but seems otherwise not to have been enclosed (see Section 5.3). Evidence of four post structures is reported, interpreted (in the report) as functioning as grain stores (Guy and Leslie 2020b, 3-4). The largest enclosure in the western area was c. 0.25ha with an entrance to the east, with post settings suggesting a gate or similar. Small amounts of Iron Age pottery and bone were recovered (Guy and Leslie 2020a, 3; 2020b, 2). A beehive quernstone fragment of Millstone Grit came from the trackway (Guy and Leslie 2020b, 2).

5.1.4 Areas with ‘Thin’ Settlement Records (Lincolnshire and Derbyshire)

Areas which have seen comparatively little identification and/or investigation of Late Iron Age settlements include parts of northern, central and eastern Lincolnshire, although some evidence has come from fieldwork related to infrastructure and pipeline projects as noted above (e.g. Network Archaeology Ltd 1999). Somewhat more evidence comes from southern Lincolnshire: the unpublished enclosure and settlement complex at Mill Drove, Bourne yielded much data (M. Darling pers. comm.). Knowledge of settlement in Derbyshire continues to be limited into the Late Iron Age, coming particularly to date from the Trent valley. Evidence of this period in the Peak District is sporadic; finds have been made at Harborough Rocks and cave (Makepeace 1990). On the Mercia Mudstone in Derbyshire, at Little Hay Grange Farm, Ockbrook, Iron Age features and finds underlay a building of Roman date (Palfreyman 2001). Although the nature of this phase is not clear, the site evidently witnessed ‘activity’ with, perhaps, ‘domestic’ occupation nearby. Ditch fills yielded a sequence of Middle and Late Iron Age pottery (Ancaster–Breedon pottery and wheel-turned Late Iron Age pottery), as well as a stratified La Tène III derivative brooch and an Iron Age coin, a Corieltauvian stater (Ebbins 2001). The start date of this site remains obscure. Generally, the archaeological character of the upland environments of Derbyshire are less well characterized for this period than other areas of the East Midlands, having received proportionally less attention (cf. Bevan 2000).

5.1.5 Earthwork-Enclosed Sites

Of the region’s large earthwork-enclosed sites, a few have yielded evidence of use during this period. Activity, presumed to relate to occupation, is known from limited excavations at Burrough Hill, Leicestershire, which revealed features and finds of Late Iron Age material (see above for references). ‘Refortification’ occurred at Crow Hill in Northampton­shire (Parry 2006), although there is a lack of evidence from other hillforts in the county, leading to the suggestion that they were abandoned – or at least not occupied – by this time (cf. Kidd 2000). Hunsbury seems likely to have remained an important site, until around the late first century BC.

On the other hand, smaller ‘defended’ sites are well-attested in some areas. The sub-rectangular earthwork (3 ha) at Ratby Bury, Leicestershire, has produced later Iron Age material (Liddle 1982, 26). At Colsterworth, on the Lincolnshire Limestone, in south Lincolnshire, a small ‘defended’ settlement of 0.5 ha contained a number of circular buildings (Grimes 1961; May 1976a); Gallo-Belgic pottery was recovered. Excavated during the Second World War this significant site remains unpublished. Elsewhere, especially in Northampton­shire, a distinctive enclosed settlement type is known, being mainly Late Iron Age (c. 25 BC to AD 50), namely the so-called ‘Wootton Hill style’ enclosures. They have been characterised by Dix and Jackson (1989, 158) as, ‘small enclosures, each surrounded by an exceptionally deep ditch and additionally strengthened by banks, stockades and elaborate gateways’. Sixteen examples of this monument class (confirmed or suspected) have been recorded in Northamptonshire (cf. Deegan 2007, fig. 6.14), for instance, Aldwincle (Jackson 1977), Blackthorn (Williams and McCarthy 1974), Brigstock – with surviving remnant of interior bank and metalled approach from the entrance to a roundhouse within (Jackson 1983), by Borough Hill, Daventry, where the enclosure ditch is nearly 3 m deep (Jackson 1991; Chinnock et al. 2020, 4) and Weekley (Jackson and Dix 1987). Wootton Hill style enclosures have also been identified in Nottinghamshire from aerial photography (Bishop 2000). Dix and Jackson (1989) interpreted the morphology of these enclosures as ‘defensive’.

5.1.6 ‘Agglomerated sites’, Population and ‘Major Settlements’

(i) Agglomerated Sites

Whilst the majority of settlement sites in the region appear to have been farmsteads, presumably consisting of family/extended family groups, ‘aggregated’ settlements (or the more recent term agglomerated settlements), consisting of clustered but often spatially discrete enclosures and settlement/activity foci, clearly existed and in the past 25 years have come to be seen as more common than previously realised. Now that both broad scale geophysical surveying and strip, map, excavate (SPE) approaches are common, aided by aerial photograph, mapping of agglomerated complexes has advanced. They have been recorded with some frequency in Northamptonshire, and in parts of Lincolnshire and Leicestershire/Rutland. At Navenby, Lincolnshire, for instance, a series of interventions have recovered information across a wide area, suggesting an extensive complex during the Iron Age although insufficient to firmly establish the sequence and any spatial-functional differences (Palmer-Brown and Rylatt 2011). The origins of this process of agglomerated are unclear. In Northamptonshire the long-lived agglomerated complex at Wilby Way, Wellingborough, covering 10 ha (Enright and Thomas 1998; 1999; Thomas and Enright 2003) may have Early Iron Age origins but evidently develops through the Middle Iron Age, as too does Covert Farm, Crick, c. 13 ha (Chapman 1995; Hughes 1998; Kidd 2004; Hughes and Woodward 2015). The complexes at Duston (RCHME 1985, 252-7; Friendship-Taylor 1998, 148-70), and possibly Stanwick (Neal 1989) and Twywell (Jackson 1975) appear to be examples of the phenomenon dating to the Late Iron Age. The more recently investigated environs of Brackley show similar agglomeration, but of an earlier date, with investigated areas at Foxhills, Northampton Road, Radstone and Sawmills interpreted as contemporary clusters, part of a larger ‘whole’, of Middle Iron Age date, but in decline by end of the Middle Iron Age and discontinuing in the Late Iron Age. All four clusters seem to begin at the same time and end about the same time, with all four characterized by basic similarity, with some apparent open settlement (Morris 2019). Other candidates for designation as agglomerated Middle Iron Age open settlement are King’s Heath, Northampton, covering c. 15 ha (Shaw et al. 1990) and Manor Farm/Elms Farm, Humberstone, Leicester (Charles et al. 2000; Thomas 2011a). Such sites do not on present evidence appear common.

 As Kidd (pers. comm.) has pointed out these apparent contemporary agglomerations may conceal subtle dynamics: they could be seasonal, or part-seasonal foci as perhaps at Covert Farm, Crick) or the product of a mobile (i.e. periodically shifting) settlement pattern, as seen with some Anglo-Saxon sites. What is less clear is whether the agglomerations are a direct indication of rising population numbers and/or a choice to live in closer communities, or whether the appearance of aggregation is exaggerated because of a particular frequency in replacement house building where house features are such that they leave clear traces. Roundhouses might be being replaced every 15 years rather than 30, in which case a palimpsest of house features could develop comparatively quickly: six within two generations. In any case not all structures will necessarily have been occupied domestically. These aspects have a bearing on the numbers envisaged to have lived at these sites.

At Covert Farm, Crick, an area of c. 13 ha was excavated, with the known Iron Age complex of settlement clusters extending for at least 16 ha, and “at its height included over 40 distinct circular buildings”; given the presence of other nearby settlement clusters, as at Long Dole and Crick Hotel (Masefield et al. 2015; Hughes and Woodward 2015, fig. 2), the deduction is that a substantial population was located in the area (Hughes and Woodward 2015, Foreword, 1, 137). Hughes and Woodward note that attempts to estimate the size of population for the excavated area is problematic as evidence for some structures may have been lost, especially for the early phases when they may have left more ephemeral traces and/or been removed through later occupation features. There is also the proviso that the occupation could have been seasonal. Assuming one person per 10 m² against the total domestic space per period they arrive at the following population figures for Covert Farm: Period 2 (Early Iron Age) a population of around 42; this rises in Period 3 (earlier Middle Iron Age) to 140; and then to 241 in Period 4 (later Middle Iron Age); and down to 136 in Period 5 being the Late Iron Age (Hughes and Woodward 2015, 137). The qualification with these figures that some buildings might have been for ‘ancillary’ use is made by Hughes and Woodward who point up that the shift from Period 3 to 4 witnesses greater clustering and zonation. Thomas and Enright make similar observations with regard to Wilby Way; the extent of the site is not known but a snapshot view of the features recorded may give a false impression of the size of the community noting that the site at any one time may have been small, with frequent shifts (Thomas and Enright 2003, 61). Qualifications in terms of discernible structures, functional use of buildings (i.e. not all were domestic), longevity of buildings, etc. are significant matters, yet it is important too, that .investigations result in some consideration of population numbers. All told, the size of the Covert Farm site is very large compared to that of ‘farmstead’ enclosure sites and complexes seen in the contemporary landscape elsewhere in the East Midlands including Northamptonshire, and this is without adding the point that the Covert Farm site is part of a greater clustering.

The emergence of these agglomerated sites has implications for the hitherto prevailing models of settlement systems and hierarchy. Their existence raises questions around their relationship with hillforts given that occupation and use of these places (such as Hunsbury and Borough Hill, Daventry) will have been concurrent and with similar population sizes. It is also not so clear what differences existed between the agglomerated sites and the intensively farmed and organized landscapes with so-called clothes line or ladder settlements (formed by enclosures along a track or boundary where there occurs intermittent occupation) seen for instance in Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire and the Trent valley (e.g. at Timberland Estate, Scunthorpe, North Lincs HER SLS3984) and which find parallel elsewhere (for example in East Yorkshire: Brewster 1980; Stoertz 1997; Halkon and Millett 1999).

(ii) ‘Major Settlements’ of the Late Iron Age

Agglomerated settlements with their clustered groupings of buildings and functions, as at Covert Farm, Crick, and Brackley, on current evidence, were particularly flourishing in the Middle Iron Age. Were they succeeded by, or indeed did some develop into, the so-called ‘major settlements’ of the Late Iron Age, occurring mainly in historic Lincolnshire such as Ancaster, Dragonby, Kirmington, Ludford, Old Winteringham, Owmby, Sleaford, South Ferriby and Ulceby as May characterized them (May 1976b; 1984; Jones 1998, 69-71, fig. 70) but which may include sites such as Medbourne, Leicestershire, and Leicester. As May stressed, it has never seemed appropriate to term these complexes oppida (May 1996, 624-31) since they are not of the scale of sites termed oppida, mostly in the south of England, such as Camulodunum (Colchester) and lack earthworks. That said these ‘major settlements’ have some characteristics in common with sites suggested to be oppida, such as the presence of coin mould fragments, high status metal finds, imported tablewares, and high numbers of coins and brooches found over extensive areas, implying high status. However, they also share features with less exotic complexes, in that to date they have not yielded aristocratic burials and did not become civitas centres in the Roman era, with the exception of Leicester. They also have layouts (on the basis of cropmarks and other mapping) that resemble less exotic sites; recorded features at Owmby, for example, are not dissimilar from the patterns at Wollaston or Holme Pierrepont, or indeed in parts of the Vale of York (Halkon and Millett 1999) which can be classed as ladder settlements. All considered, the implication is that they were major settlements or centres in a more local or sub-regional, rather than regional, context. It needs also to be borne in mind that these so-called ‘major settlements’ have still to be firmly characterized with much of the evidence from surface collections, with little analysis of collated information. Lack of characterization is explained by their large geographic scale, the generally limited scale of excavations and survey programmes to date, and, moreover, of modern synthesis studies. Work by May and Elsdon was pioneering and though published a quarter of a century ago largely drew on results gathered half a century ago by older methods.

The major Late Iron Age settlements of the East Midlands may have been polyfocal, with specialist functions and differing functional areas, as appears to be the case for some large-scale sites in the south-east of Britain, such as Camulodunum (Millett 1990; Crummy 1997), Saham Toney, Norfolk (Brown 1986) and sites in Hertfordshire (Bryant and Niblett 1997; Haselgrove and Millett 1997). Due to insufficient work, this, if true, has yet to be demonstrated for the East Midlands. Only in the case of Sleaford can a specialist economic function be inferred, in this case a role in the production and distribution of a key commodity: salt, but again this needs to be demonstrated. There is no evidence yet of a connection between these agglomerated sites and craft and industry such as iron smelting and working, as was the case with the development of Iron Age and early Roman Ariconium, by the Forest of Dean (Jackson 2012). It seems likely that these agglomerated, and putatively ‘high status’ sites were themselves embedded in the agricultural economy.

Clearly these ‘major settlements’, whether ‘high status’ or not, existed by the early first century AD and are essentially a Late Iron Age phenomenon. In truth our knowledge is generally limited at present regarding their origins, and for that matter their development and detailed morphology. Their sheer scale means that almost certainly they will only gradually yield details of their character as a result of piecemeal interventions; even then it will be problematic to extrapolate from recovered samples, since particular interventions may well not be representative of the site as a whole. So far, the only intensively examined site is Dragonby, the start date of which is not chronologically anchored (May 1996). An origin around the turn of the first century BC seems probable, and is likely to apply to a proportion, at least, of the other sites. Sleaford shows a longer sequence of development (though this may not be continuous) from the Middle Iron Age (Elsdon 1997).

Certainly the presence of considerable numbers of Iron Age coins and brooches at these Lincolnshire sites, largely recovered as surface finds, made them appear very different from other sites in the region, yet these finds might have more to do with religious activity and ritual deposition than be indices of chance loss or casual discard at sites of ‘high status’. Their discard/deposition will relate to their final use, which may have had this ritual element, although that considered these finds are not concentrated as one would expect if they related to a shrine or shrines. If, however, they are subtracted from the picture, the record for these ‘major centres’ seems a degree more ordinary. Indeed, perhaps Iron Age Dragonby and Sleaford are best described as aggregated complexes with a modest level of imports. If there is a difference between these sites and other agglomerated complexes, it lies not in morphology, but probably chronology and in aspects of their material culture, access to ‘prestige items’, consumption patterns, and, where coin flan trays appear, ‘authority’. Clay had pointed out that the hinterland settlements around Leicester have produced virtually no evidence of the exotic and ‘high status’ material culture consumed at that site during its Late Iron Age heyday (Clay 2001). This pattern, however, is entirely consistent with what one might predict following Haselgrove’s ‘prestige goods model’ (Haselgrove 1982a): prestige goods stack up at ‘centres’ and are carefully disseminated. Although that model is 40 years old, this remains an argument worthy of continued consideration, not least in the case of the East Midlands as the mapped incidence of imported terra rubra and terra nigra in the first century AD is consistent with what the model predicts (cf. Willis 1996; 1997), although the same pattern could arise from different factors.

Leicester and Sleaford seem qualitatively different from the other sites. Both have produced some remarkable material, indicative of their identity, notably imported pottery including Arretine wares, and potential evidence of Iron Age coin manufacture in the form of so-called coin pellet trays fashioned from clay – no such examples being known from Dragonby – (Clay 1985a; Jarvis 1986; Clay and Pollard 1994; Gnanaratnam 2004; Elsdon 1997 – where a whole chapter is devoted to the study of the recovered evidence from Sleaford). Indeed, Leicester is the only site to which the term ‘nucleated centre’ seems at all applicable and it is the only one of these sites to develop into a centre of status and authority in the Roman era. A density of finds and features indicates an extensive cluster of settlement and activity on the east bank of the Soar, although we have only small parts of the jigsaw (e.g. Clay and Mellor 1985; Gnanaratnam 2004). Sufficient is known of Late Iron Age and early Roman Leicester to suggest that it was an unusually important site at this formative time.

Away from these centres imported pottery is rare as is other material that can be taken as indicating high status (cf. Willis 1994; 1996). As Bishop (2000) notes for Nottinghamshire, there is little artefactual or settlement evidence to differentiate between settlements in the later Iron Age on grounds of status or function. This ‘egalitarianism’, which is also seen in Derbyshire, may be a continuation of suggested Middle Iron Age cultural norms (cf. Sharples 1991; Hill 1995a).

(iii) Population and its Correlates

The broad pattern of evidence through the first millennium BC shows the trend towards the landscape ‘filling-up’. There is a transformation in the nature of the evidence and in the imprint human activity, particularly of settlement, from the ‘scatters’ which characterize the early first millennium to a qualitatively different signature in the later millennium where we can see, in some areas at least, continuous Iron Age landscapes – or sufficient parts of that landscape to interpolate that it is continuous. This is seen in the colonization of previously marginal lands, areas, that is, that were harder to cultivate, such as the clay lands. Their opening-up was facilitated by the use of iron tools and implements, probably including coulters and iron ard sheaths (cf. Knight 2007). These increasingly ditched and enclosed areas, accessed by trackways, are detected and verifiable via aerial photography, geophysical survey and area stripping. At another level the transformation is seen too in the numbers of pottery assemblages known stage by stage through the millennium. The scale and nature of activities and consumption grew. According to Knight pressure on resources, primarily land, engendered the often highly organized landscapes we encounter for the later first millennium (Knight 2007). Knight suggests grazing needs may have been a driver rather than the cause, necessarily, being either a large increase in population numbers or expansion of arable cultivation (though the latter was doubtless significant in places (cf. Lambrick 1992)). The greater demands placed on the land may have resulted in exhaustion if there was insufficient replacement with manure (cf. Cunliffe 2005, 418), perhaps spurring further inroads into previously uncultivated places. Loss of tree cover and tree root systems seems also to have been responsible for soil erosion as silts were washed (or blown) off fields to accumulate in spreads of alluvium following episodes of flood. Land divisions by ditching by the later Iron Age therefore both controlled and defined ownership/access rights but also operated to inhibit erosion in some environs.

Not only did the Middle Iron Age see the emergence of agglomerated settlements in Northamptonshire, and to some extent Leicestershire, implying population increase, there is also an increase in the number of sites known compared to the previous period. Atkins noted thirteen interventions in the county where significant Middle Iron Age settlements were encountered but where there was no previous occupation (Atkins 2018). These were focused upon the Nene and Ise Valleys. Some sites continue (see Section 5.1.7). Yet, these dynamic settlement agglomerations of the Middle Iron Age lose their vitality and diminish at the end of the Middle Iron Age or in the Late Iron Age. Smaller sites continue. Is this a pointer to depopulation in the Late Iron Age as suggested by Sealey looking at the evidence from Essex and beyond (Sealey 2016). At Navenby, on the basis of small scale sampling it appears that Enclosure 1 was redundant prior to the emergence of the ribbon development along Ermine Street established in the Roman period (Palmer-Brown and Rylatt 2011, 15).

5.1.7 Settlement Development into the Roman Era?

Some sites occupied during the Late Iron Age did not continue into the Roman era, as for instance, those at Enderby and Humberstone (Elms Farm), Leicestershire, Polwell Lane, Barton Seagrave, Northamptonshire, where a Middle Iron Age settlement, at first unenclosed, continues into the Late Iron Age and early first century AD (Simmonds and Walker 2014), and Rosper Road, North East Lincolnshire (cf Section 5.2). The general pattern, however, seems to be that settlements occupied in the Roman era overlie Late Iron Age settlement/activity (cf. English Heritage 1991, 36; Taylor 1996; Clay 2001). In most cases, there is an apparent uninterrupted development, as at Leicester and Dragonby (May 1996, e.g. 102-3), and perhaps at Little Hay Grange Farm, Ockbrook (Palfreyman 2001), Holme Pierrepont (O’Brien 1979), Lockington (i.e. the scheduled cropmark complex where Roman period occupation lies adjacent; Clay 1985b; Ripper and Butler 1999), Warren Farm, Lockington (Thomas 2013), Sapperton (unpublished, but see Simmons 1976), The Bridles (Phases 5-6) Barnetby le Wold (North Lincs HER SLS2077; SLS2537) and Navenby (Palmer-Brown 1994; Palmer-Brown and Rylatt 2011). Recent publication of the temple site at Thistleton, excavated by Greenfield in the 1960s, confirmed Iron Age antecedents to the Roman temple sequence (Liddle and Taylor 2019); more knowledge of the general sequence at this extensive but hitherto enigmatic site would be helpful.

There remains a need, however, for a more systematic desk-top study of those sites that continued into the Roman era and those that ended in the mid-first century AD. Sufficient data exists from which to distil the actual picture, for what is a fundamental research question.

Many Roman villas have Late Iron Age antecedents, as at Piddington and Weekley in Northamptonshire (Friendship-Taylor and Friendship-Taylor 1989; Jackson and Dix 1987), where in both cases there is some indication of ‘high status’ during the Late Iron Age, and at Mansfield Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire (Oswald 1949). At Norton Disney, Lincolnshire, the villa (Oswald 1937) lies in an area where recent extensive survey work suggests Iron Age occupation/activity over a broad area with iron smelting (Bunn 2018) which was confirmed by limited excavation work (Brocklehurst 2018). To the south-west of the site cropmarks, and to the north geophysical survey, indicate enclosures and possible roundhouses (Monument No. 1067645; Jefferson 2019) and to the south of the villa, adjacent to Folly Lane, an enclosure (Allen Archaeology 2020).

Iron Age occupation may commonly precede that of the Roman period in parts of upland Derbyshire (Bevan 2000). This was so at Ockbrook and at Staden, near Buxton (Makepeace 1995), to cite two instances (and perhaps at Horsborough and Harborough Rocks; cf. Bevan 2000; Makepeace 2004). Bevan suggests that since Roman sites are more readily detected, they should be more extensively examined in anticipation of identifying underlying Iron Age phases.

5.2 Settlement Morphology

As noted above, a proportion of Late Iron Age settlements are enclosed, but settlements and buildings placed in field systems rather than in specific enclosures are increasingly coming to light, as are open settlements. One cannot say that any one of these forms is particularly characteristic of this period; sub-regional trends are, however, discernible to some extent. The morphology of settlements was not static (Hingley 1984; 1990) but evolving, and occasionally they were radically altered. The later Iron Age saw a degree of site re-modelling, as for instance at Normanton le Heath (Thorpe et al. 1994).

Enclosed settlements occur in circular/oval, D-shaped and sub-rectangular forms. Examples of the latter occur at Navenby, on the Lincolnshire Limestone, where sub-rectangular ditched enclosures have been recorded, evidently of later Iron Age date. Enclosure 1 measures roughly 50 m square (its north-east corner is a little ‘stretched out’); the main entrance opens due east and there is a probable second opening facing due west; within are at least three circular buildings, facing east or south-east (Palmer-Brown 1994). A second enclosure, Enclosure 2, was apparently added to the first and a penannular feature within Enclosure 2 faced north; ancillary oval enclosures, suggested to be stock compounds or vegetable plots, are known from magnetometry (Palmer-Brown and Rylatt, 2011, 15-16, fig. 2.5). The enclosures lie adjacent to Neolithic and BA features and to Ermine Street (which may be prehistoric in origin). A section through the enclosure ditch of Enclosure 1 established it was 5m wide at the surface with a flat base 1.8m below current surface, and lower fills had Later Iron Age shell-tempered pottery (ibid., 15-6, fig. 2.6). One of the penannular gullies was sectioned; this likely roundhouse eaves-drip gully would have been 14 m in diameter. The scale of the enclosure is reminiscent of the so-called ‘Wootton Hill’ type (cf. Section 5.1.5).

Work in advance of the Covenham to Boston pipeline established that enclosures of the Middle and Late Iron Age on the Lincolnshire Marsh and Wolds typically enclosed c. 0.5 ha. (Bush forthcoming). At Rosper Road, on the Lincolnshire Marsh north of the Brocklesby Interchange, excavations located part of an apparent a sub-rectangular ditched enclosure with two successive ring gullies, dating to the Late Iron Age; this was presumed to represent a discrete farmstead, with the excavator noting likely feature recuts implying long term use (Cavanagh 2020). The ditch was not extant on the western side so the enclosure could have been partial with an ‘enclosed’ area of at least c. 0.25 ha. The ditch yielded sizable groups of typologically mid- to Late Iron Age pottery along with animal bone, mainly cattle and sheep; a sample of animal bone from this ditch was dated to 357 to 114 cal BC (Cavanagh 2020, 42). The two ring gullies lay at the centre of the enclosed area, and are taken to indicate roundhouses. The earlier gully was poorly preserved, but nonetheless produced pottery and animal bone groups. A second eaves–drip gully lay to the eastern side overlapping the earlier gully; their diameters were c. 10 m. The site was abandoned by the mid- to late first century AD (Cavanagh 2020, 42-3).

A sub-rectangular enclosure at Enderby (Enclosure II) near to the 0.5 ha size had an entrance on its north-eastern side facing towards its companion enclosure (Enclosure I) lying c. 350 m to the north (Meek 1996, illus. 1; Meek et al. 2004, fig. 2). Enclosure II at Enderby had a timber gateway, based on the evidence of post settings. The enclosures at Colsterworth (May 1976a, fig. 96), likewise on the Lincolnshire Limestone, and Enderby, Enclosure I (Clay 1992, 24) are D-shaped, but of larger scale (c. 80 m by 70 m in the case of Colsterworth).

A large near D-shaped enclosure has also been identified at Green Man Road, north-east of Chapel Heath, Navenby, measuring 150 m in longest dimension. This enclosure is known from aerial photography (Palmer-Brown and Rylatt 2011, 148, fig. 7.1) and gradiometer survey (ibid., fig. 7.2). It displays an unusual interned entrance, while only one definable feature is known from the interior being a penannular feature 18m in diameter and presumed to be a roundhouse eaves-drip gully, with apparent large post pits flanking an entrance. Both the enclosure and roundhouse are orientated to east-north-east. As the site is unexcavated it is suggested as a possible farmstead or livestock compound with “custodian” in residence, or a ceremonial enclosure (Palmer-Brown and Rylatt 2011, 149). A similar enclosure occurs further north at Nettleham and is suggested to be later Iron Age (Winton 1998, 49).

At Huncote, Leicestershire, a small oval enclosure of Later Iron Age date has been excavated, with evidence of two circular buildings perhaps of differing functions (Meek et al. 2004). The site continued in use into the first century AD but as with nearby Enderby Enclosure I occupation seems to have ceased by the start of the Roman era, although the enclosure may have been employed to manage stock (Meek et al. 2004).

Enclosures of the ‘Wootton Hill style’ vary from square, rectangular, trapezoidal to D-shaped; the unifying characteristic is the pronounced nature of the ditches and other works. Timber circular buildings have been identified within most of these enclosures. A large Late Iron Age trapezoidal feature at Brauncewell Quarry is believed to be a stock management enclosure (Lincolnshire HER).

Open settlements are known even in the latest phase of the Iron Age, as, for instance at Empingham ‘West’ (Cooper 2000, 46–8), and at Elms Farm, Humberstone (Charles et al. 2000), as well as at Winterton in North Lincolnshire in the area beyond the Roman villa, which is yet to be published. A period of undated open settlement is also apparent from cropmark evidence at Normanton le Heath (Thorpe et al. 1994, 30). The initial farmstead phase at Enderby (Enclosure I) was open (Clay 1992).

A pattern of paired circular buildings has been identified at Enderby (Clay 1992; Meek 1996), and is believed to reflect functional differences (i.e. living vs. kitchen/agricultural uses). The site at Aylesby on the Lincolnshire Middle Marsh (Steedman and Foreman 1995) included two adjacent circular buildings which may be a pair. Pairing is also strikingly apparent at Bancroft, Buckinghamshire, during Period 2 (Williams and Zeepvat 1994).

The orientation of Late Iron Age circular structures conforms with a trend widely observed, with the majority facing to the east or south-east (Oswald 1997; for more discussion Section 4.3). Two of the three roundhouses at Empingham ‘West’ were orientated to the south-east and the third may have been (Cooper 2000), while all five Late Iron Age roundhouses examined at Warren Farm Lockington were east facing (Thomas 2013). By contrast all four structures within Enclosure II at Enderby, Leicestershire face north-east (Meek 1996, illus. 2; Meek et al. 2004, illus. 3), though that too is a sub-trend in the pattern of orientations.

Comparatively little is known of the specific morphology of these aggregated sites and ‘major settlements’ (Section 5.1.6), other than what can be deduced from geophysical and aerial survey (for example, in the case of Kirmington see Hemblade and Cooper 1989; Jones and Whitwell 1991). Work at Sleaford and Leicester (Elsdon 1997; Clay and Mellor 1985; Clay and Pollard 1994) has opened only windows onto this archaeology. Area excavations at Dragonby revealed an intensively used system of domestic compounds and trackways, with some roundhouses and other features such as likely water pits, a surprisingly uncommon feature at Iron Age sites in Britain generally (May 1996, 62-8, 106-29); geophysical survey at Dragonby revealed some extent of the complex (ibid., 12-5). It seems unlikely that the scale of stripping/excavation required to understand the detailed morphology of these sites could occur in the foreseeable future, or be justified. In the meantime characterisation of these important sites could proceed via non-destructive sampling and survey. A survey programme was initiated at the essentially green fields site at Owmby by Ermine Street by English Heritage in the 1990s but was not sustained (Olivier 1997).

5.3 Buildings and Structures

Far more Late Iron Age circular buildings are known than for the preceding periods and the number has increased exponentially in the last 25 years (cf. Willis 1997; Clay 2001). Four post and two post structures are also comparatively well-attested, especially in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. As in preceding periods some circular buildings are represented by substantial postholes, as at Enderby, Leicestershire (Clay 1992), others by ring grooves, sometimes with postholes (cf. Knight 1984), like the building at Cossington (Sturgess and Ripper 2000), at Colsterworth (May 1976a), and those at Elms Farm, Humberstone (Charles et al. 2000), as well as at Holme Pierrepont. At Enderby, Enclosure II, the two largest buildings were represented by concentric rings with large central postholes and a likely internal diameter of c. 10 m (Meek 1996).

Clay had inventoried Later Iron Age circular structures in Leicestershire and Rutland for the original county Resource Assessments (Clay 2001). A circular building recorded at Crown Hills, Evington, Leicester, had an extant hearth (Chapman 2000). Particularly noteworthy are the structures at Enderby (Clay 1992; Meek 1996; Ripper and Beamish 1997), Elms Farm, Humberstone (Charles et al. 2000) and Normanton le Heath (Thorpe et al. 1994), being comparatively well-preserved, and yielding valuable structural details. Three circular structures at Empingham ‘West’ were represented by eaves-drip gullies (Cooper 2000, 46–8); 13 postholes occurred within one of these buildings, some, if not all of which are likely to represent associated structural settings over two phases. Only two buildings were fully exposed, both with entrances facing south-east. The internal diameters, within the eaves-drip circuits, each measure approximately 10 m across. All three had hearths, two being centrally placed. More recently two roundhouses of Late Iron Age date have been excavated at Overstone Park, Market Harborough (cf. Section 5.1.3). The roundhouse in the eastern area had an eaves-drip gully c. 10 m in diameter with an opening to the SE; it had been recut; post holes within the eaves-drip envelope may be structural (Guy and Leslie 2020a, 3). A roundhouse in the western area had a gully c. 16 m in diameter (indicating a building that was particularly large) and 0.8m deep with an entrance to the west (Guy and Leslie 2020b, 2-3). At Brigstock the roundhouse had remnant flooring surviving and the base of a possible stone bench (Jackson 1983).

The two circular structures partially exposed at Aylesby, North-East Lincolnshire, (Steedman and Foreman 1995) were represented by penannular gullies, interpretable as wall trenches; both measured c. 8 m in diameter; one had an apparent west-facing entrance, which, as pointed out in the report, may have been positioned for sound practical reasons given the proximity of the site to the North Sea and its exposed setting. There is some indication that one of the buildings was of polygonal construction.

The evidence from Enderby, Leicestershire, suggests that smaller circular structures may often have been non-residential. Thomas noted that the contrasting finds assemblages from the five roundhouses at Warren Farm, Lockington, could be a guide to their use (Thomas 2013, 119-20). A smaller building at Rampton, Nottinghamshire apparently had an industrial function (Ponsford 1992). A non-residential use cannot, however, be presumed for all smaller circular structures, and their function has to be a matter for investigation in each case. Some such structures may have been domestic, with social status and age differences being potential determinants of who lived where and in what manner.

Clay has posited that the structure at Cossington, Leicestershire (Sturgess and Ripper 2000) may have had a ceremonial rather than a domestic function, since it was sited adjacent to a Bronze Age barrow where successive ritual and burial re-use took place, coinciding with an absence of domestic debris (Clay 2001).

Rectangular buildings are also now known in the region: at Leicester (Clay 1985a) and at Normanton le Heath (Thorpe et al. 1994), where unusually beam plates and postholes are employed in combination. Another case is the site at Cadeby, Leicestershire, dating to the early and mid-first century AD where two sub-rectangular structures were encountered with beam slot foundations (Speed 2011). Such structures are rare in Britain, but are beginning to be recognised (Moore 2003); across northern Gaul they are common as domestic loci. Four and two post structures continue through the period. Several four post structures were exposed at Elms Farm, Humberstone (Charles et al. 2000) and one two post structure was recorded at Empingham ‘West’ (cf. above).

5.4 Material Culture

5.4.1 Metalwork

Metalwork finds, including coins, brooches and cosmetic instruments, occur more frequently in Late Iron Age contexts than previously (Hill 1997b). This is particularly clear with brooches although this era also sees the first widespread adoption of coin use and circulation. These are general trends apparent across southern and eastern England during the later Iron Age (e.g. Haselgrove 1997; cf. Hamilton and Adams no date) including the East Midland region (Willis 1997; Leins 2011; Farley 2012). Large numbers of finds have been recovered by metal detector users, a proportion of which will be logged with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (established following the Treasure Act of 1996). There are marked sub-regional differences in the incidence of finds across the East Midlands, with larger numbers of non-ferrous finds known from Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire especially.

Overall, Lincolnshire has produced a great many Late Iron Age metal artefacts, coming to archaeological attention by various paths (see for instance the corpora of finds from Dragonby (May 1996) and Old Winteringham (Stead 1976) which include pre-excavation finds, and the current PAS database). Riverine and wet contexts are less well-represented than for the proceeding phases of the Iron Age as cultural practices changed but recent excavations at the Late Iron Age settlement site at Able Marine Energy Park (AMEP 1), North Killingholme, produced the handle of a La Tène sword, found in an enclosure ditch which may have been a placed deposit in a liminal location (pers. comm. C. Casswell). Finds from Northamptonshire include such spectacular items as the La Tène III sword from Aldwincle (Megaw 1976) and the Desborough mirror (RCHME 1979, 33). By comparison Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire have so far yielded modest quantities of metalwork, including coins, from this period. The latter may reflect the extent of the political authority of the tribal grouping we have come to know as the Coriel­tauvi (Leins 2011, fig. 44); continuing exploration of this difference will be instructive.

Several items may be mentioned here because they, or their find-spot, are unusual. From Normanton le Heath has come a copper alloy hilt- or mouth-guard from a sword scabbard (Thorpe et al. 1994). A La Tène III brooch is known from Gringley-on-the-Hill, Nottinghamshire (Oswald 1938), an area with comparatively little first millennium BC evidence, although a triangular clay loom weight and Iron Age pottery is also reported (ibid.; Knight and Howard 2004). From sites in the east of the region have come a series of Nauheim brooches of c. 120–60 BC (cf. Section 7.4 (Mackie 1993)), predating the profusion of brooches in the last decades of the pre-Roman Iron Age. An illustrated example was recovered at Mount Pleasant, Nettleton, on the Lincolnshire Wolds (Cooper 2013, 269-70). These items, together with other artefact categories such as some types of pottery (cf. Section 5.4.2), indicate the spread of shared styles in the later La Tène period that spanned large areas of Britain and the near Continent.

5.4.2 Pottery

The development of Ancaster-Breedon Scored ware enables some chronological change to be recognized. At Empingham ‘West’ (Section 5.2), for instance, Scored ware forms present meant the period of the main settlement evidence could be allocated to the Late Iron Age, specifically the first century BC (Cooper 2000, 48).

In the east of the region Late Iron Age pottery types, including wheel-made vessels, appear perhaps by the start of the first century AD, and, crucially are often mixed in groups with Scored ware, as at Dorket Head, Dunstan’s Clump, Gamston, Holme Pierrepont and Rampton (Turner and Swarbrick 1978; Turner and Turner 1997; Garton 1987; Knight 1992; S. Elsdon pers. comm.; Ponsford 1992; Knight 2000). Aslockton, Nottinghamshire, is another site yielding stylistically Late Iron Age pottery (Palmer-Brown and Knight 1993; Knight 2007). The debut of such pottery is now seen as a genuinely Late Iron Age occurrence, rather than happening around the time of the Roman Conquest, as was once thought. On the other hand, Scored ware is now seen to continue in parts of the region until the mid-first century AD (Elsdon 1992a; Willis 1998); the occurrence of these two styles together can no longer be regarded as problematic. Dragonby and Old Sleaford are important for the Late Iron Age types recovered, including cordoned and carinated forms, often highly burnished and occasionally decorated, with an expanded functional repertoire (Elsdon and May 1996; Elsdon 1997); small groups also display these stylistic types, coming from other sites in Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and historic Lincolnshire, as at Tattershall Thorpe (Chowne et al. 1986). That said the transition to types resembling imports and Roman pottery lasted decades through the first century AD (cf. Darling and Jones 1988; Willis 1996).

For Northamptonshire, survey of the dates of pottery assemblages through the Late Bronze Age to the Late Iron Age from the county undertaken by the Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group had shown how little evidence there is for the early first millennium BC but conversely how pottery becomes much more frequent in the second half of the millennium, in accord with likely population increase and seemingly a growing interest in ceramic use (Earl et al. 2007). By contrast volumes of pottery from excavations in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire (as with metalwork) are perceived to be relatively low compared to elsewhere in the East Midlands even in the later Iron Age (Barrett 2000). This impression may be tested (cf. Willis 1999, 85-90).

5.4.3 Coinage

Coins appear in the region during the Late Iron Age. Some non-regional issues of second century BC date occur, but the majority are issues of the two tribal entities conventionally associated with the region: the Coriel­tauvi, in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and possibly parts of Derbyshire and the Catuvellauni, of whose territory Northamptonshire formed a part. The earliest local coins are gold scyphate types presumed to be earlier first century BC in origin, perhaps by some period. Reviews of these coinages and their archaeological distributions and meaning include those by May (1984; 1992; 1994), Leins (2011) and Curteis (1996). All told, large numbers of coins are known from the region and numbers continue to rise apace as a result of metal detector use providing a valuable resource for studying a wide range of aspects of the latter part of the period. A major find were the hoards associated with the Hallaton site in east Leicestershire, with almost 5000 coins recovered (cf. Section 10; Priest et al. 2003: Score 2011; Leins 2011). (As noted in Section 5.1.6 (ii) evidence for coin production in the form of baked clay coin flan trays is known from sites in Leicester and at Sleaford).

5.4.4 Other Artefact Categories

Late Iron Age artefactual material, in considerable variety and extent, has been recovered from the region, as demonstrated in the case of Dragonby, North Lincolnshire (May 1996). Excavations at Able Marine Energy Park, North Killingholme, produced a fine dark blue glass bangle fragment with off-white trail lines from an Iron Age context (pers. comm. Chris Casswell). Half of a colourless glass ring bead with opaque yellow inlay was recovered from a late first century BC – earlier first century AD context at Gamston and is of a type likely to date between the second century BC and the first AD (Henderson 1992b). A plain annular bead of pale blue translucent glass was recovered at Beaumont Leys, central Leicestershire and is of a type that dates between the Middle Iron Age and the start of the Roman era; while coming from an undated context it seem likely this was associated with the Iron Age occupation (Thomas, 2011, 93). An annular blue glass bead with yellow inlay and of the type sometimes referred to as ‘celtic ray’ and dated to 150 BC – AD 50 was recovered from an Iron Age context at Weekley, Northamptonshire (Jackson and Dix 1987, fig.28 M89 97). Weekley also produced four examples of clay sling shot bullets from Iron Age contexts (Jackson and Dix 1987, fig.28 M88 92-95); these are described as extremely light (but no weights are given) and for suggested use in hunting, perhaps of birds. Sling shot ammunition fashioned from clay was present at Dragonby with 52 complete examples (but including a few stone items) reported (with weight information) and the regional occurrence was catalogued (Elsdon and Barford 1996).

5.5 Agriculture

Agricultural expansion during the later Iron Age was summarized in Chapter 11 of the original Resource Assessment (Monckton 2006). The general picture is one of further clearance of trees to bring land into cultivation (as seen for example in pollen samples from the Trent valley site of Fisherwick, Staffordshire, just to the west of the East Midland region (Smith 1977; 1979)), dramatic increases in the frequency of charred cereal grains amongst samples, such as spelt, and continuing intensification of land divisions and enclosure (cf. Knight 2007, 197-9). While the Middle and Later Iron Age in Britain was a period when arable production was extensive, innovative and successful (in terms of apparent yields) mixed agricultural economies existed at many locations such as on the claylands at Enderby (Clay 1992). Clay suggests that there was here, perhaps, a greater emphasis on a pastoral base, with sheep and cattle predominant (Clay 2001). This seems also to have been the case at the ‘clothes-line’ complex at Tixover, Rutland (Beamish 1992). At Elms Farm, Humberstone, cattle and sheep were present in equal proportion (Charles et al. 2000). Thomas surmised that the settlement and enclosure complex at Warren Farm, Lockington, was focused upon livestock raising during the later Iron Age (Thomas 2013). Pig was represented amongst the small faunal samples from Late Iron Age contexts at Empingham ‘West’ (Cooper 2000), and Nettleton, Mount Pleasant, Lincolnshire (Stallibrass 1999; Rackham 2013), where the species accounts for c. 13% of the faunal assemblage where sheep were predominant in the later Iron Age. Domestic fowl bones occur at various sites including Enderby Enclosure I (Clay 1992) and Nettleton (Stallibrass 1999; Rackham 2013).

Cereals are regularly present on excavated sites in Leicestershire, Rutland and Northamptonshire. At Covert Farm, Crick, barley becomes much more prominent in the samples than previously, alongside wheat cereal (Monkton 2015, 280). Less information is available for Lincolnshire, although samples spanning the first century AD from Nettleton, Mount Pleasant, show wheat and barley grains with no chaff present (Rackham et al. 2013). Where cereals occur there is a consistent pattern of low frequency. Whether this reflects survival, past usage, or a lower emphasis on cereal farming is unclear (Monckton 1995, 35). Across the region, the pattern is for spelt (a robust wheat) to appear most commonly, with barley also represented; only occasionally are grains of bread wheat type found, with no chaff to confirm its presence. Rich deposits of processed cereals are known from Rushey Mead (Pollard 2001; Monckton 2001) and Elms Farm, Humberstone (Charles et al. 2000). At Foxhills and Radstone Fields, elements of the Brackley agglomerated complex, flagged areas 12 m by 9 m, and 9 m by 8 m, respectively, both dating to the Late Iron Age have been suggested as possible threshing floors (Morris 2019, 102). At Radstone Fields this was reported as possibly enclosed (covered?) by a building. If that was the function they would be early examples of a feature type rare even in the Roman period in Britain where these floors may normally have been under roofs but open sided, bar perimeter curbing to ‘contain’.

In north Nottinghamshire and extending into South Yorkshire on the Sherwood Sandstones the appearance of broad enclosure known as the brickwork-plan field-systems is largely a late development, around the late first century BC, through the first century AD, and perhaps into the earlier second century AD (cf. Garton 1987; 2008). In parts of southern Nottinghamshire and the Trent Valley cropmarks conform to a co-axial field system arrangement with integral settlements (e.g. Knight and Howard 2004, fig. 5.18), reflecting the ‘brickwork plan’ to the north. Doubtless their development was a relatively long process, interspersed with accelerated periods of enclosure and change, perhaps much like the enclosures of ‘common land’ in more recent times. A standard interpretation is that these systems arose from land pressures and economic changes produced by increasing population and settlement expansion, and perhaps a social imperative to generate surpluses for exchange (and wealth) and for status creation. The unusual Middle and/or Late Iron Age enclosure at Aslockton, on an interfluve east of Nottingham, has been suggested to have been for stock management purpose, as its c. 20 ha interior is divided up with sub-rectangular compounds; the scale of the enclosure here is impressive given the scale of labour involved and it will have been a marked landscape feature during its currency (Palmer-Brown and Knight 1993; Knight 2007, 200-3, fig. 4).

In parts of Derbyshire a considerable degree of landscape continuity is suggested from the Middle Iron Age through to the Late Iron Age (Bevan 2000). As on the Leicestershire claylands, mixed farming was apparently being practised on the Mercia Mudstone. This seems likely at Little Hay Grange Farm, Ockbrook; the faunal assemblage comprised predominantly cattle and sheep/goat, with horse represented (Palfreyman 2001). More samples are required from such areas to establish and verify trends.

Organic residue analysis was undertaken for a selection of pottery sherds from the Brocklesby Interchange site. Examination of sherds from Phase 2.1 (Middle to Late Iron Age) indicated vessel use in processing carcase products from cattle, goats and sheep, with no evidence of the processing of pork or dairy products (Dunne and Evershed 2020). ORA of pierced vessels of Late Iron Age date suggested a use in straining and rendering of carcase parts, rather than dairying, and that beef or lamb fats or similar secondary products of meat were being collected; this may have been destined for trade (Cavanagh 2020). This is particularly noteworthy as the area is designated ‘Grazing Marsh’ in the recent land characterization scheme (Lord and MacIntosh 2011), so if herds were being grazed from this site dairying was not evidenced by ORA for this period.

PART III. Evidence Types

6. Hillforts and Analogous Sites

The term ‘hillfort’ is an umbrella category, covering a range of site sizes, types, and functions, with each having its unique identity and biography (cf. Hill 1995a; 1995b); in consequence, a variety of earthwork sites in contrasting landscape settings may be included under this label. The constituent historic counties of the East Midlands each have a few examples of sites that may uncontroversially be defined as hillforts, with Northamptonshire having somewhat more (or better defined) hillforts. These have been surveyed by the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments (RCHME 1981; 1982; 1985; 1993). The relative sparsity of hillforts in the East Midlands, together with adjacent regions such as Yorkshire and Warwickshire, is one of the distinctive aspects of their first millennium BC archaeologies, contrasting with regions such as Wessex and the Welsh Marches (Cunliffe 2005). Details of the principal sites are given in Table 4.

Generally the hillforts, actual and potential, and analogous sites are not comprehensively explored, with little investigation of interiors or of immediate environs. Sites such as Robin a Tiptoe in Leicestershire, where earthworks are associated with hill summits, could be later prehistoric, post-Roman or multi-period. As Liddle observed, ‘satisfactory’ answers regarding their chronology will only be forthcoming from excavation (Liddle 1982, 22; cf. Clay 2000). Our lack of knowledge of these sites is a hindrance to a broader understanding of the period, especially if they were significant in people’s lives and practices. In the earlier version of this Resource Assessment it was stated that, on the whole, hillfort studies in the region were static (Willis 2006). However, since 2003, when the data collection for the previous review ceased, new excavation work has been conducted at Burrough Hill, Leicestershire (Thomas and Taylor 2010; cf. Taylor et al. 2012) and Fin Cop, Derbyshire (Waddington 2010; 2012; Waddington and Montgomery 2017), while integrated surveys were undertaken at Borough Hill, Daventry, Northamptonshire (Chinnock et al. 2020) and a geophysical survey campaign and associated small scale trenching at Hunsbury in the same county ((Jackson and Tingle 2012). Reviews of the evidence for Carl Wark, Derbyshire (Badcock and May 2014), and Crow Hill, Irthlingborough (Foard and Parry 1987; Parry 2006, 64-5), have also been produced.

Considering the sites by administrative area, Derbyshire has several sites that can be categorized as hillforts. A modest number of hilltop enclosures exist in the Peak District in the north of the county that are recognized as hillforts (Hart 1981, 73–81; Hart and Makepeace 1993; Bevan 2000, 145). Their locations are striking and dramatic. Several are completely undated, while elsewhere limited excavation has yielded no unequivocal indicators as to date or sequence. A pertinent case is Mam Tor. Some have argued that the whole site is Later Bronze Age, while others see the settlement as Late Bronze Age but its earthworks as Iron Age (Guilbert 1996; Bevan 2000, 147). It would not be surprising, of course, if the actual chronology was complex. A correlation has been noted between the location of the hillforts of the Peak District and the main valleys where Iron Age settlement is likely (e.g. Barnatt and Smith 2004), implying that such hilltop enclosures may have been placed adjacent to likely population concentrations and at the threshold of contrasting resource areas. By contrast, as May stated nearly fifty years ago: “In Lincolnshire, four smaller forts are known, although none has been excavated, nor has yielded any other good evidence of date” (May 1976a, 141); the situation has not changed (the site at Binbrook categorized in the Lincolnshire HER as a hillfort on the basis of cropmarks is best seen as a not atypical small settlement enclosure (Jones 1998, fig. 9) and may be early Roman. He added two points regarding size and social role and the consequence, as he saw it, of this paucity of hillforts: “The Lincolnshire forts, to judge from their small size and number, are unlikely to have functioned as citadels of chieftains … Their scarcity here, as elsewhere in eastern England, is one of the reasons why the Iron Age in these regions has been unduly neglected by previous generations of archaeologists” (1976a, 143). Whilst in essence these points are accurate they point up aspects of the historiography of the subject and reveal the nature of thinking on the role of hillforts in the later 20th century.

To some degree this is also true of the small number of defended sites on the Mercia Mudstones above the Trent valley (cf. Bishop 2000). Here too there has been only limited investigation of the ‘hillfort candidates’, such that their date and character remain as unclear as they were 60 years ago (Simmons 1963). They display variety and do not necessarily occupy the most defensive locations. Accordingly, Bishop suggests they are unlikely to be of uniform date and function (Bishop 2000). Only one upland site in Nottinghamshire has been subject to modern excavation, through the efforts of J. and C. Turner and the Sherwood Archaeological Society. This is the intriguing site at Dorket Head, Ramsdale Park, which has yielded data of considerable significance, while raising a series of questions as to the nature of the site over time. The site is multi-period with a complex sequence that has yielded a range of ceramics assignable to various stages during the first millennium BC and into the first century AD and Roman period (Turner and Swarbrick 1978; Turner and Turner 1997). How typical is it?

Hunsbury, in Northamptonshire, is a rare East Midlands example of a ‘developed hillfort’ (cf. Cunliffe 2005) having multiple earthworks and evidence of intensive use and activity dating to the Mid- to Late Iron Age (see Historic England Scheduled Monument Listing entry 1012150 online). During its ‘developed’ phase, at least, it was occupied, with over 300 pits recorded, yielding a wide corpus of finds (Baker 1891; Dryden 1885; Elsdon 1976; Fell 1936; George 1917; Ingle 1994; Jackson 1994b; RCHME 1985). Material recovered represents a substantial and regionally important artefact assemblage constituting a significant research resource (for example, as noted above, over 150 quernstones were collected from the site). Hunsbury has been considered a strong candidate for ‘central place’ status; however, the central place model for hillforts is less prominent these days following extensive critique at the end of the 20th century. More latterly, as has been the fashion for some while within hillfort studies, its role in relation to its hinterland has begun to be explored. While we cannot be sure of the density of occupation and activity at any one time, even at hillforts where the evidence from the interiors is relatively plentiful, as at Hunsbury, Borough Hill (Daventry) and Mam Tor, the human sensory experience of approaching and entering the environment of such large sites during their busiest times will have been marked, contrasting with life outside these large, physically demarcated, places (cf Sharples 2014, 230).

The possibility that two ‘marsh forts’ exist within the region has been raised, namely the enclosures at Tattershall Thorpe, in south eastern Lincolnshire and Crow Wood, Styrrup, in north Nottinghamshire, which enclose areas of c. 2.4 and c. 1.5 hectares respectively (see Section 4.2 for the Tattersall Thorpe enclosure). Parker Pearson and Sydes had claimed an example just to the north of the present region at Moorhouse Farm, Tickhill (Parker Pearson and Sydes 1997; after Riley 1980, 35, pl. 15). The low-lying double enclosure at Sutton Common, South Yorkshire, had been seen in a similar light; upon excavation it was found to contain little indication of occupation in terms of settlement and artefacts but a large number of post built structures, regularly organized, most probably grain stores (Van de Noort et al. 2007). The date and function of the Crow Wood site remain uncertain. In the case of the Tattershall Thorpe site Chowne favoured an interpretation (see Section 4.2) as principally to do with agricultural use based on environmental data and setting, in particular for cattle management rather than defence and ‘central place’ functions, though the interior was largely unexplored (Chowne et al. 1986; Seager Smith 1998). Pollen samples from excavated contexts show the environment to be mainly open grassland consistent with livestock raising (Chowne et al. 1986, 167). The site seems likely to have had a long chronology with wood from the fill of the outer ditch dated to the Middle Iron Age by radiocarbon and the latest ceramics from upper ditch filling dating to the first half of the first century A.D. or perhaps slightly later, though no Roman pottery was present (Chowne et al. 1986). It is possible there are further sites of this type yet to be identified on ‘higher ground’ within low-lying areas, potentially in the Ancholme, Witham and Trent valleys, or in the Lincolnshire Middle Marsh, perhaps buried or in circumstances unconducive to the generation of cropmarks (Catney and Start 2003). Later prehistoric ‘defended’ sites of various types may come to light in the Lincolnshire Outmarsh, conceivably well-preserved below marine silts and alluvium; to date the Middle Marsh and Outmarsh have witnessed little archaeological intervention commercial or otherwise with the exception of the Humber Bank in the Killingholme/Stallingborough area (cf. Section 5.1.3; Bush forthcoming).

Where hillforts were explored during the twentieth century, attention within the East Midlands focused upon hillfort defences. This was standard practice in Britain at the time, the aim being to identify ‘sequence and date’, as at Breedon Hill, Leicestershire (a site with a chequered biography of quarrying and archaeological interventions during the last century). In consequence there has been a lack of examination of the interiors, nor has there been much excavation in their immediate surroundings. Hence it is unclear whether the evidence from Hunsbury is representative and how intensively hillforts were used, when and in what manner. We still do not know whether they included year-round settlements, and to what extent they are comparable, in terms of their (perhaps evolving) social role, with hillforts in the Welsh Marches, Wessex and elsewhere.

Our understanding of hillforts has adjusted rapidly since the mid-1980s following the publication of Prof. Sir Barry Cunliffe’s excavations at Danebury (cf. Cunliffe 2005). Following the publications of the works at that site in central southern England, a reaction followed critically assessing the existing conventional thinking on hillforts, their elements and overall role. The emphasis shifted to consider their diversity, and incorporate contextual approaches, and to assess the role of these sites in terms of the wider community and to re-evaluate ideas of a central place function; symbolism and ritual became popular perspectives on what happened at these sites. Clearly, whatever, their potential ‘defensive’ functions cannot be ignored. Indeed some at least in the East Midland region may be the consequence of social tensions during the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age, or a desire to collect and protect (new, different or precious types of) agricultural surplus in the first millennium BC. A specialised role/s can be assumed (cf. Hill 1993; 1995b).

Recent work at Fin Cop, Derbyshire adds support to the old convention that hillforts were strong points for defence at hostile times. Positioned on a scarp edge the enclosure of the Fin Cop hillfort takes the form of part bivallate rampart and ditches (Waddington 2010; 2012; Waddington and Montgomery 2017). Excavations conducted between 1999 and 2014 show the rock cut ditch was unfinished. Where finished the ditch had a flat base 1.25 m below current ground surface and was 4 m wide, with a vertical inner face. The rampart was stone fronted and 4 m thick and the main fill of the ditch was slighted wall material including some faced and semi-dressed stone (Waddington and Montgomery 2017, 25). The rampart wall was found through excavations to be consistent at three locations suggesting single event construction on the eastern and southern sides to a plan with construction dated to the Middle Iron Age (ibid., 30). The excavations revealed the slighting of the defences occurred at the same time as an apparent mass killing – a massacre – of an estimated 400 individuals (Waddington 2012, 224) as the skeletal remains of women, babies and children were found deposited in an irregular manner within the hillfort ditch immediately after or at the point of death, with the wall destruction debris spread on top of them and interpreted as a single event towards the end of the Middle Iron Age (Waddington 2012; Waddington and Montgomery 2017, 27). Since the three trenches opened over the earthworks were far apart but had similar remains it was concluded that “people were disposed of throughout most, if not all, of the fort’s rock cut ditch” (Waddington and Montgomery 2017, 56). This case raises the question of how common acts of violence were in the first millennium BC (James 2007) and the debate about the roles of hillforts (cf. Armit 2007).

Human bones with weapon injuries are relatively well-attested in the record. A range of cases at Danebury hillfort in southern Britain, for instance, show severe injury, evidently resulting in death, by sword or spear (Cunliffe 1983, 87; 1995, 93-4). A massacre or violent episode involving a group is paralleled at Kemerton Camp, on Bredon Hill, Worcestershire, where the 1935-7 excavations uncovered a large number of human remains associated with weapons on the ground surface in the main entrance-way to the hillfort (Western and Hurst 2013). This was labelled a ‘massacre’ deposit and was thought to mark the end of the hillfort occupation. New work on the bones examined weapon-related trauma marks consistent with violent death and the bones from three individuals were dated, with the dates consistent with all three dying at the same time supporting the theory of a single ‘event’; C14 gave a date of c. 170-50 cal. BC, in line with the dating of the pottery. Study of the human remains from Maiden Castle hillfort in Dorset dated to the Late Iron Age by Redfern found both male and female skeletons displayed healed injury/trauma caused by direct blows to the body with weapons while others had suffered injuries to face, torso and forearms and forceful injuries to the skull around the time of death, which had not healed (Redfern 2011). This led Redfern to conclude that there was frequent interpersonal violence and no distinction between males and females. While there may be questions about the representativeness of the sample, around, for instance place of burial, sample size and ‘selection for burial’, the pattern of this sample was clear.

Whilst excavations have taken place at the hillforts of Burrough Hill and Fin Cop in the past two decades this is unusual these days for reasons mentioned; more likely, nonintrusive methods of investigation will be standard in future. At Borough Hill, Daventry, as a component of a wider survey of the two hillforts undertaken between 2017 and 2019, a drone was employed to create an orthomosaic, a digital terrain model and to establish a normalized difference vegetation index (Chinnock et al. 2020). Geophysical surveys were also conducted of the interior areas consistent with recommendations for the further investigation of hillforts in the region detailed in the East Midlands Research Framework Agenda/Strategy (Knight et al. 2012, 63). Overall, the findings indicated that perimeter ditches, possible entrances and trackways survived in a relatively well-preserved state, with evidence for Iron Age (and Roman) settlement identified within (Chinnock et al. 2020), commensurate with earlier findings (e.g. Jackson 1994a). In particular close interval magnetometry revealed clustered units of apparent settlement (with apparent enclosures, pits and circular structures) across the large interior, possibly contemporary and representing different functional zones, although there were also areas with few anomalies suggesting open/unoccupied spaces (Chinnock et al. 2020). In the central southern area some nine likely circular structures c.10-12 m in diameter were identified along with enclosures of various size and possible pits; one evident roundhouse produced responses suggesting the presence an eaves-drip gully enclosing a wall trench, post settings and central hearth (Chinnock et al.2020, 23-4). At the northern end of Borough Hill the small multivallate fort superimposed on the large one and covering c. 5 ha. was also subject to close interval magnetometry. This work detected a dense clustering of small anomalies suggestive of pits and ovens/hearths (a contrast to the large hillfort to the south), a likely trackway and several linear anomalies suggesting sub-division plots, but only one likely roundhouse, c. 12 m in diameter (Chinnock et al. 2020, 24-5).

Likewise, at Hunsbury hillfort, geophysical survey was conducted outside and within the hillfort, and over the earthworks, between 2000 and 2011 supported by targeted small scale excavations (Jackson and Tingle 2012). This established significant new information: that there was some better survival of a part of the interior (following quarrying) than had been expected, that, surprisingly, the ramparts had been subject to vitrification, and that an undated outer ditch existed.

Hillforts: Summary (see Table 4)

  • Hillforts and analogous sites are not a major class found in the region.
  • The frequency of these monuments varies across the region.
  • Hillforts were not an embedded feature of first millennium communities across most of the region and were, therefore, not essential in terms of group organization and social reproduction.
  • Their morphology is varied; this is not a uniform category.
  • By analogy with other regions, such sites probably served a range of functions. Their role(s) and ‘identities’ probably changed through time, and may have been less significant during the Late Iron Age.
  • Chronological understanding is variable, but generally limited, remaining a significant priority for any future work.
  • There has been little investigation of their interiors or exteriors.
  • Some hillforts show evidence of domestic occupation (e.g. Breedon Hill, Burrough Hill and Mam Tor).
  • In general it is likely that these are complex sites.
  • Their relationship to the contemporary social structure and practice is unclear; some appear likely to have been had some ‘central place’ functions (e.g. Hunsbury and Borough Hill).
  • Some sites have been extensively damaged by mineral extraction (e.g. Breedon Hill, Hunsbury, Tattershall Thorpe (the latter may belong with this class). Sites are now protected, although protection often stops at the fringe of their extant earthworks; present threats to these sites are limited (although ‘drying’ is seemingly a problem in the case of Tattershall Thorpe).
  • The state of preservation of some sites is comparatively good (e.g. Honington Camp, Lincolnshire).
  • Identification of further hillforts, marsh forts and other sizeable ‘defended’ enclosures remains possible, particularly in lower lying areas.
  • Hillforts remain a valuable resource; projects undertaken at such sites in the region over the past two decades has revealed significant new evidence attained through excavation and non-intrusive survey methods.
  • The research potential of these sites, when subject to integrated and structured programmes, is indicated by the older work undertaken at Breedon Hill, and more recently at Fin Cop, Burrough Hill, and Borough Hill. However, current knowledge is limited and there remain many questions about the origin and roles of hillforts and analogous sites in the region and their relationship with their environs.

7. Linear Monuments

7.1 Introduction

Long distance linear boundaries are one of the characteristic features of the first millennium BC in eastern England. These systems include pit alignments and single, double and triple ditch/dyke arrangements. Synthesis is not simple. Broadly speaking, these monuments make their debut in the Late Bronze Age. Whilst displaying some diversity of detail and morphology the pit alignments and the dykes form two distinct monument classes. Here they are grouped together because they seem to have shared similar functions in bounding the landscape and in a number of cases, these different monument types appear closely related (Fearn 1993; Boutwood 1998). The functions and meaning of these enigmatic features were doubtless not universal, and they have no firm precursor. Nonetheless, there is patterning to their incidence within the landscape and a number of examples evidently respect existing anthropogenic features. They mark a new episode in the dynamic unfolding of cultural landscapes in later prehistory and there is a tacit consensus that they are likely to represent significant boundaries of a political-economic nature at local level. Unsurprisingly, much of the evidence comes from aerial reconnaissance, although an increasing number are being identified through Strip, Plan and Excavate approaches, and indeed a growing number have been examined through excavation.

These boundaries are an important component of the later prehistoric record, being germane to any broad attempt to interpret the region’s social relations and development. Prior to the advent of PPG16 they were a relatively untapped resource, documented from aerial photography while fieldworkers concentrated upon settlement sites. However, the change in the scope and scale of archaeological interventions that commercial archaeology heralded from c. 1990 coincided with the growing popularity of landscape archaeology (itself, facilitated by technological changes that have assisted mapping, analysis and plotting), meaning that they have received greater attention. That they are linear, of large scale, occur in rural settings and characteristically yield little cultural material has and can mitigate against detailed investigation, though much recent work has been appropriately thorough in attempting to maximize data recovery from such features. On the other hand, these monuments are a comparatively well-preserved class, not infrequently being the repository of potential environmental and some cultural data. Having received much attention during aerial reconnaissance, several valuable studies involving their systematic mapping, characterisation and interpretation are to hand (e.g. Pickering 1978; Boutwood 1998; Thomas 2003; 2008), whilst PPG16 and its successors has resulted in more discovery, and systematic evaluation and sampling.

7.2 Pit Alignments

‘Pit alignment’ is a suitably descriptive term, rather than an interpretative one, for strings of pits which are variable in scale and length, normally found arranged in single lines (though sometimes in paired rows), which can extend for distances of over 1 km. Such alignments occur across the region, although far from uniformly. Whilst not unique to the region, they are a comparatively well-represented monument class within the East Midlands, and may be cast as one of its distinctive later prehistoric features. Although most examples have been identified via aerial reconnaissance, pit alignments are not infrequently encountered during fieldwork, and on occasion can occur unexpectedly where no previous indicator was known. The pits themselves are often oval or sub-rectangular in plan, though can be rounded and even vary within an alignment, as at Milton Ham, Northampton (Leslie and King 2021) where this may be explained by episodic development or separate ‘gang-work’ (see below). Typically the pits occur in strings of regular closely similar form, with individual pits often about the size of a large desk. Some selected excavated pit alignments are listed in Table 7, while the features of two cases (Milton Ham and Brocklesby Interchange) are itemized in Table 8. There are, unsurprisingly, both sub-regional differences, and differences in the numbers so far recorded in the constituent administrations/counties.

LocationCountyReference
Aston HillDerbyshireAbbott and Garton 1995
Derby (Racecourse Park)DerbyshireDerbyshire HER MDR11375
Swarkestone LowesDerbyshireKnight and Morris 1997; Elliott and Knight 1999
East Shilton (Mill Lane) [11 and 18]LeicestershireJarvis 2011
Eye KettlebyLeicestershire/RutlandFinn 1998
Lockington (Warren Farm) [45]LeicestershireThomas 2013
Oakham Bypass [23 and 28]LeicestershireMellor 2007
Peckleton NELeicestershirePickering and Hartley 1985, 31
Glentham CliffLincolnshireJones 1988
Long BenningtonLincolnshireFearn 1993
TallingtonLincolnshireGurney et al. 1993
MessinghamNorth LincolnshireLaskey 1979
Briar HillNorthamptonshireBamford 1985
CrickNorthamptonshireHughes 1998
GrendonNorthamptonshireJackson 1995
GrettonNorthamptonshireJackson 1974
RingsteadNorthamptonshireJackson 1978
WollastonNorthamptonshireMeadows 1995
Upton (South Meadow Road) [20]NorthamptonshireSpeed 2015
Babworth (Glebe Farm) NENottinghamshireRiley 1980, 121;
Thomas 2008 , 151
Barton in Fabis (A453) [17]NottinghamshireFairhead and Burgess 2013
Gonalston
[3 alignments; one: 8 plus ditch]
NottinghamshireKnight and Elliott 2008, 170
RamptonNottinghamshireKnight 2000
Table 7: Twenty one excavated pit alignments of the first millennium BC in the East Midlands, and two not excavated (denoted by NE). Numbers in square brackets denote the number of pits recorded.

Pit Alignment
Characteristics
Milton Ham, Northampton,
(Northants)
Brocklesby Interchange
(NE Lincs)
ExtentPhase 1 at least 120m
Phase 2 at least 320m
A1: at least 23 pits; at least 100m
A2: at least 14 pits; at least 35m
StartNot knownA1: Insufficient carbon in sample
A2: No dating evidence
RelationsParallel trackway (undated) assumed of similar dateRun parallel either side of a BA barrow
Chronology & LongevityTwo phases. Dates not firmly established so farInferred from comparison with other examples
Form & MorphologyPh. 1 – two lengths of ditch plus 10 pits, plus further ditch.
Ph. 2 – 90 pits in four distinct segment groups (different form to pits of these groups)
Sub-square pits of regular form
Function
(according to report)
BoundaryBoundary; inferred from adjacent BA barrow assumed to have had itself a boundary role
Associated MaterialPhase 2. Four pits “contained potential structured deposits” comprising animal bone groupsA1. One pit contained articulated cattle leg and other bones
Table 8: Details of two cases of Pit Alignment features from the East Midlands. A1 denotes pit alignment 1, west of barrow, and A2 pit alignment 2, east of barrow. Sources: Leslie and King 2021; Cavanagh 2020.

There is a strong spatial patterning to their incidence in Lincolnshire, where they are well-represented in the Welland valley and on the limestone uplands, but had seemed virtually absent elsewhere (Boutwood 1998). This distribution cannot be just a matter of geologies and topography. Development led work in the past twenty years or so has shown that in the area of the historic county they occur more widely than previously thought (as at the Brocklesby Interchange in North-East Lincolnshire (Cavanagh 2020) and at North Killingholme at the Able Logistics/Able Marine Energy Parks, recently excavated by Allen Archaeology (pers. comm. Chris Casswell)), although the distribution is still concentrated on the areas identified by Boutwood, and does seem likely to be indicative of the actual archaeological trend rather than a function of circumstances leading to visibility from the air (cf. Boutwood 1998).

It is generally accepted that pit alignments became popular in the Late Bronze Age and are normally a first millennium BC phenomenon (cf. Fearn 1993). Dating evidence, however, is often elusive (e.g. Boutwood 1998, 39). At Messingham in North Lincolnshire, for example, a series of alignments were investigated but yielded no artefacts (Laskey 1979, 74). Where evidence is available, it typically indicates a Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age date, as at Eye Kettleby in Leicestershire (Finn 1998; 2011) and Tallington, Lincolnshire (Gurney et al. 1993). At Mill Lane, East Shilton, Leicestershire, 14C dating suggests that the northern alignment of a pair filled in the Middle Iron Age (Jarvis 2011, 36). When sequences are discernible, pit alignments precede restatement in ditch form and settlements of Middle Iron Age date (cf. Kidd 2000). Some while ago Hingley posited that the form of pit alignments may reflect their date (Hingley 1989b, 2-3); no trend seems to have emerged in this respect though the suggestion warrants further investigation. Given the questions around their dating, establishing dates remains a priority for investigation so opportunities to secure samples should be taken.

Detail from three cases where pit alignments have been excavated is instructive. Firstly, on the Oakham bypass, Rutland, a double pit alignment identified 28 pits of the northern row and 23 in southern alignment; spaces between pits were generally equal to the width of the pits and the two rows were 4 m apart (Mellor 2007). In this case the pits were circular to oval. Pottery came from 17 pits but was either undiagnostic of date or potentially residual, bar one sherd of Early Iron Age pottery; animal bone came from four pits. Since the alignments respect each other, even if not contemporary, as is stated in the report, one alignment would have been visible when the other was dug (Mellor 2007). Ultimately the date/s of this double alignment are uncertain but presumably fit within a Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age envelope.

The second case is Milton Ham, Northamptonshire, adjacent to the M1 motorway, represented by two phases. The first iteration comprised a series of pits and short lengths of ditch in two lengths (L1 and L2) separated by a gap of 155m; later this was restated as a continuous pit alignment: L3 (Leslie and King 2021, 14). The pits were sub-circular with a U-shaped profile, c. 1.8m in diameter and c. 0.75m deep. It was thought likely some had been fully truncated by L3. Pit alignment L3 in replacing L1 and L2 extended for at least 320m with 90 pits recorded, and continuing beyond both limits of excavation to the north-west and south-east. One pit contained a large bone assemblage interpreted as a structured deposit while three other pits are thought to have contained structured deposits (Leslie and King 2021, 15). The pits varied in characteristics but appear as four distinct segments. Two (undated) ditches parallel with the alignment, 10m to the north, were thought to define a trackway. Environmental sampling found a meagre present of charred plant remains including some cereal grains and burnt hazelnut shells (Giorgi 2021).

At Brocklesby Interchange in North East Lincolnshire (the third detailed case), a ring ditch interpreted as a Bronze Age barrow was flanked to the east and west by two linear alignments of pits labelled Groups 20 and 21 (Cavanagh 2020). Pit alignment 20 passed 50 m to the west of the ring ditch; here at least 23 pits were recorded in three groups. The individual pits had broadly similar dimensions of sub-square form with fairly clean silty fills. Gaps between the three groups may have been original to the design or the result of later truncation of shallower pits, or may indicate the presence of contemporary landscape features, such as earthwork banks or mounds, subsequently destroyed. One of the component pits of alignment 20 yielded animal bones, including articulated remains of a cattle foreleg, interpreted as a placed or ritual deposit (Holmes 2020, 229). Pit alignment 21 was located 75m to the east of the ring ditch broadly parallel to alignment 20. It formed a single regular line of at least 14 uniform sub-square pits, again with clean silty fills, containing no finds; as with alignment 20 the pits were approximately 1.4 across and 0.5 m deep (Cavanagh 2020). A potential parallel is documented at South Rauceby, in south Lincolnshire, where cropmarks consist of two parallel pit alignments either side of a group of barrow monuments (Boutwood 1998, 42, fig. 10b; cf. Cavanagh 2020).

In Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire pit alignments are present in the Trent valley. The Nottinghamshire HER in 2003 listed as many as 74 (V. Baddeley pers. comm.; RCHME 1960; Whimster 1989; Knight and Howard 2004, 102-5), and the total for Lincolnshire is similar at c. 70 as of c. 2003 (cf. Boutwood 1998). Few have been excavated in these three counties though three are recorded from work at Gonalston-Hoveringham in Nottinghamshire (Knight and Elliott 2008). During works for the A453 widening scheme by Barton in Fabis, Nottingham, a part of a pit alignment was exposed which lay c. 2m north of a settlement enclosure, the north ditch of which ran parallel with the pits. The features were all ascribed to the Middle Iron Age and dating evidence available did not discriminate the enclosure and the alignment. A likely scenario is that the enclosure was laid out in respect of the pre-existing boundary formed by the pit alignment (Fairhead and Burgess 2013).

In Leicestershire and Rutland over 50 pit alignments were recorded on the HER c. 2003 and in the past twenty years several have been subject to excavation. At Soar Valley Way, Enderby, a chain of 62 pits running for 212 m was revealed in 2015, continuing beyond the limit of excavations, in an area of sand, gravel and till deposits near the Soar; a small amount of pottery was recovered from the 29 pits excavated and although Iron Age was not sufficiently diagnostic to provide a specific date to the alignment (Kipling 2016; Kipling and Beamish 2018). The alignment appears to be part of a wider system of land division that can be glimpsed from the checkerboard of interventions mapped for the environs of the lower Soar valley (Kipling and Beamish 2018, fig. 74). In Northamptonshire, the number recorded on the county HER c 2003 was 136 (and 144 by 2007: Deegan 2007, 84), here again principally known from cropmarks. Most pit alignments are associated with permeable geologies (as in the Nene valley, and in south-west and north­-east Northamptonshire). Small numbers are, however, known on impermeable geologies, for instance, at Crick (Kidd 2000). The 2015 publication of the Covert Farm, Crick, report includes an area plan which shows (amongst other data) the distribution of pit alignments across western Northamptonshire and eastern Warwickshire, highlighting their frequency, and in particular, as known, clustering (Hughes and Woodward 2015, fig. 70). Speed likewise shows pit alignments in the vicinity of the site at South Meadow Road, Upton, Northamptonshire, but this is a more local map (Speed 2015, fig. 20). Together these plots show how frequent these features can be, in some environs at least.

Analysis by Boutwood suggested that there is a strong cultural element to their distribution, rather than being more closely related to the physical dynamics of landscapes. Differences of geology, cover deposits and in the amount of develop­ment and quarrying probably continue to explain some regional variation between administrative areas (but see paragraph two of this Section).

Although some pit alignments are isolated, they often occur in groups, forming elements within developing landscape systems. One of the best explored examples is the complex at Wollaston, Northamptonshire (Meadows 1995; 1996). Here, a co-axial pit alignment system covering an area of c. 2.5 km was instituted during the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age. Elsewhere, there are instances of two, three and four rows of pit alignments traversing the landscape. These multiple alignments may represent ‘additions’ to an original alignment (cf. Pollard 1996). At St Ives in Cambridgeshire, just south of the East Midland region, a riverine association is clear (Pollard 1996). Some pit alignments are suggested to mark the limits of river valley flooding (Rylatt and Bevan 2007, 221), and Warren Farm, Leicestershire, appears a case in point (Thomas 2013, 110).

The interpretation of pit alignments is a matter of debate (cf. Taylor 1996; 1997; Thomas 2008). Taylor (1996) suggests that they developed from pit clusters of Later Bronze Age date, as known in Northamptonshire, which were perhaps markers within the landscape. Clay (2001) infers that the pit groups recorded at Lockington and Castle Donington (Meek 1995; Coward and Ripper 1998; 1999) in the Trent Valley, were clusters of this type. Pit alignments often appear to have been constructed in relation to other ‘places’ in the landscape, both natural and cultural, not least earlier prehistoric ceremonial and burial monuments (cf. Boutwood 1998, 37), between which they may extend (Taylor 1997) and rivers and ridgelines (Thomas 2008). Whether or not they were constructed with the intention of describing ‘owned’ territories/’tenure’, or for demarcating certain rights, their appearance points to a major reorganisation of landscape or at least a re-definition of existing boundaries, possibly previously expressed by other means, or new as a consequence of pressure on land (cf. Thomas 2008). Boutwood noted, a correlation between pit alignments and water courses in Lincolnshire; the explanation for this is unclear but Boutwood suggested that this may have had both practical and ritual/symbolic elements relating to access to water (for pasture animals) and in emphasizing a natural boundary (Boutwood 1998; cf. Hingley 1989a, 143-4).

7.3 Linear Ditch Systems

Monuments of this type are numerous in the East Midlands, in the form of single, double, triple and even quadruple parallel ditches (Table 9). Triple ditches are particularly well recorded. Jones (1988, 19) and Boutwood (1998) have discussed what the duplication of these ditches may represent. Detailed study shows that these are often far from straightforward features. Some were long-lived, some show re-cutting, some are certainly multi-period; they occasionally include pit alignments; ditches may have been added in the life of the monument; and field investigations have, on occasion, revealed more ditches than are apparent on aerial photographs. The biographies of each system are likely to have varied, while sequences and associations are detailed. Normally they are traceable for a few hundred metres, although some have been traced for as much as 3 km. They are not particularly regular in form and alignment; but typically do not respect topography. Again they are a distinctive, but not unique, aspect of the region. Analogous monuments occur elsewhere in eastern England, especially in East Yorkshire, Norfolk and Hertfordshire (e.g. Stoertz 1997). Most are known from aerial photography, but at ‘The Larches’, Stowe ­Nine-Churches, in Northamptonshire, a length of a triple ditch system is extant as an earthwork for over 600 m, continuing as a cropmark for a further kilometre (Moore 1973; RCHME 1981, 179-81); two extant earthworks are recorded by Boutwood (1998) in Lincolnshire. Like pit alignments, they are particularly well-attested in Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Rutland, and south-west Lincolnshire (35 were known in the latter county c. 2003); a double ditched linear feature examined at Bonby and Saxby All Saints parishes, North Lincolnshire is identified as a multiple linear boundary of Iron Age date (North Lincs HER MLS20609). More than 15 double or triple ditch systems are documented in the Leicestershire and Rutland HER.

SiteCountyDateReference
Single Linear Dykes
Willoughton CliffLincolnshireCropmarkJones 1988, 19
GrettonNorthamptonshire1st mill. BCJackson 1974
Double linear dykes
Long BenningtonLincolnshireCropmarkBoutwood 1998
WaddinghamLincolnshireCropmarkEverson 1979
GrettonNorthamptonshireLBA/EIAJackson and Knight 1985
Preston & RidlingtonRutlandIA?Beamish 1997a; 1997b
TixoverRutlandLIABeamish 1992
TixoverRutlandNo dating evidenceMackie 1993
Triple linear dykes
Brauncewell QuarryLincolnshireLIA?Boutwood 1998;
Lincolnshire HER
Lincoln, Nettleham
& Greetwell
LincolnshireFills in LIAEverson 1979; Field 1980;
Palmer Brown 1993b
Long BenningtonLincolnshireNo dating evidenceFearn 1993
Brampton/PitsfordNorthamptonshireLBA/EIANorthamptonshire HER;
cf. RCHME 1981, 16-21
Stowe-Nine-Churches,
The Larches
NorthamptonshireNo dating evidence; EarthworkMoore 1973;
RCHME 1981, 179-81
KettonRutlandEIA to LIAMackie 1993
Oakham (Bypass)RutlandLBA/EIA?Mellor 2007
Quadruple linear dykes
Allington, Glebe FarmLincolnshireCropmarkPickering 1978
BlyboroughLincolnshireCropmarkEverson 1979
Willoughton CliffLincolnshireCropmarkJones 1988, 19
Table 9: Some Linear Dykes of the first millennium BC in the East Midlands.

Without excavation, these ditches are not closely dateable. Yet sampling does not necessarily result in firm evidence (cf. Mellor 2007), particularly vis-à-vis the date of their cutting. Their debut as a monument type seems to belong to the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age. The primary fill of the Ketton system, for instance, dates to the Earlier Iron Age, although the monument continued in use into the Late Iron Age (Mackie 1993). A long lived multiple ditch system at Rectory Farm, West Deeping, which was instituted after the Late Bronze Age co-axial field system (see Section 2.6) produced radiocarbon dates (obtained from material in the primary fills of two ditches) indicating a Late Bronze Age to Middle/Late Iron Age date (Hunn and Rackham forthcoming; Savage et al. forthcoming). Excavations on a triple dyke on the northern outskirts of Lincoln yielded Late Iron Age pottery from lower ditch fills (Palmer-Brown 1993b); between two of the ditches was the base of an eroded bank. At Greetwell, Lincolnshire, the pottery from one ditch was typologically Middle Iron Age, while another contained Late Iron Age or early Roman pottery (Boutwood 1998; Lincolnshire HER). In the case of the triple ditches examined on the Oakham bypass Late Bronze Age pottery was the latest ceramic type represented though it may not be reflective of the start date and use of the system, while low volumes of botanical remains were found to be present, which shed no clear light on the nature of activities in the area (Mellor 2007, 12).

The distribution of multiple-ditched linear boundaries includes a band across the east and south of the East Midlands from the Humber to Northampton (cf. Boutwood 1998). The limestone geology here gives rise to particularly responsive soils (e.g. Everson 1978; Jones 1988, 13). The absence of such features from eastern Lincolnshire seems to be genuine as the soils of the Wolds are likewise mainly conducive to cropmarks. Pickering (1978) noted what he believed to be a tendency for some of the systems to either follow the alignment of the Jurassic Limestone Ridge, or lie at right angles to it (cf. Everson 1978; 1979), that is west to east, and north to south. A possible parallel can be found in the Chilterns, where multiple ditches are situated at right angles to the Icknield Way (Bryant 1997). Pickering suggested that the features were elements of a widespread network. In fact the predominant alignment is not quite as Pickering had thought, but rather north­west to south-east and south-west to north-east.

There is a general consensus that the multiple boundaries were not ‘defensive’. They would not, in many cases, have presented an effective barrier, although if combined with banks, palisades and hedges they may have been. Nonetheless they seem likely to relate to controlling the movement of people and livestock; they may have been both boundaries, and served, at least in some cases, as trackways. A quadruple linear ditch system is known as a cropmark from near Allington, south Lincolnshire, with a rectilinear enclosure adjoining on one side, perhaps therefore an animal pen (Pickering 1978). In searching for associations between multiple ditches and other anthropogenic features, noted a correlation with ‘washing-line’ enclosures (Boutwood 1998). These small enclosures may have been pounds for stock, as at Brauncewell (Taylor 1998; cf. Pryor 1996; 1998b). ‘Junctions’ of these features are known, for instance, at Long Bennington (Pickering 1978; Fearn 1993). In Northamptonshire, the association of long linear ditch systems with axial boundaries and settlements is comparatively clear (cf. Kidd 2000), as at Ecton/Sywell in the Nene valley (RCHME 1979, 47–50 and 144-5).

There are no certain cases of dyke systems adjacent to aggregated settlements, as occurred further south in the Late Iron Age, for example around Colchester and Chichester. Dykes occur east and north of Lincoln (Everson 1978; 1979; Field 1980; Palmer-Brown 1993b), but these are morphologically no different from the dykes occurring elsewhere in the region, though contained Late Iron Age pottery; besides, no sizeable settlement of any standing is presently known at Lincoln in the pre-Roman period (cf. Jones and Darling 1988).

7.4 Discussion

A few decades back pit alignments were a little known curiosity; now they are almost a common place phenomenon within first millennium archaeology in the region, frequently encountered by means of current approaches. Multiple dykes likewise have become a familiar aspect of first millennium records and discussion. These features are generally understood as representing boundaries within landscapes (cf. Leslie and King 2021). At first, perhaps, the pit alignments will have allowed people and animals to past through for grazing and access, including access to potential grazing, natural features and made places of earlier date; later, examples show ditches replacing pit alignments in a range of cases indicating closure of access as land is divided. Examples of this ‘continuity’ in boundaries, albeit in changed manifestation, are noted above (Section 7.2; Knight provides further instances (Knight 2007, 210)). A narrative that pit alignments are an initial ‘softy softly’ means of defining space and demonstrating ‘rights’ that then, with time, harden with restatement in continuous barriers is difficult to elude as it prevails in the literature.

There is evidence that these various forms of boundary were a focus for votive and structured deposits during the Iron Age, indicating their importance, and perhaps symbolism and liminal nature. This is not something which should occasion surprise (cf. Hingley 1990). Pottery, animal bone and, notably, fragments of two Nauheim brooches and a metalworking mould were recovered from the fills of the Ketton dyke system (Mackie 1993). A horse long bone had been inserted vertically into one of the pits of the Long Bennington alignment during its silting (Fearn 1993), while at Tallington horse and human skull fragments occurred in pit fills (Gurney et al. 1993). At Gretton the terminal pit of an alignment contained a copper alloy ring-headed pin probably deposited in association with textiles (Jackson 1974).

Pit alignments and parallel linear dyke systems occur in similar areas (cf. Boutwood 1998, figs 2 and 8). Often, though, they may have served different functions, as detailed scrutiny reveals that they can occur in mutually exclusive locations. Caution is required as the relationship between pit alignments and ditch systems is neither straightforward, nor well understood. Taylor (1996) had noted cases where pit alignments were replaced by ditches while the Milton Ham example is detailed above (Section 7.2). An earthwork ditch and bank at Harlestone Firs, Northamptonshire, for example, seems to continue an adjacent pit alignment, known via cropmarks (Cadman 1995). A pit alignment at Eye Kettleby, Leicestershire, was replaced by a ditch (Finn 2011). A group of triple ditches in the Brampton/Pitsford area north-west of Northampton that cut across spurs of higher ground, isolating them, may be contemporary with a complex of pit alignments (cf. Kidd 2000). Finally, there are cases of parallel ditches associated with parallel pit alignments, and of two pit alignments and a parallel ditch. Considering the multiple linear ditches and pit alignments examined on the route of the Oakham bypass in Rutland, Mellor develops a thoughtful discussion around the possible function of these features in a report which underlines the challenges they can present due to lack of firm dating indicators and functionally indicative categories, especially when away from settlement activity and hence likely to lack cultural debris (Mellor 2007).

Whilst not unique to the East Midland region (cf. Wigley 2007; Thomas 2008), pit alignments and linear dyke systems are particularly well represented, and were clearly significant. They hold much potential for investigating social relations and organization, as well as questions relating to the phenomenology of landscape. Our understanding of long distance linear monuments continues to improve. It is now clear that many were long-lived and they probably served a variety of functions, with these changing through time: hence inclination to generalizations may not be appropriate. Plotting these monuments via the National Mapping Programme of the RCHME, and studying their character and distribution using GIS and other tools, has furthered understanding. The matter of their differential visibility according to the subsoil still requires further investigation. One obvious question is how these features relate to changing agricultural practices, for instance to a putative end to transhumance, and the shift from apparently ‘open’ land to defined ‘domains’ (cf. Bishop 2000). Their relationship to the ‘brickwork’ fields of north Nottinghamshire remains a matter for further investigation for although that system is of much later date than the conventional dating of pit alignments Knight has pointed up some evidence for a late institution and currency of pit alignments in the Trent valley region (Knight 2007, 213; cf. Knight and Howard 2004, 104; cf. Garton 2008).

By their very existence and scale these types of linear statements, as with hillforts, provide an index of local communal organization and political or social structures. Whether they relate to: (i) local imperatives to land division amongst comparatively modest sized communities, as Boutwood has suggested (1998), or (ii) were, as Barnatt saw, with the emergence of hillforts in the Peak District in the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, indices of greater social differentiation and competition (Barnatt 1999), were (iii) manifestations of tribally organised large-scale systems of demarcation (cf. Hingley 1989b), or (iv) arose from a combination of motivations, remains uncertain. It is equally unclear to what extent they represent functional as opposed to symbolic/ceremonial meanings at a time when large scale monument construction was conspicuously absent from the archaeological record. That they were brought into being demonstrates the powerful resource base of the period, demographic, economic and ‘political’. The construction of such boundaries – if, as is generally surmised, they relate to the definition of ‘owned’ territories – presumably played a role in the generation and maintenance of group identity (cf. Sharples 1991). Hence, their further investigation is potentially very important for our understanding of society at this time. More dates for these ‘monuments’ are accruing and in the future should assist in clarifying sequences through the region.

In sum, at present pit alignments and multiple linear ditches are somewhat enigmatic features, challenging attempts at definitive categorization and characterization. Difficulty in understanding their function and meaning in part arises from the limited evidence their fills typically yield but also because they probably had different purposes at different times and places. Accordingly, a contextual approach is likely to prove beneficial (cf. Thomas 2008) to both comprehend individual instances, and these classes of monument as categories of choice and community action, marking and separating the landscape. Assessment of instances on a piecemeal basis as they fall within development work is unlikely to result in comprehensive understanding. Rather field observations combined with GIS mapping and the analysis GIS can offer as a plotting tool, combined with both a quantitative and contextual approach to the cases as a whole should distil firmer trends.

8. Craft, Industry and Material Culture

8.1 Introduction

Evidence for Late Bronze Age and Iron Age crafts and artefact production has grown considerably in the past twenty years with the recovery of much new material and the publication of earlier finds. The nature of the evidence largely parallels the picture elsewhere in central, southern and eastern England. Within the region, as nationally, models exploring the social organization of these crafts have been slow to emerge, with some notable exceptions (e.g. Henderson 1992a; Morris 1994; De Roche 1997; Hingley 1997; Lane and Morris 2001). The development of such models in this domain needs to be encouraged. Firmer information on medium and long distance exchange networks has continued to emerge (see Section 8.10).

8.2 Wood

The study of woodworking, carpentry, ‘engineering’ in wood, wood management, charcoal production and trade in wood has been very much a back-seat passenger in the advance of later prehistoric studies in Britain. Evidence is partial and typically indirect, yet wood held a central role in culture and society at this time. Wood, and its by-products, were fundamental in the great majority of structures of all types, and especially buildings. Hence the use of wood is apparent at virtually every ‘site’ of the period, usually implicit from other remains, but occasionally manifest in preserved wood of some form; the survival of site remains at Must Farm, Cambridgeshire, is shedding new light on wood use in later prehistory, with one particularly noteworthy aspect being the highly pragmatic, unelaborated, manner in which the buildings had been assembled; was this representative of common practice? Wood and charcoal were, of course, crucial domestic fuel sources, and were required on a large scale by the Middle Iron Age, if not earlier, in order to undertake the production of iron, salt and for other processing and craft activities. Maintenance of these various supply needs will have been a key social issue (De Roche 1997; Willis 1999).

It seems certain that managed woodland was maintained across the region (e.g. Long et al. 1998; cf. Visser 2010). A long-range trade in wood and timber products is conceivable, likely even, especially for specialist wood products, skills and certain timbers, and for particular projects; it seems likely that wood used in the construction of some of the hillforts of the Welsh Marches derived from a wide hinterland. The huge trunk from which the Hasholme logboat of East Yorkshire was fashioned (Millett and McGrail 1987) testifies to the survival of some magnificent ancient woodlands; earlier, wolf oaks had been used to manufacture the Dover Bronze Age boat dated to the mid-second millennium BC. The many dimensions of wood use in later prehistoric societies warrant a much higher profile than they currently have.

In 2001 two logboats were excavated at Fiskerton by the Witham (see Section 4.5.1), one being well-preserved (Pitts 2001; Field and Parker Pearson 2003; Markoulaki 2014). The tying down of one of these well-crafted logboats below water, when unused, appears to have been an action of votive sacrifice. Three logboats and a well-preserved and well-fashioned spoked wooden wheel were previously recovered at Holme Pierrepont in the Trent valley (MacCormick et al. 1968; Markoulaki 2014). One of the logboats is dated to the Middle Iron Age radiometrically and the other two are viewed by Markoulaki to be Iron Age (Markoulaki 2014, 119). The wheel had been typologically attributed to the later Iron Age or early Roman period but an Iron Age attribution seems highly likely considering the depositional circumstances (Markoulaki 2014, 199-22). The wheel may be an offering. Given the nature of the regional environment, further finds of wooden boats of the first millennium BC can be anticipated from time to time. The Humber and its immediate hinterland have produced an important corpus of Bronze and Iron Age logboats and other craft (McGrail 1990; Hill and Willis 2013).

Finds such as the wooden bowl from Washingborough (Section 2.5.3) and the remarkable find from Gonalston, Nottinghamshire, of a well-preserved oak shovel, can be taken as demonstrable of the role of wood in everyday life in the first millennium BC, the latter coming from a water-logged ditch (Knight and Elliott 2008, 169, fig.8).

8.3 Textiles

Evidence for textile manufacture in the East Midlands is widespread, but thin. Sites yield at best generally only a few artefactual items, though there occur occasional groups of loom weights and associations of artefacts likely to have been used for textile production. The items conventionally defined as clay loom weights, spindle whorls and ‘weaving’ combs could have been put to a variety of uses, but on balance can be taken to probably indicate textile production (see below). Quantities of artefacts relating to textile manufacture per site across Britain are likewise typically modest although they were sufficiently well known for Hodson in the early 1960s to take the ‘weaving’ comb to be a type-fossil indicator of the Iron Age in Britain (Hodson 1964). A typology of weaving combs had been forwarded by Hodder and Hedges but sequencing ‘types’ is not possible (Hodder and Hedges 1977); an origin in the later Bronze Age seems likely.

Clay loom weights are typically large triangular blocks with a perforation near the apex of one corner for suspension. They could be used for various pursuits and are often cited as potentially roof weights used in liaison with netting to hold thatching in place; multiple purposes can be borne in mind. Such artefacts are known from Ancaster Quarry, Aslockton, Billingborough, Burrough Hill (Farley et al. 2017, 97), Castle Donington (Willow Farm), Dragonby (from Late Iron Age contexts), Humberstone (Elms Farm), Gamston, Gringley-on-the-Hill, Grove Farm, Enderby, Normanton le Heath, Weekley (Jackson and Dix 1987, fig. 28 and M90 103), Harlestone Quarry, Northampton (Clarke et al. 2017) and Sandy Lane, Northampton (Garland et al. 2019). At Willow Farm five vitrified loom weights were recovered from a post-hole at the entrance to a Late Bronze Age roundhouse and may represent a structured deposit (Ripper et al. 2017, 24, 38). Of these sites both the Aslockton site (Hamshaw-Thomas 1992) and Elms Farm, Humberstone (Charles et al. 2000, fig. 53/3) produced bone weaving combs, whilst Ancaster Quarry and Dragonby also yielded clay spindle whorls, with a bone spindle whorl from an Iron Age context at the latter (May 1976a, 38; May 1996), with Weekly also producing a possible spindle whorl of clay from an Iron Age context (Jackson and Dix 1987, M88 91). At Covert Farm, Crick, fired clay items from Late Iron Age contexts included pieces suggested to be “from perforated oven bricks or weights” with an illustration showing fragments from four large triangular weights of the type often taken to represent loom weights (Hughes and Woodward 2015, 82, fig. 64). At Harborough Rocks and Cave, in the White Peak, bone pins, spindle whorls and a weaving comb were recovered, with pottery types suggesting an Early Iron Age date (Hart 1981, 77). The evidence, in this case, may or may not be taken at face value. No loom weights were recovered, leading Hart to conclude that ‘only the preliminary work was conducted in the cave, weaving and finishing were carried out elsewhere’ (ibid., 77). Half of a spindle whorl was found at the enclosure site at Station Road, Elton-on–the-Hill, Nottinghamshire, where it is likely to be of Middle Iron Age association (Brudenell 2018, 87, fig.5). At Foxhills, Brackley, an undecorated antler ‘weaving’ comb (unused or hardly used) and a needle were present, the latter in a typical form but also, unusually, fashioned from antler (Riddler 2019). From elsewhere at the Brackley agglomerated site a further comb, two pin beaters and a bobbin manufactured from bone were recovered (Morris 2019). Riddler notes two other weaving combs from Northamptonshire. A ‘weaving’ comb found during fieldwalking at Kirmington is reported by Leahy who summarizes discussion over interpretations of their use (Leahy 1985).

Textile impressions on fragments of Iron Age briquetage from Lincolnshire (specifically Ingoldmells, Orby and Helpringham Fen) show a variety of weaves and clothes in use (Kirkham 1985).

8.4 Rotary Querns

Querns were considered above in terms of chronology, preferred stone types and forms (Section 4.5.3). Here some general points can be made. As noted in Section 4.5.3 the introduction of rotary querns was important as it enabled flour to be produced more rapidly than had the hitherto use of saddle querns for this purpose. Given cereals were the main staple food of the British Iron Age this technological change was of great significance as it took place when the population was evidently increasing. The relative efficiencies of milling using rotary querns will have facilitated feeding a growing population.

As well as forming indices of arable economies, querns can often be provenanced via petrological study, enhancing our knowledge of trade and exchange in the later first millennium BC (Knight 1992; Ingle 1994; Kidd 2004). Querns of Millstone Grit occur across the East Midlands (e.g. Wright and Firman 1992) deriving from Yorkshire and perhaps the southern Pennines in Derbyshire. Rotary quern production and/or finishing is suspected at several sites in the region. Some of the querns found at Ancaster Quarry were sandstone (May 1976a, 136) and probably derived from the Lincolnshire Wolds. Spilsby Sandstone from an exposure in the Caistor/Nettleton area of the Wolds escarpment (and/or possibly at Elsham) was evidently exploited for quern manufacture, with examples travelling west and north into the heartland of the East Midlands and to the Humber region (e.g. Wright 1996; Willis 2013b). A rotary quern from Elms Farm, Humberstone, Leicestershire, occurs in Lincolnshire Limestone, which is a less preferred geology (Roe 2000). Some querns were perhaps fashioned locally from glacially deposited boulders but if so they represent a small proportion of the querns in use. Due to the specifics of sources and the ability to provenance these items, this artefact class represents an important indicator of distribution systems, that otherwise for later prehistory are often scant. It is possible that fragments of querns, especially in the case of saddle querns but also of rotary types, are not consistently recognized by excavators who may need instruction on what to look out for.

8.5 Worked Bone and Antler

Bone and antler artefacts were a regular part of life in the first millennium BC. As with animal bone assemblages in general artefacts made from bone and antler are unlikely to survive in acid soils and may otherwise be gnawed or ingested by dogs and other savaging animals, hence survival will be partial.

 Production of bone and antler tools, and for parts of composite items, was probably very often undertaken at the sites where such items were used. In addition to tools such as pegs, points, combs and awls (cf. Section 8.3), these materials were fashioned as handles for tools, often metal tools, with the bone or antler component adapted and finished for ease of grip and comfort in the hand where necessary. As materials that could be shaped in numerous ways a great many uses are known (for instance a bone toggle was recovered associated with one of the Iron Age roundhouses at the Brocklesby Interchange site (Cavanagh 2020, 26, 188)). Beyond utilitarian functions these materials could be subject to decoration and so in the round these were flexible resources in the hand of the craft worker. Some specialist production is known in Britain during the Roman period, and may have occurred in the first millennium BC. Working of tooth ivory was probably regionally specific in the first millennium, although not in the East Midlands, but horn will have been worked, for instance, for inlay.

In sum, a range of worked antler and bone objects have been recovered in the East Midlands. Sites with such finds include Billingborough (Bacon 2001), Dragonby (May 1996), Elms Farm, Humberstone (Allen 2000), Fiskerton (Olsen 2003), Wakerley (Jackson and Ambrose 1978; Gwilt 1997). Washingborough (Allen 2009) and Wilby Way, Wellingborough (Thomas and Enright 2003); the items present at these locations are likely to be typical of the wider picture. Such artefacts appear to have been associated in particular with leather, horn and textile working in the region (as elsewhere); decorative in lay and even whistles or recorder type instruments re likely to have been fashioned too.

Wilby Way, Wellingborough (Thomas and Enright 2003) and Manor Farm, Humberstone (Browning 2011b, 111-3) produced significant evidence for the working of red deer antler (usually thought to be collected antler from spring shedding). A hammer head fashioned from red deer antler is a noteworthy find, from the Early Iron Age enclosure (Area 1) at Station Road, Elton-on–the-Hill, Nottinghamshire, and is dated to 761-414 cal BC at 95.4% probability (Brudenell 2018, 85; Ridder 2018). At Thrapston an antler pick with use wear was recovered from the perimeter ditch and showed evidence of the method of trimming in order to make the tool (Hamilton-Dyer 2001). The antler cheek piece from a horse bridle recovered at Washingborough has been mentioned above (Section 2.5.3).

8.6 Iron

Iron working in Iron Age Britain became quite widespread since varieties of ore were available in many areas. Iron’s replacement of copper alloys as the leading technology was assisted by this more ‘democratic’ presence of iron since in theory it released communities from the presumed power systems that existed with the trade in bronze and bronze artefacts. Despite the advantages of iron over bronze for tool and weapons in terms of strength and durability uptake of iron technology was evidently gradual in Britain and it is often speculated that the technological knowledge of the smelting of iron and its working was socially controlled. The production of iron is likely to have been a major regional industry in the East Midlands given its comparatively rich iron sources. To date evidence on the scale of the Vale of York (Halkon and Millett 1999) and the Forest of Dean (Jackson 2012) is lacking. However, the iron smelting at Greetwell Hall Farm, Messingham, North Lincolnshire, is the earliest known evidence of iron production in Britain, dated to c. 780-590 cal BC (North Lincs HER MLS21192; SLS3855, SLS5508, SLS7237). The strongest evidence for fairly widespread smelting at this time comes from Northampton­shire (Kidd 2000; 2004; Deegan 2007, fig. 6.19) with significant cases of furnace preservation, as at Priors Hall, Corby (Hall 2006, 2008). Iron working on the Limestone of the Jurassic Ridge and elsewhere seems to have been or become centralized and locally specialized (with working sites not necessarily on top of direct or modern ore sources). The excavations at Great Oakley demonstrated that nodular ores were being extracted and smelted in the earlier Iron Age (Jackson 1982). Possible smelting furnaces of Iron Age date occur there and at Wakerley (Jackson and Ambrose 1987; Bellamy et al. 2001) and Harringworth (Jackson 1981), although Wakerley apart the Rockingham Forest area lacks evidence (Bellamy et al. 2001). Covert Farm, Crick, has produced an otherwise rare example of iron bloom (Starley and Tulp 2015, 263), probably brought to the site for further working, perhaps, it is suggested, as an alternative to the more frequently encountered currency bars of the period. Much smelting slag has been found at the Castle Yard hillfort (Knight 1987), and a number of slag scatters elsewhere in the county are thought likely to be of this date.

Only limited evidence for metal working is logged for the Middle Iron Age, although such activities were probably fairly common rather than exclusive. Smithing slag was found in association with the Sleaford palisaded enclosure, and might be a significant element of the identity of that site. Industrial residues indicative of ironworking are also reported from Wanlip (Beamish 1998, 84). Little is known about the likely exploitation of ironstone and other iron sources in the region during the Middle Iron Age, or for that matter during the later Iron Age (Condron 1997; J. Cowgill pers. comm.).

During the Late Iron Age ironworking (routine smithing) was probably wide­spread, but usually limited to small-scale operations such as the repair and fashioning of domestic/everyday tools. Evidence occurs, for instance, at Normanton le Heath (Thorpe et al. 1994), Elms Farm and Manor Farm, Humberstone, where several anvils were recovered (Charles et al. 2000; Thomas 2011a). Smithing occurred at Covert Farm, Crick (Starley and Tulp 2015). Rampton, Notting­hamshire (Ponsford 1992) produced particularly important evidence.

8.7 Non-ferrous Metalworking

A series of publications by Dungworth have enhanced understanding of non-ferrous metalworking in central Britain through the Iron Age (Dungworth 1996; 1997). Copper alloy working is attested at Covert Farm, Crick, with crucible present (Starley and Tulp 2015, 264) and Elms Farm, Humberstone (Charles et al. 2000). From Dragonby comes evidence of iron, copper and even silver working of Iron Age date (May 1996, 313-7). In North-East Lincolnshire a major find of copper alloy working debris covering refining, mould making, and casting, dating to the later Iron Age, was excavated at Weelsby Avenue, Grimsby, with the composition and find-locations shedding light on the production process and its stages (Foster 1995; cf. Section 4.2 for references); items produced related to horse and chariot/cart fittings. Clay mould fragments occasionally occur elsewhere, as at Billingborough (Chowne et al. 2001), while a mould was recovered from the fills of a triple dyke system at Ketton (Mackie 1993). These finds may indicate small scale copper alloy working (in the case of Billingborough, perhaps also for horse furniture). At Coton Park, Rugby, just outside the East Midland region, important evidence of copper alloy casting was recovered, having been recently published (Chapman 2020).

Questions remain around the possibilities of lead extraction (and from that refinement of silver) in Derbyshire during the first millennium BC, especially given the occasional presence of lead artefacts from site contexts within the region dating to this period. Equally, still little is known regarding exploitation of copper bearing ores.

8.8 Salt Manufacture and Distribution

Salt was clearly an important commodity through the first millennium BC and salt-extraction along the Lincolnshire coastal margin, Witham estuary and in The Fens was evidently very significant (Baker 1960; 1975; Hall and Coles 1994; Healey 1999; Ellis et al. 2001; Lane and Morris 2001; Kirkham 2001; see Section 4.2 above). In the Lincolnshire Fens and along the North Sea coast of Lincolnshire many salt manufacturing sites are known, especially from the Ingoldmells area. This evidence of production in Lincolnshire is mainly of Middle and Late Iron Age date. Less by way of production sites is known in the area of North-East and North Lincolnshire, that is the Humber and its estuary, though work on the Humber Bank in advance of development has brought forth new information (Headland Archaeology 2010, 18; see too below, this Section). A particularly noteworthy site is the saltern in Tetney parish investigated in the 1990s and radiocarbon dated to the Late Bronze Age, an unusually early date for this activity in so far as salterns of this date are rare (Palmer-Brown 1993a). In the Fens salt production in the Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age is attested at Billingborough (Chowne et al. 2001), supported by a series of radiocarbon determinations. Features associated with salt production were not well-preserved in this case, which unfortunately is a common aspect of the extant evidence.

Many salt production sites are known in the western and southern Fens (Healey 1999; Lane and Morris 2001). Here salt making was clearly an extensive, and presumably economically important, undertaking from the Middle Iron Age onward. In the northern Fens only the area around Wrangle has evidence for this industry. The sustained exploitation of this resource will have created an important commodity (used in various ways) for trading and perhaps was a significant means of wealth creation. Lane and Morris (2001, 385–8) have proposed a model for the development of salt production in the Fens beginning with an ‘opportunistic’ phase during the Middle Iron Age when production was seasonal and centred away from the main domestic base, linked with seasonal animal grazing. Later, the landscape was exploited all year round with permanent occupation, this phase being tentatively dated to the Late Iron Age.

As mentioned, from the area of the Humber less is currently known though some groups have been forthcoming. Recent finds arising from the road improvement works at Brocklesby Interchange and Rosper Road (A160/A180), in North-East Lincolnshire, produced important collections of briquetage, though no salterns were identified (Cavanagh 2020). Lane states of these collections that “The presence of only two pedestals, the lack of bars or clips and the very limited numbers of structural pieces … strongly suggests a pre-Late Iron Age date”, as does the nature of the briquetage fabrics which are shelly wares (Lane 2020). He suggests a date within the Late Bronze to Early/Middle Iron Age for these finds despite the fact they were largely recovered from contexts ascribed to the Later Iron Age. Two other sites in South Killingholme produced briquetage attributed to the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age and the Late Iron Age (Headland Archaeology 2010, 18; Lane 2020).

Briquetage is the term ascribed to both the fired fashioned clay used at production sites for forming pans, trays, troughs, pedestals, etc. and, in some cases for storing and transporting the salt product. The latter can be termed ‘transport briquetage’ as it leaves the production site. Transport briquetage has been regularly recognised for what it is on settlements across the western part of the region for the past three decades or so. However, this material is from Cheshire, not the east coast. Mapping the incidence of these find-spots of Cheshire briquetage provides a vital indicator of trade and exchange (see Section 8.10). Briquetage is, however, completely absent from settlements in the hinterland of the Fens and central and northern Lincolnshire, the ‘home market’ area in which the Fenland and North Sea salt would have been consumed, and perhaps beyond (cf. Lane and Morris 2001). Not a single consumer site can be identified, in contrast with some other areas where salt was conveyed in distinctive containers from Cheshire. The salt from the Fens and the North Sea coast must have been conveyed in perishable organic containers such as leather/skin or cloth bags perhaps held within basketwork, or possibly in coarse pottery vessels that we presently do not identify as salt containers, but not in distinctive ceramic containers that are recognized as ‘transport briquetage’. Wild identified a textile impression on Lincolnshire briquetage as sack-like leading Kirkham to point up historic references to wrapping salt in cloth for transportation (Kirkham 1985), so this may be the answer. Nonetheless, as it stands, the reach and network of distribution through time of these east coast manufacturing sites cannot be mapped.

8.9 Pottery

Pottery is by far the most common artefact type surviving for the period in the East Midlands but as noted above its classification and dating are not straightforward due to the nature of its types. The East Midlands has yielded numerous collections of pottery of first millennium BC date; from Northamptonshire, for example, over 500 ceramic collections are documented. A number of regional overviews are helpful. The British Archaeological Report by Challis and Harding encompasses part of the region and although dated includes illustrations of types by site (Challis and Harding 1975). Other regional and sub-regional overviews and studies include those of Cunliffe (1974; 1991; 2005, chapter 5), Elsdon (1992a; 1993), Jackson and Dix (1987) and Willis (1998). Two contributions by Knight (1984; 2002) are particularly important for the study of first millennium pottery from the region, the latter establishing a chronological framework. A resource covering England is the Gazetteer of Later Prehistoric Pottery Collections of the first millennium BC (Earl et al. 2007). Guidelines and standards for recording and processing pottery of this era have been produced by the Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group (PCRG 2010). Suggested recording conventions with particular reference to later prehistoric pottery have been outlined by Knight (Knight 1997) and the more recent collective general recommendations have appeared (Barclay et al. 2016).

There are sub-regional variations to the size and frequency of assemblages, and dating can be challenging. Overall, however, this material is a resource of tremendous potential (cf. Gwilt 1997; Knight 2002; cf. Evans 1995a). Important published assemblages include: Covert Farm, Crick (Hughes and Woodward 2015), Elms Farm, Humberstone (Marsden 2000), Enderby (Elsdon 1992b), Gamston (Knight 1992), Milton Ham (Wells 2021), and Wanlip (Marsden 1998b). The Dragonby and Old Sleaford reports remain fundamental for the study of Late Iron Age pottery in Lincolnshire (Elsdon and May 1996; Elsdon 1997). Late Iron Age types and so-called Transitional wares relevant for Lincolnshire are published (Darling and Jones 1988) as well as for Northamptonshire (Friendship-Taylor 1998).

Evidence for pottery production is extremely rare before the mid-first century AD making the suggestive remains at Polwell Lane, Barton Seagrave, Northamptonshire, significant (Section 4.5.2; Chapman 2014). Evidence for organised production and of some long and middle distance distribution of pottery continues to expand. Petrological analysis of inclusions in pottery types has become more routine, shedding some light on likely sources of production and movement of pot and or temper (Section 8.10.2; Knight et al. 2003; Cootes and Quinn 2018). Older general models of pottery production and distribution put forward by Hodder (1982a; 1982b), Morris (1994), and Dee De Roche (1997), can be considered when assessing pottery groups from the region.

More data on vessel use is desirable via organic residual analysis (ORA)/lipid analysis, and by simply recording macroscopically visible surface wear and residues that routinely occur in the form of carbonized remains, soot and limescale. Data collected in a systematic way will permit inter-site comparisons of types/use. The application of ORA has demonstrated that dairying was being practiced in the British Iron Age (Copley et al. 2003; 2005); greater use of this method should be instructive with regard to site and sub-regional economies.

An aim of the project at Wanlip was to provide tighter dating for Ancaster-Breedon pottery (Clay 2000); the outcome was the realization its date range should be lengthened (Marsden 1998b; cf. Barnett 2000). Establishing pottery chronologies remains a central objective. The date(s) of the debut of wheelmade pots also requires clarification. Improving ceramic chronology remains a key research topic and will directly benefit future projects where pottery is recovered. Dating of the carbonized remains often found on vessel surfaces offers the prospect of directly dating the currency of the types (Willis 2002). The synthesis by Knight (2002) has successfully collated and assessed the previously disparate information on ceramic dating and provides a heuristic region-wide ‘standard’.

Pottery is a richly textured information resource for the period, with the potential to provide insight to a series of key aspects of cultural life in terms of broad patterns as well as qualitative nuances and practice at site and context specific levels (Lambrick 1984; Millett 1987).

8.10 Evidence for the Exchange and the Distribution of Commodities

8.10.1 Tracing Exchange and Distribution

Our understanding of artefacts in terms of technology and exchange as been enhanced by the now more or less routine use of procedures such as petrological examination and scientific analysis building on systematic methodologies developed through the later 20th century. Provenance studies of artefacts, predicated on distinctive attributes such as petrology, have highlighted the complex and often wide exchange connections and choices that existed in prehistory, with the East Midlands in the first millennium BC no exception. Three categories are especially useful for understanding the movement of resources in the region at this time.

One of these is the presence of igneous rock in some pottery types that was added to vessels during their manufacture to act as a tempering agent to offset the possibilities of breakage due to thermal shock. Whilst the large majority of pottery vessels in the region were tempered with quartz grains, quartz fragments, calcite, and grog (crushed fired clay) these tempers employed geographically widespread and common materials. Contrastingly igneous rock sources are much more localized in the region and where igneous tempering has been employed the material can be diagnostic of the source, allowing the incidence and distribution of vessels, with the source specific rock, to be mapped. (It is thought that igneous rock in glacially derived deposits spread across the region was rarely used for this tempering purpose).

Secondly, ceramic vessels were, in some cases, used to convey salt in prehistory. Whilst salt was evidently transported during the first millennium BC from some sources by means that leave no trace in the archaeological record (see Section 8.8) some salt extraction industries systematically used fired clay containers for this purpose, made at source. In one case salt produced from the natural brine springs in the area of Cheshire was conveyed in vessels that were akin to pottery. Again these are of distinctive shape-form and composition, their fabric containing angular crushed rock known as stony Very Coarse Pottery (VCP). Research by Morris in the 1980s established from the distribution of VCP that salt from Cheshire was a widely spread commodity during the Iron Age with a widening distribution through the Middle Iron Age with consumer sites known through mid- and north Wales, and in the West and East Midlands (Morris 1985; 1994). The industry begins at the very end of the Late Bronze Age and extends through to the first century AD (Nevell 2005, 11-2); in other words it lasted through the entire Iron Age (salt did not go out of fashion!). VCP, as with other transport briquetage types in Britain, was not high-fired but comparatively soft and hence vulnerable in the long term to breaking down; it may also have been processed (smashed and boiled?) to extract the salt that had permeated within the fabric, for maximum use-value. Where present at consumer sites, in the East Midlands and elsewhere, quantities are commonly of modest scale which may be a function more of taphonomy, bearing in mind these factors just highlighted, rather than the actual scale of supply (see for comparison: Fitts et al. 1999; Willis 2016).

A third type that can be traced by means of petrology are quernstones – particularly rotary querns – due to the fact that they were fashioned from selected rock types (for their hardness, shaping and grinding properties) which come from traceable locations, some general, such as those made from what is generically referred to as ‘millstone grit’, some more localized as with Spilsby Sandstone querns. Saddle querns, which were used for grinding in the Late Bronze Age and earlier Iron Age, were physically smaller and many well have been locally sourced as collected ‘field stones’ or from glacial till, whereas rotary querns were bigger and except for a few instances will be of a scale and rock type that means they are very unlikely to be from other than a systematically extracted source.

8.10.2 Pottery with Igneous Rock Tempering

Close attention to inclusion types in pottery fabrics has, in the past three decades or so, shown that pottery tempered with igneous rock was distributed across the Midland counties. Igneous rocks are known to be a relatively frequent temper agent selected for adding to pottery in the later prehistory of Britain. This was not simply for utilitarian reasons but evidently had symbolic meanings (cf. Harrad 2003) likely to be referencing distinctive regional landforms. In the case of the East Midlands two or three source groups of igneous rock were being used, added to pottery clay paste in crushed form. Granitic igneous rock from the Charnwood Forest/Mountsorrel area in northern Leicestershire is one source. The latter is thought likely to be the origin of some pottery founded at Gamston, Nottinghamshire and Swarkestone Lowes, Derbyshire (Knight 1992; 1999), while a typologically Late Iron Age sherd with Charnwood igneous inclusions came from Hollygate Lane, Cotgrave, eastern Nottinghamshire, demonstrating, as with Gamston, that the distribution occurred to the north of the source, “as well as to the east and south-west” (Evans 2020a, 26; pers. comm.).

Granitic tempered wares occur in contexts of Middle Iron Age date to the south of the source(s) as at Covert Farm, Crick, Northamptonshire, being present also in many of the feature clusters of the Late Iron Age at that site (Hughes and Woodward 2015, 88, fig. 69). Charnwood/Mountsorrel is c. 50 km from Crick, but nonetheless it is represented at the site as a pottery temper. The picture is complicated as another Leicestershire source for granitic rock is also represented at Crick: from the Croft/Enderby area c. 28 km to the north of Crick, where granitic sills occur (Ixer 2015, 214; Knight et al. 2003). Granitic/granodiorite temper use is known also at the following Leicestershire and Northamptonshire sites: Wanlip, c. 5 km from the source (Marsden 1998b, 45), Soar Valley Way, Enderby (Johnson 2018), North Hamilton (Cooper 2008), Hallam Fields, Birstall (Speed 2010), Long Dole, adjacent to Crick (Ixer 2015), from two developments at Coventry Road, Hinckley, where granitically tempered wareamounted to 55% by number of sherds at the second development (Evans and Mills 2011; Chapman 2004), Narborough, where granitically tempered ware accounted for 7.5% by sherd count of an assemblage amongst which quartz tempering was most frequent (Evans 2020b, 3), at Kirby Road, Barwell (of six sherds of Middle Iron Age pottery from the site four are in quartz tempered ware while two have granitic inclusions (Evans 2020c, 2-3)), and the Warwickshire sites of: Top Farm, Nuneaton (15 sherds from handmade vessels, including ‘Scored ware’ types amongst an assemblage of 40 Iron Age sherds, probably third-first century BC in date range (Evans 2020b, 1)) and Coton Park, Rugby (four sherds with igneous temper, dated Mid-Late Iron Age representing a small fraction of the site assemblage (Evans 2021)). Ixer concluded that granitic tempered wares were the only non-locally acquired vessels at Covert Farm, Crick (Ixer 2015, 214-5; on this subject see too Ixer and Vince 2009). Further, a sherd with Mountsorrel granodioritic temper, presumably from the Charnwood outcrop, has been recovered at Aston on Trent in the middle Trent valley c. 25 km north-west of the source (Flintoft and Stein 2016; Quinn 2015).

In a study of temper inclusions within pottery from the Peak District Cootes and Quinn (2018; cf. Quinn 2017) looked at 233 sherds of Early Bronze Age–Early Iron Age pottery from 24 sites in the White and Dark Peak; the items typologically breakdown into Early Bronze Age-Middle Bronze Age (EBA-MBA) and Late Bronze Age-Early Iron Age (LBA-EIA). 186 sherds came from the earlier date unit derived from a small number of settlement sites from which samples were selected from several separate domestic structures. They established that 71% of sample sherds were tempered with igneous rock amongst the EBA-MBA unit and 92% in the LBA-EIA unit. Igneous rock temper was strongly represented across both the White Peak and Dark Peak sample sites despite its localized occurrence only in the White Peak (Quinn 2017, fig. c1) and in the context of the proximity and possibility of use of more locally available alternatives to igneous rock, suitable in terms of physical/mechanical properties to cope with thermal expansion. Cootes and Quinn established local clay pastes were being used with ‘imported’ igneous rocks, suggesting local production of vessels (Cootes and Quinn 2018, 692) with transport of temper to these sites likely. This occurred alongside ‘imported’ vessels with igneous temper across the Peak District area. This was interpreted as demonstrating shared practice and interconnection, indicating homogeneity over the White and Dark Peak areas by the Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age (cf. Barnatt and Collis 1996, 44-79). This was seen as contrary to arguments forwarded by Barnatt, and Barnatt and Smith (Barnatt 1999; Barnatt and Smith 2004, 25) that the farms of the period were self-sufficient and internally orientated; instead the ceramics suggested to Cootes and Quinn that the communities of the Peak District were not self-sufficient separated farms but evidently part of a wider connected community with shared technological practice in pottery and with common forms of expression and (they argued) identity (Cootes and Quinn 2018, 689). Further, with one exception, these igneous tempered vessels do not occur outside the Peak District and nor was pottery brought in from outside the area that is now the Peak District National Park, suggesting a marked preference for local pottery, perhaps as a chosen marker of community and shared ‘identity’ (cf. Cootes and Quinn 2018, 690-1; Quinn 2017).

8.10.3 Salt from Cheshire

Turning to salt provision the evidence is particular to one source, as outlined above (Sections 9.8 and 9.10.1). Sites in the central Midlands, in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, were evidently receiving salt from south-east Cheshire in VCP containers. Sites where this material is reported include the following: Enderby I (Elsdon 1992b, 41), Enderby II (Meek et al. 2004, 13), Hallam Fields (Marsden 2009), Hinkley, Coventry Road (Chapman 2004a), Huncote (Meek et al. 2004, 25), Kirby Muxloe (Cooper 1994), Manor Farm, Humberstone (Marsden 2011, 72) and Normanton le Heath (Elsdon 1994b, 37-8) in Leicestershire; Gamston (Knight 1992) in Nottinghamshire; and Swarkestone Lowes (Elliott and Knight 1999, 137, 149) and Foxcovert Farm, Ashton-upon-Trent (Morris 1999) in Derbyshire. The distribution reaches as far as Crick in the south of the region where 22 fragments occurred through the first millennium phase sequence (Morris 2015). No instances of the presence of Droitwich transport briquetage containers in the East Midland region are known to this author; its distribution was less expansive than with the Cheshire source, but extended across the south-west Midlands.

8.10.4 Quernstones

See Sections 4.5.3 and 9.4 where quern sources and distribution mapping are documented and discussed.

8.10.5 The Interconnected Economy: Commodities, Movement and Transport; a role for Coins?

The cases above show spheres of connection and distribution for certain types where the attributes of the material can be traced. Many commodities leave few traces under normal conditions as they are perishable, while others cannot be provenanced to source since they lack characteristics indicative of source. Hence Cavanagh could only speculate that animal fat collection indicated by ORA of Late Iron Age ceramic vessels at Brocklesby Interchange could have been produced for exchange (Cavanagh 2020, 52-3) and while Morris, noting the hundreds of pits and post structures at the agglomerated site at Brackley thought to be for grain storage, posited that “this does seem to confirm that this part of the county was an apparent ‘bread bowl’ for this region if not for further afield” (Morris 2019, 98). However, these possibilities cannot be proven as there is no material trace. A further interesting possibility is that the extraction of metal ore was underway in the Peak District at this time, yet tracing to source is not straightforward (Waddington and Montgomery 2017, 55; Dungworth 1997).

Thirty years ago Knight was able to show that the site at Gamston, Nottinghamshire, for instance, was in receipt of certain ‘traded’ commodities as they had diagnostic elements that could be traced to a source providing a part-view of interconnections. These commodities comprised salt from Cheshire, pottery from the Charnwood Forest area and querns probably from Derbyshire and/or Yorkshire (Knight 1992). Undoubtedly this is the tip-of-the-iceberg in terms of the sites’ actual exchange connections. Whilst this site is adjacent to the Trent, which was doubtless a major route-way, nonetheless it is a site of modest status. Its exchange connections are unlikely to be atypical. In turn twenty years later Thomas was able to plot the sources of items excavated at the more extensively explored sites of Beaumont Leys and Manor Farm, Humberstone, in central Leicestershire; here, as well as the important commodities of salt and querns, items from beyond the region included shale, a potin coin, and probably iron (Thomas 2011a, fig. 125). The Northamptonshire evidence shows that exchange links with much of southern and central England existed throughout the Iron Age and were probably regular and developed, rather than piecemeal. Testimony of this is the presence of Glastonbury Ware types or their imitations in the county of which so-called Hunsbury bowls are an example (Kidd 2000; 2004: Jackson and Dix 1987; Jackson and Tingle 2012; Chapman 2014, fig. 28). With certain commodities where there were specialist production centres; the question arises as to whether they were in competition, as perhaps in the case of salt, with salt from Cheshire competing with sea salt from the east coast. However, this presumes there was more than sufficient of a resource in circulation for there to be ‘competition’, which may not have been the case as there may have been times of the year, periods of time and places where there was shortage or scarcity, perhaps endemically so, with communities simply accessing what came their way when the opportunity arose.

How commodities moved is not well known. In the Roman era a range of information testifies to the use of pack animals (donkeys and mules) alongside oxen drawn carts for terrestrial distribution. Wheeled vehicles are known from Late Bronze Age Britain with two wheels of later Bronze Age date known from north Cambridgeshire: a part example from Flag Fen dated c. 1300 BC and a complete example with hub from Must Farm dated c. 1100-800 BC (The Guardian 19.2.2016). Wheeled vehicles are attested for the British Iron Age from the various cart/chariot graves of East Yorkshire (Stead 1991) and elsewhere, whilst Julius Caesar records the use of chariots by the ancient Britons (Caesar, Book IV.3, Book V.1), with metal fittings also widely known for wheeled transport across the British Iron Age, such as terrets (rein rings), lynch pins and decorative axle terminals (e.g. from the East Midlands: Farley et al. 2017; Meek et al. 2004, fig. 9; Owen 1993; Sills and Kinsley 1978; 1979; 1990; Sills 2001). River craft such as the Brigg raft and Hasholme logboat (McGrail 1990; Millett and McGrail 1987) had considerable capacity for cargoes and confirm use of the regional river networks to facilitate movement in the first millennium BC. The numbers of smaller logboats known from the region (Markoulaki 2014) could have carried smaller loads which may have been of precious items, high value/low bulk, or these craft made multiple journeys to shift bulky volumes incrementally. Big timber was doubtless floated where possible. It is noteworthy that the find of a group of logboats at Holme Pierrepont, that could be a votive deposit, also include a spoked wheel, combining the dimensions of land and water transport and surly no coincidental juxtaposition (Section 8.2). As regards ‘ports’ rather than places for pulling ashore the best candidate in the region is Old Winteringham on the south bank of the Humber, North Lincolnshire. River ports doubtless existed elsewhere; presumably there was one at Late Iron Age Leicester on the Soar. Old Winteringham lies at the northern terminus of Ermine Street as it meets the Humber, a Roman road that seems likely to have had a prehistoric origin as it follows the Jurassic ridge north of Lincoln, being a practical and logical line of movement. It is clear from the finds recovered over many years that there was a significant site at Old Winteringham in the final phase of the Late Iron Age, and it was a likely trading port (Stead 1976; Creighton 1990; Fleming and Royall 2019; Dudley et al. 2021, 87-8 for collated references).

It is often assumed uncritically and on the basis of no stated evidence that Roman routes occasionally followed earlier routes of movement, formalizing them; the East Midlands is no exception to such speculations. It is likely that there were such precedents to Roman roads but caution is needed and assumptions should be avoided. Prehistoric routes normally leave no direct evidence in terms of roadside ditches or metaling so are hard to verify. However, with growing evidence for the location of landscape features, land divisions and settlements in the later prehistoric landscape it is becoming possible to propose that some Roman roads did overlay are lay nearby Prehistoric tracks. In the south and east of Lincolnshire, for example, there is a strong possibility that some Roman roads overlay prehistoric routes. This is likely in the case of the Caistor High Street running along the western edge of the Wolds, essentially following the east-west watershed (Willis 2013b). Immediately south-east of Sleaford finds of imported Gallo-Belgic pottery fine wares and other material of earlier first century date in the vicinity of Mareham Lane suggest a prehistoric antecedent to this known Roman road. Further north, in considering the configuration of evidence from Navenby Palmer-Brown and Rylatt point up that the essentially unfalteringly straight Ermine Street south as well as north of Lincoln links not only a string of Roman era settlements but the increasingly apparent Iron Age foci that lie below them, suggesting its pre-Roman pedigree (Palmer-Brown and Rylatt 2011, 139-40; 150). Although in headline dealing with Roman roads after the Roman era valuable perspectives on the biographies of route-ways in the region are outlined and assessed by Albone (Albone 2016).

What roles coins may have played in social interactions and exchange at this time has been much debated. Part of the problem lies in where Iron Age coins have been found. Many are from unstratified contexts. Often they are found in hoards or otherwise at locations where they are largely thought to be votive offerings in and around shrines and liminal locations. Yet this only tells us of their final use, when they are taken out of circulation not what their function/s may have been (if they had separate pre-deposition purposes) before such termination. Initially, when first introduced, they may have been used for exchange and communication between elites. By the final decades of the Iron Age minting was increasing and the proportion of non- or low-bullion issues was rising, suggesting wider interest in and circulation of coins, and a monetary role seems more likely at this time. Images and epigraphy on coin series to the south of the East Midlands in the final Iron Age decades suggest wide circulation within society and these issues may have been mimicking Roman coinage as a form of currency. Whether this was the case with the so-called North-Eastern (aka Corieltauvian) coinage prominent in Leicestershire and Lincolnshire is not established.

Identifying, mapping and digesting the exchange connections of the region will improve comprehension of society during this period. This will be achieved through the everyday work of skilled professional finds specialists combined with what is becoming routine materials analysis and the employment of improving scientific applications. This exploration is likely to be one of the most important aspects for study of the period over the next 25 years. This will build on the emerging distribution patterns noted here and enable their social implications to be understood through stronger data sets.

9. Burial and Human Remains

There are few burials of first millennium date in the East Midlands, still less cemeteries, raising questions around practice and the funerary process. Instead there occur a small number of inhumations and cremations, often solitary one-offs, plus ‘stray’ separated human bones, some of which show signs of use and having undergone processes suggesting ritualized activity and some currency in the world of the living. The pattern seen in the East Midlands is comparable to that of other regions of Britain through this period, being constant through the entire millennium, if it is accepted that the era of monumental burial was broadly over by the Late Bronze Age. There is an absence of a distinct, archaeological attested, burial rite, with only a very small fraction of individuals receiving a burial that can be detected (Cunliffe 2005, 543-61). For instance, no evidence for human remains, burials or cremations of Iron Age date is cited in May’s study of Lincolnshire (1976a). Recent work has not much altered this pattern. Equally, with the possible exception of cremations at Irchester, there is no evidence of the adoption of a burial rite in the Late Iron Age mirroring the spread in popularity of cremation seen in the south-east of England through the final decades of the era, not even (to date) at Leicester which has parallels with sites in that region. The prevailing assumption is that excarnation was commonly practised (cf. Carr and Knüsel 1997), perhaps with cremation, away from settlements and leaving little archaeological trace.

The few known burials and cremations are of considerable interest and carry the potential to improve our understanding of areas such as diet, origins of individuals, health and life experience and cultural practice. However, the principal inference concerning those burials that do occur, is that there must have been something exceptional about the person buried, in their life or manner of death and its meaning to others for anything approaching ‘formal’ burial to have occurred. In the adjacent region of East Anglia Medlycott characterized a similar record as one of ad hoc burials and the occurrence of ‘spare parts’ often associated with boundaries or in association with earlier made places in the landscape (Medlycott 2011, 31). The nature of the record for the East Midlands is documented in what follows.

Firstly, considering cremations, the number of cases in the East Midlands is low and sporadic with no patterning. Cases include the following. As noted above, a cremation burial of Middle Iron Age date was excavated at Wanlip (Beamish 1998, 28-9), occurring centrally within a four post rectangular building, accompanied by (as interpreted) a special deposit. An unaccompanied cremation of an adult, probably of Middle or Late Iron Age date was excavated at Elms Farm, Humberstone (Boyle 2000). Sherds from what was designated a cremation urn of Middle to Late Iron Age date were recovered at Wilby Way, Wellingborough in 1997 without bone (Enright and Thomas 1998, 32; Thomas and Enright 2003). A second human cremation was recovered from a pit during a further intervention at the site in late 1997, with only charcoal and a flint also present (Cotswold Archaeological Trust 1998). Cremation burials of Later Iron Age date are known from Enderby (Meek 1996), where two occurred, and Market Harborough (Liddle 1982, 27). At Enderby Enclosure II an urned cremation found by a roundhouse entrance is interpreted as Iron Age in date (Meek et al. 2004, 13-4). At Irchester, Northamptonshire, a minimum of four Aylesford-Swarling style cremations are recorded (Hall and Nickerson 1967), but they may be mid-first century AD in date.

Turning to inhumations, the evidence remains equally disparate. Early/Middle Iron Age pit burials occur at the Northamptonshire sites of Twywell (Jackson 1975), Wilby Way, Wellingborough (Enright and Thomas 1998, 32; Thomas and Enright 2003) and Brackmills, Great Houghton (Chapman 1998; 2001). Three inhumation burials were recorded at Wilby Way, Wellingborough, one (B4) from a pit, though this was from the top of the pit and thought to be secondary; it was of a female 30-45 years; another lay within a grave cut (B5) probably of a female over 30 years dated 762-202 cal BC; and a third (B6) from a grave cut and dated cal 362 BC-AD 49. A bound and trussed burial of a woman affecting a crouched position was found in a pit at the edge of a settlement at Great Houghton (Brackmills), with a centre date of 390 cal BC, where the excavator suggested potential ritualized sacrifice (Chapman 1998; 2001). Other crouched pit burials are known from Leicester (Clay 1985a, 17) and Rushey Mead, Leicestershire (Pollard 2001). An inhumation of a young adult male was excavated on the Oakham bypass and dated to between 400 and 200 BC (Mellor 2007, 14). At Twywell and Great Houghton (Brackmills) dog burials occur in adjacent pits, a rite which is of no small interest since it antedates what are perhaps more familiar cases of ritual dog burials of the Roman era (cf. Merrifield 1987).

Two crouched inhumations were found at Winster in the Peak District in the nineteenth century during Bateman’s campaigns; these are now dated as second century BC to second century AD (Beswick and Wright 1991). Putative Late Iron Age burials are also recorded from an evaluation at Towcester, Northamptonshire (Walker 1992), where an apparently enclosed cemetery with inhumations was encountered, but is not fully published. An inhumation believed to be Iron Age was found at Stenigot, on the Lincolnshire Wolds, in advance of an infrastructure scheme; an iron nail was associated and it pre-dated a ditched enclosure (Field and George 1998, 37). At South Cockerington on the Lincolnshire Marsh, a crouched inhumation was discovered in a pit in advance of pipeline work (Bush forthcoming, Site D5); the pit lay by a boundary ditch (a liminal location?) with the head of the skeleton to the east. This was of a female aged 25-35 years with gall or urinary stones; fragments of an associated pottery vessel were recovered. A Middle Iron Age date was obtained from C14 dating (Bush forthcoming). At Cotgrave, Hollygate Lane, Nottinghamshire, an inhumation burial again in crouched position, on its right side with head towards the south-west, was found at Trench 31 by a former spring; it was dated 22-270 cal AD (93.6% confidence) suggesting a possible Late Iron Age or Transitional date (Krawiec and Poole 2020, 21). Two further crouched inhumations dated to the Late Iron Age were recovered on the Hatton-Silk Willoughby gas pipeline route, at Langton Hill, Lincolnshire (Network Archaeology 2006, 30-1).

Disarticulated human bones, and occasionally incomplete skeletons, occur with some frequency at sites in the region and are not unusual. Examples include the following site finds: Beaumont Leys (Jacklin 2011), Breedon Hill (Wacher 1977), Leicester (Clay 1985a), Mountsorrel, Leicestershire (Walker 1994), Tixover, Rutland (Beamish 1992), and, in Northamptonshire, Banbury Lane, King’s Sutton (Ingham 2017, 84) and Polwell Lane, Barton Seagrave (Simmonds and Walker 2014), as well as at Aylesby (Steedman and Foreman 1995, 34) and Brocklesby Interchange, North-East Lincolnshire (Keefe and Holst 2020) and Station Road, Elton-on–the-Hill, Nottinghamshire (Brudenell 2018, 87). Such cases have in recent years been suggested to result from practices of excarnation, collection and curation, with the idea of a sense of the presence or power of the ancestors; the occurrence has been discussed in the wider literature (e.g. Craig et al. 2005; Armit and Ginn 2007).

There are several instances of ‘unusual’ treatment of human skulls. A skull from a palaeochannel at Birstall, Leicestershire, dated to the Late Bronze Age shows evidence of decapitation prior to careful deposition in a watery context (Ripper 1997; 2010); cut marks on the atlas vertebra via a metal edge seem to support this interpretation (Cook 2010). Special treatment of the head and deposition of human heads in watery contexts is attested elsewhere during the first millennium BC (e.g. Willis 1999, 100; Whimster 1981), as well as in Roman Britain (Crummy 1984, 93–8), and is a longstanding area of interest and discussion (cf. Merrifield 1987; Bradley and Gordon 1988; Knüsel and Carr 1995). Ritual and ceremony may have lain behind the deposition of the skull at Birstall. Similarly, human skull fragments from a pit alignment at Tallington, Lincolnshire (Gurney et al. 1993) may represent a structured deposit. A adult skull fragment from the Middle Iron Age site at Helpringham Fen displays sawing marks, where the skull bone has been ‘opened’; the sawing was carried out at or after death (Bayley 1999). Billingborough, also on the Fen margin, has yielded a series of ‘worked’ skull fragments, from several individuals, where a similar process had been undertaken, together with other procedures, including drilling and polishing/wear (Bayley 2001). A skull from Hunsbury, Northamptonshire, has a perforated vault. A number of human skull fragments were recovered from ditch contexts at Elms Farm, Humberstone (Boyle 2000), where they may or may not have been components of special deposits. Bayley suggests that in the case of the fragments from Billingborough, the evidence is consistent with their employment as amulets (2001, 78). Human skull remains were present in the fill of the enclosure at Weelsby Avenue, Grimsby, during its later Iron Age phase, where there were two cases from the frontage ditch of the enclosure, either side of the entrance, and two from the ditch at the back of the enclosure; the excavators speculate that these crania may have been displayed prior to their deposition (for references see Section 4.2).

Two exceptional sites occur in North Lincolnshire being small inhumation cemeteries. One of these was located at The Bridles, Barnetby le Wold, in 2002 where seven fragmentary skeletons were encountered in a row of graves formed by two groups, from what may have been a bigger cemetery (North Lincs HER MLS20030). No evidence for an enclosure or barrows was detected but a seven post rectangular structure associated with the row may have been a mortuary building or shrine. Three of the burials dated to 420-370, 350-310 and 160-60 BC (North Lincs HER MLS20030). A cranial fragment was found in a nearby ditch but may be Roman rather than Iron Age while another inhumation found in 2001 and dated 180-30 BC, not part of the row, was of a woman who had been bound and decapitated; a skull in a pit 3.5 m beyond is thought to belong to this burial (North Lincs HER MLS20030). A second small cemetery comprising nine inhumations of Middle Iron Age date was located by Horkstow Road, South Ferriby (Clay 2006; North Lincs HER MLS20457). Here, one inhumation was located in 2003, being a crouched burial of an adult 35-50 years, in a pit. Eight further inhumations were excavated in 2004, again crouched and aligned north-south. In the case of four burials of males the head was to the east but one woman faced west. No barrow or enclosure evidence was detected; radiocarbon dates for four of the better preserved burials were of the range 400-00 BC (MLS20457).

A square enclosure at Aston-upon-Trent, Derbyshire, postulated as an Iron Age barrow on analogy with the square barrows of East Yorkshire (Stead 1991), was examined in 1967 but contained no evidence of a burial (May 1970). This led to the suggestion that it constituted a cenotaph, which might be considered circular thinking. Small square enclosures, conventionally taken to represent barrow cemeteries, occur at two other locations in Nottinghamshire, at the Ness, North Muskham and Hoveringham. Originally, these would be likely to have been impressive features especially if they were related to burial. Burials here may not have been in cuts but laid on the land surface and covered with a mound from ditch up-cast, only subsequently to be lost through erosion and so forth. Knight has recently summarized and reviewed the evidence (Knight 2007, 206-7). The possibility that there was a cart burial at Hunsbury remains an open question (cf. Kidd 2000; Baker 1891; George 1917; Knight 1984, 115).

Strontium and oxygen isotope analysis undertaken on bones belonging to five of the individuals excavated at Fin Cop (see Section 6) showed only one adult registering results consistent with origins on the limestone of the White Peak while three of the individuals showed results suggesting they could be from the sedimentary areas within 30 km of the site; the other (female) adult had an unusually high strontium isotope ratio indicating origins in a granitic area (Waddington and Montgomery 2017, 22). The study showed that whilst these five individuals had differing origins their diet as adults was similar (Waddington and Montgomery 2017, 54).

10. Ritual, Structured Deposition and Religion

10.1 Introduction

As in other parts of the British Isles, the corpus of ritual and structured deposits of first millennium BC date in the region is growing, reflecting the renewed interest in such phenomena (cf. Merrifield 1987; Hill 1995c; Bradley 1990; Hingley 1992). Many finds attributed this status were found long ago, being ‘spectacular’ items of metalwork from riverine contexts (May 1976a). There is an established narrative that intentionally placed and structured deposits were not uncommon in later prehistory and include extraordinary fine items, often of metal; yet now there is a growing realization they may equally be of less obtrusive form and content, being of modest, even mundane and highly fragmentary, artefactual or ecofactual items of ‘the ‘everyday’. Hence they are likely to be encountered fairly routinely during fieldwork, although, recognition and interpretation are layers of understanding we in the present ascribe to the deposits, often on the basis of their composition and context. They offer, potentially, a highly useful point of access into the belief systems of the period, which are now being explored in a sophisticated manner.

10.2 Structured Deposition: Types of Deposits

On the whole, the patterns so far discernible in the East Midlands seem to echo more widely recognised trends in British later prehistory. The pattern of metalwork deposition, for example, changes over the course of the first millennium BC (cf. Hunter 1997). A tradition of deliberate deposition of fine items (e.g. swords) characterises the Late Bronze Age. This, however, ends with the Iron Age transition, such deposits being highly exceptional during the middle centuries of the millennium. A ‘resumption’ in the deposition of fine metalwork then occurs in the later Iron Age. This sequence is strikingly apparent at Flag Fen, Cambridgeshire, on the south-east margin of our region (Pryor 2001). In Nottinghamshire, for example, a series of impressive Late Bronze Age metalwork finds have been recovered from the Trent, yet also, in turn, La Tène style metal items (cf. Bishop 2000; Phillips 1934, 105; May 1976a, 128–9; Watkin et al. 1996; Davies 2006).

The materials and functional types selected for deposition reveal certain preferences and patterning. Metal items relating to warfare, ‘productivity’, status and control are particularly prominent. During the Late Bronze Age and Later Iron Age these include swords (and their scabbards), spears and shields – elegant and often elaborate pieces symbolic of power and martial status. Also occurring are axes and artefacts relating to the production of metal, in other words items to do with transformation that facilitate agricultural production and the ability to manufacture material culture that will help alter and ‘control’ the natural and social environments. From Billingborough in southern Lincolnshire, for instance, an iron metalworking ‘poker’ recovered during excavation is an apparent votive deposit (Chowne et al. 2001, 95).

It is also clear that querns were deposited in symbolic locations and as special deposits (cf. Hingley 1992; Willis 1999, 99). This phenomenon has, however, yet to be systematically examined across the region. The role of querns in converting grain to flour is likely to have resulted in their being invested with particular significance, and seems likely to account for their selection as votive items and as components of structured deposits. The first millennium BC was, of course, a period during which grain production and management was especially prominent, and vital given likely growing populations. At Wanlip querns of both saddle and rotary type were found together, evidently forming a structured deposit (Beamish 1998; Marsden 1998a). Querns found in pits at Ancaster Quarry (May 1976a, 136) and Hunsbury hillfort may also be elements of structured deposits, as may some of the querns from Breedon Hill. At Burrough Hill, Leicestershire, two complete rotary querns (including upper and lower stones in both cases, together with their iron spindles) looked to be placed deposits in a pit, with one unused and a whole pottery vessel also present (Cooper et al. 2012, 94-6).

Structured deposits involving faunal remains may also be recognised, either faunal remains on their own, or accompanied. Some are open to ‘practical’ explanation, others are more difficult to account for in such terms. Structured deposits involving faunal remains include perhaps a part carcass of a sheep at Ancaster Quarry (May 1976a, 137-8), a dog burial and perhaps that of a crane at Billingborough (Chowne et al. 2001), four complete skeletons of young sheep in lower fills of Pit 1691 at Foxhills, Brackley (Morris 2019, 101), an animal skull (species not specified) placed upside down in the base of a terminal of an eaves-drip gully at Wilby Way, Wellingborough (Enright and Thomas 1998, 32), and an assemblage of calf bones from the top fill of a major ditch at Nettleton, Mount Pleasant, Lincolnshire, which looks to have been selectively placed (Stallibrass 1999). Human skeletal material also seems likely to have been subject to ritualised processes; cases of the ‘unusual’ treatment of human skulls are noted above (Section 9) while such separated bones can be included along with other material in structured placements.

Some groups of ‘mundane’ remains encountered at settlements also appear to be structured deposits (cf. Section 10.1). What is mundane to the archaeologist may be something invested with significance in the past; all that remains is the items, the context and the archaeological imagination; missing are the thoughts, narratives, processes, ceremony and investment in words, actions, etc. around (what we deduce as) past ‘events’. The placement of ‘everyday’ remains seems to be the case at the Late Bronze Age ringfort at Thrapston, Northamptonshire, where a series deposits including shed red deer antler, burnt pig bone and pottery were encountered in ditch fills at junction points (Hull 2001, 89). Similarly at Elms Farm, Humberstone (Charles et al. 2000, 159–60), dating to the Middle to Late Iron Age, complete or near complete pottery items, animal bone and metalworking debris occur in groups, the contexts of which are suggestive of special areas and boundaries. The earlier Iron Age site at Wanlip, Leicestershire (Beamish 1998) shows a combination of settlement, ritual and mortuary activity. As Clay (2001) notes, this follows trends observed elsewhere in the Early and Middle Iron Age of ritual events and acts occurring within domestic settlements. In the later Iron Age religious and votive action began to occur at specific locations outside domestic/settlement spheres, in specifically dedicated locations – namely at places we term shrines – although these practices did not entirely cease in the domestic sphere (cf. Hill 1995c).

Considering the possible use of organic material in such activities, samples routinely collected in order to capture palaeoeconomic/palaeoenvironmental data may well lead to the identification of special/structured deposits.

10.3 Contexts of Deposition

As elsewhere in the British Isles, the contexts of deposition from which these ritual/votive items have been forthcoming are very often boundaries, thresholds, earlier monuments and ‘watery’ locations (cf. Fitzpatrick 1984; Hingley 1990; Priest et al. 2003). The aforementioned poker from Billingborough had been deposited in a silted Bronze Age boundary ditch. That pit alignments and linear dykes were the focus for structured deposits is noted above (Section 7.2). Thresholds and entrances, of both settlement enclosures and roundhouses, are often associated with finds of this type, often ceramics (cf. Gwilt 1997) or faunal remains (Section 10.2). At Elms Farm, Humberstone, for example, pottery groups almost invariably occur at or by the termini of roundhouse ring gullies (Charles et al. 2000, illus. 42).

10.4 Foundation and Termination

In the case of the Middle Iron Age site at Hallam Fields, Birstall, Leicestershire, Speed discussed the high quantities of pottery within the western and eastern eaves-drip gully terminals of the roundhouse within enclosure 1 (Speed 2010, 63-5) suggesting that this probably indicated a termination practice marking the abandonment of the building. Similar acts or rites of termination are attested elsewhere in Britain, as at Burradon, north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where two pits were cut into the fills of the eaves-drip gully of the abandoned main house and backfilled with a range of cultural items, as, apparently, the final act of closure (Willis 1999; cf. Woodward and Hughes 2007, 201). At Fleak Close, Barrow-upon-Trent, a pit was dug at the corner of the largely filled Iron Age enclosure ditch and at its base a large collection of red deer antler and a pig jaw were interpreted as a likely termination deposit marking a former domestic milieu (Knight and Southgate 2001; Knight 2007, 203). Speed notes other likely cases in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire (Speed 2010, 65). Speed and Cooper note the placed fragments of querns and pottery in post pits at Cadeby in the first century AD seemingly marking an end of use (Speed 2011). Hence, foundation and closure deposits should be expected to occur in the region with some regularity.

10.5 Watery Environments

The metalwork from the Witham and the Trent indicates an association with running water and particularly with the great rivers of the region (cf. Davies 2006). On the other hand a La Tène III sword came from a palaeochannel of more modest scale at Aldwincle (Megaw 1976). Bogs and ‘natural’ water sources might also be anticipated repositories for such material. There is a notable absence within the region of the type of deep shafts known in other parts of Britain that may have been designed to reach the water table or to be seasonally wet (cf. Webster 1997). Wells and water pits occur at settlements (although less frequently than on Roman sites); as elsewhere, examples may have been the focus for ritual deposits, although practical reasons for depositing items into a well may be the explanation. A water pit of Late Iron Age date excavated at Warren Farm, Lockington, was thought to be for livestock; a quernstone was found at its base (Thomas 2013, 100).

In reporting Bronze Age metalwork finds from Shardlow Quarry by the River Trent Davies suggests a two tier scenario accounting for the presence of these finds: at one level a localized ritual of deposition into water channels for individual communities and a higher level involving a wider community wherein “the finest weapons of the tribal leaders were offered at Clifton, a central place …” where all communities gathered for the ceremony, speculating there may have been a wooden platform for such occasions as at Flag Fen (Davies 2006, 40). Similar visualizations have been suggested to account for finds in watery places, as gifts to the supernatural world and its deities through the portal of water. A scenario of wooden causeways enabling lavish watery sacrifices have been proposed for the lake finds at La Tène in Switzerland and in the case of Fiskerton on the Witham (Field and Parker Pearson 2003), although other explanations are possible (Fitzpatrick 2018).

10.6 Shrines

Whilst some areas of southern Britain saw the emergence of ‘shrines’ – formal locations with features and structures – during the later Iron Age, the East Midlands has few candidates. One aspect is the question of visibility: many of the Iron Age shrines known from southern Britain have only come to light through distinct surface finds or through the investigation of more readily identifiable Roman remains where a monumental temple overlies an earlier Iron Age shrine, which is small, lacks structures of substance and is largely ephemeral (as at Lancing Down, West Sussex (Bedwin 1981) and Elms Farm, Heybridge, Essex (Atkinson and Preston 1998). Moreover, the nature of reverential practice and offerings clearly varied place to place, perhaps due to the differences in deity and how they were honoured. This could explain why the archaeological ‘signature’ follows no set pattern and why, on occasions, it may be almost non-existent; that is to say, not readily detected by aerial photography, geophysical survey, fieldwalking or metal detecting. At their most developed the shrines of southern Britain, by the latest phases of the Iron Age, were laid out in a manner similar to that of Roman temples, while likewise practices were not dissimilar by that stage.

The sites at Wakerley and Weekley, Northamptonshire, may have performed such a function (Kidd 2004; Gwilt 1997), whilst the religious site at Thistleton in south-west Lincolnshire evidently had a Late Iron Age pedigree (Allen 1965; Liddle 1982; Whitwell 1982; Liddle and Taylor 2019). It is likely that many of the sites with sizeable assemblages of Iron Age coins and brooches identified in Lincolnshire (May 1984; 1994) were locations of shrines or temples, the coins being votive deposits (cf. Willis 2013b). Kidd (2000) noted other possible ritual structures in Northamptonshire: at Crick (Chapman 1995; see below), Stanwell Spinney (Dix and Jackson 1989) and Wilby Way, Wellingborough, where the evidence is thin for such an interpretation (Enright and Thomas 1998, 32; 1999). The enigmatic site at Red Hill, Ratcliffe-on-Soar, probably included a late Roman temple, which may well have had its origins as an Iron Age shrine (Challis and Harding 1975; Elsdon 1982). At Covert Farm, Crick, feature/structure E9 dated to the later Middle Iron Age had an unusual elliptical wide ditch facing in the opposite direction to most ring gullies, with an inner complete circular ring gully, all at a point where Beaker pottery had been recovered from an earlier phase; a religious function seems possible (Hughes and Woodward 2015, 66-7).

What is suggested as a possible shrine (with proviso) was discovered at South Cockerington on the Lincolnshire Marsh in advance of the Covenham to Boston pipeline (Bush forthcoming, site D6). Here an annular ditch 11 m in diameter encircled a central pit containing a complete (but fragmented) inverted Middle Iron Age jar, with post holes arcing round the pit. Charcoal from one of the post holes dated to 366-201 cal BC. Given that date this feature complex would constitute one of earliest known Iron Age shrines. The annular ditch was recut. Animal bones included a high proportion of pig. Bush points out that it is perhaps, significant that it appears to be positioned separately from settlement features, while the layout is similar to shrines at Harlow (Haselgrove 1999a, fig. 7.7) and Heybridge; at the latter site the Iron Age circular shrine had a central pit found to contain a complete pottery vessel interpreted as a votive offering (Atkinson and Preston 2015, 87, fig. 6.1; Bush forthcoming). Also from eastern Lincolnshire, work ahead of the construction of the Partney Bypass, on the south-eastern Wolds revealed evidence for a probable Late Iron Age shrine at site PTN9 04 where there was an apparent temnos (Atkins forthcoming).

Under this heading the Hallaton complex, in eastern Leicestershire, represents something unprecedented (Score 2011; 2012; Priest et al. 2003). At this site, by the point of passage through a made boundary, a complex of hoard deposits were excavated, leading to the recovery of almost 5000 Iron Age coins and 148 Republican and pre-Claudian coins, together with other metalwork (some striking and rare in a British context) and substantive faunal remains. The excavation work included strong community involvement and as pointed out in the publication represents a rare case of hoard site investigation on an extensive scale. The coin deposits and faunal remains indicate gifting taking place from around the turn of the millennium and into the earlier decades of the new century. Feasting focused on the consumption of (boiled) pork appears to have been a repeated open air practice, envisaged as part of the ceremonies involving sizable gatherings (Score 2011) while some items may relate to cleaning rituals (Score 2012). Browning provides a contextual and comparative discussion of the site dynamics around sacrifice, ritualized consumption and feasting based on the faunal deposits (Browning 2011a). The site is important for the new light it sheds on central England, particularly on the dynamics of power, community and contacts with wider spheres, including the Roman empire, before AD 43 (cf. Haselgrove 2011).

10.7 Engaging Structured Deposition, Ritual and Religious Practice

This short review demonstrates that structured deposits were quite common, and should be anticipated in future interventions. Some features and activities, however, noted elsewhere in later British prehistory are not yet attested in the region (e.g. ritual shafts) or are thinly represented (e.g. rituals involving human and cattle heads; shrines). Recognizing and interpreting structured and ritual remains requires criteria for identification and careful approaches (Wilson 1992; cf. Gwilt 1997). To respond to the challenge of recognising them, new methodological approaches may well be required.

There is perhaps a tendency for the archaeological community to conflate structured and selected deposits as representing belief systems and ‘rituals’ in all cases; however, the meanings and understandings of these practices for people in the first millennium BC were perhaps often complex, context specific and textured with nuance, in others perhaps more a routine embedded practice maybe not reflected upon greatly. Many such activities are likely to represent strategies (that become routines) relating to the negotiation of uncertainties in human life, and status passages; uncertainties requiring an offering and an incantation to ensure a desired outcome. These uncertainties were often (likely) related to food generation or procurement, fertility, health, productive and transformative undertakings, and the tensions around power – and will have occurred regularly on a variety of scales. As more examples of these activities are documented and as our interpretations develop we should be able to recognise more patterns. We will never open the ‘black box’ of past belief systems but the archaeological exploration of this domain should define some parameters and should play a role in generating interpretations of society and culture at this time as we seek to comprehend it.

An apparent disturbed hoard or series of hoards of coins recovered from Reynard’s Kitchen – a cave in Dovedale, Derbyshire – comprised three Roman Republican issues, six Iron Age gold coins and 13 Iron Age silver units and half units. Were these a religious offering, stored portable wealth, a ‘flight hoard’ from the time of the Claudian invasion, or about something else? Certainty is unobtainable and the interpretation remains open (Hyam 2014; Leins 2014).

11. Agriculture through the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age: Summary

This Section is best read alongside Monckton’s coverage of this era in her environmental synthesis chapter that formed part of the original Resource Assessment (Monckton 2006).

11.1 Background

  • By the Late Bronze Age much land had been cleared for agriculture. This process continued through the first millennium BC both to extend grazing and arable land, although within this general trend there were periods of regrowth in some areas and the process varied place to place.
  • New areas cleared and colonized included landscapes less conducive to cultivation but tilling was probably better enabled on clay soils with the use of iron ard selves and coulters and probably with cattle ‘improved’ over time to provide stronger animals for traction. Ditching will have assisted drainage.
  • The climatic downturn through the earlier part of the millennium meant harsher conditions which would have made arable cultivation more challenging while some hitherto grazing lands were evidently (periodically or continually) waterlogged. However, local studies demonstrate a likely complicated picture.
  • The extent to which agricultural choices and the balance of livestock and arable farming was a function of soils still needs concerted attention.

11.2 Livestock

  • Livestock raising evidently expanded through the millennium, particularly that of cattle and sheep/goats. The manure of these animals will have been important for soil fertility in cleared areas particularly under arable cultivation. Mixed farming was probably the norm.
  • Cattle were used primarily for meat and hides, with oxen employed for traction. Horn, fats and oils, and probably dairy products were secondary. Sheep/goats were raised primarily for wool and meat, with secondary products comprising dairy, skins, horn and fats/oils.
  • Understanding pastoral economies is complicated by the non-survival of bone in acid soils within the region, while the comparatively thin archaeological record for the earlier first millennium means samples are small and this limits what can be said of them, especially for reasons of representativeness.
  • ‘Producer sites’ are identified by culling and age profiles as raised livestock may have been exchanged as live animals and ‘walked off’ leaving only, at best, indirect traces.
  • The rise of land divisions and enclosures, plus identification of likely stock processing systems, point towards the expansion of livestock farming.
  • Transhumance with herds presumed to be more common in the Bronze Age seems likely to have largely come to a halt in the first millennium BC as land and rights are appropriated through divisional features. Movement to summer grazing will have continued and probably intensified, combined with other seasonal activities.
  • Although sheep bones often form higher percentages amongst site assemblages than those of cattle, cattle were typically the principal source of meat followed by sheep. It is likely that raising sheep and cattle was a complementary undertaking at this time.
  • Specialization in livestock rearing is likely in some cases, related to ‘best practice’.
  • Some sites have larger proportions of pig bones present – both likely producer and consumer sites. On the whole though pigs were of marginal importance in everyday diets and economics. However, pig, and/or perhaps wild boar, occur prominently in feasting and ceremonial contexts.
  • Manufacture of dairy products is assumed but rarely attested by any means (such as ORA).
  • Horses (typically of pony size) and dogs are commonly present, usually in modest numbers. Horses were at least occasionally eaten. The domestic fowl appears for the first time.
  • Wild animals were rarely consumed judging from samples from settlement sites and elsewhere.
  • Some caution is necessary in this respect as wild species may have been consumed away from settlement sites etc. leaving no trace. The numerous fish traps discovered at Must Farm just to the south of the region and of Bronze Age date demonstrate a considerable interest in catching fish at that time, though samples from first millennium sites rarely show any fish remains. Where they occur they can often be explained in ways other than for human consumption.
  • In the past twenty years many provisionally examined as well as published samples from the region have been interpreted as suggesting greater pastoral activity, as opposed to arable cultivation, than previously might have been assumed. The actual balance is not readily established and raises questions around the nature of the evidence: is this newly emerging picture a function of the areas of the landscape being developed since 1990 – specifically along valley bottoms and sides as modern settlements expand into adjacent hinterlands, particularly along transport corridors that often follow valleys? Much new development is on low-lying areas in and around modern towns hitherto not built upon as historically deemed a flood risk; these environs will have been past grazing lands. Or is this a ‘correction’ to the idea largely based on data from Wessex and the east of England of a concentration on cereals?

11.3 Arable

  • With regard to crops the same types of issues arise from the paucity of the archaeological record for the earlier first millennium BC.
  • The Iron Age in Britain was a period of highly successful innovative and intense arable cultivation with cereals likely to be the staple for a great many communities, although this may only apply from the Middle Iron Age and not for all areas of the East Midlands.
  • Spelt was the main cereal grown in the region from the Middle Iron Age at least, for bread flour; emmer and to a lesser extent bread wheat occur. Hulled barley was also a popular crop.
  • A moderate percentage of sites provide evidence for crop processing, while there are several cases of preserved grain recovered in association with four post structures.
  • A key aspect of the nature of the evidence is that samples almost unvariably produce low presence and frequency counts for charred cereal grains and plant matter.
  • The latter may reflect the nature of practice in the first millennium BC rather than constitute an index of the actual quantities being grown in so far as for cereal presence and identification, presence is dependent on the charring of cereal grains, chaff etc. at sites in order to assess the degree of production and dependence on cereals. However, carbonization of grains and plant parts is a matter of chance and cereals may not have been exposed to an environment where charring might occur.
  • The introduction of rotary querns from around the early third century BC enabled flour production to become much more efficient so that larger quantities of grain could be processed. This will have been advantageous in the context of rising population numbers.
  • Soil fertility may have been an issue with land exhaustion if there was insufficient manuring and the run off of nutrients where there was no tree presence. Soil erosion on a very significant scale occurred at this time, demonstrable in the sediments in the major valleys of the region.

Useful site and area discussions include the following reports: Hadjikoumis 2018; Browning 2011a; 2011b.

12. Environmental Sampling and Environmental Reconstruction (with a focus on insect remains)

The contribution of environmental sampling through its varied means (such as studies of pollen, land molluscs, insect remains, wood, carbonized plant matter, sediments, etc.) to understanding past ecologies, anthropogenic impacts and economies cannot be doubted, as this Assessment demonstrates. Often linked with radiocarbon dating it can enable landscape reconstruction and the characterization and use-identification of specific features. Study of these remains is highly specialized, requires reference material and is time consuming, requiring appropriate relevant budgeting within projects, including dating programmes. Quite a proportion of studies referred to in this Assessment were conducted decades ago, though remaining relevant – indeed on which the subject is still reliant – and this will be true for Resource Assessments for other periods. Pollen study is a case in point. Clearly, the pattern signals that a greater proportion of investment in such work occurred prior to 1990, when numbers of people working in archaeology were much smaller than today and budgets were tiny compared to sums spent on the recovery and publication of archaeological remains today.

A small number of publications and site repots for the region exist that include studies of insect remains collected from waterlogged contexts. Such studies can provide significant evidence for both specific feature micro-environments and wider site-settings, and not infrequently landscape change, given that insect species representation is a sensitive indicator. Studies of insect taxa from Bronze Age and Iron Age contexts and Late Iron Age and Roman sites include the pioneering research at Thorne Moors (Buckland 1979), reports by Buckland on samples from Washingborough, Lincolnshire (Buckland 2009), from below the Brigg ‘raft’ (Buckland 1981), and Dragonby, North Lincolnshire (Buckland 1996) and the report of Girling in the case of Tattershall Thorpe (Chowne et al. 1986), plus reports for Stamford Road, Oakham (Greig et al. 1999), and Soar Valley Way, Enderby (Hill and Smith 2018) in Rutland and Leicestershire. However, the possibilities of material recovered from earlier work at sites like the channel of the Old Slea at Sleaford, Lincolnshire, adjacent to the Iron Age mint etc. (Elsdon 1997), and the Brayford Pool in Lincoln, were never realised while the study of the remains from Dragonby was only partial by reason of limited funding, despite the comprehensive sampling regime followed on site by Jeffery May (pers. comm. P. Buckland). Also significant in this context are the following: the multi-disciplinary research of Krawiec, who studied the landscape of the Trent-Derwent confluence at Shardlow Quarry, Derbyshire (Krawiec 2012), and also for this location the Bronze Age insect faunas and plant macrofossils (Smith and Smith 2017); the environmental studies related to Manor Pit, Baston, Lincolnshire (Allison et al. 2020); Robinson’s contribution in the Raunds survey volume for the Neolithic and Bronze Age (Robinson 2011); and his work on dung beetles (Robinson 2013). Buckland points up the worth of collating a list of known sites with suitable waterlogged deposits (and archives) and flagging those with the greatest potential and knowledge value for more detailed palaeoecological research, if the opportunities present themselves as a result of development or drainage works (pers. comm. P. Buckland). Above all, provision in training insect and other specialists is essential if expert study is to continue.

13. Setting Settlements in their Contemporary Landscape and Comparative Context

Attempts at wider landscape reconstruction are now made possible for those areas that have seen several or more larger scale interventions in recent years. Some cases from Leicestershire illustrate this. Speed’s report on the enclosed Iron Age settlement at Hallam Fields, Birstall, Leicestershire (cf. Section 4.3), included a discussion with attention to landscape mapping and contextualization of the site in the light of other known sites and landscape features. This was combined with a comprehensive comparative assessment of the morphology of the site, as well as helpful illustration of artefact distributions that indicate depositional practice and site formation processes (Speed 2010, 66-71). A similar approach is followed in his analysis of the site at South Meadow Road, Upton, Northampton (Speed 2015, 66-70) where in an area a little under 4 km by 4 km the known Iron Age sites are plotted providing windows on what was evidently an intensively used area in the Iron Age given the feature densities; again site morphology and size are set against other regional examples. Equally, in developing an analysis of the two nearby sites of Beaumont Leys and Humberstone, Leicestershire, Thomas uses comparisons for sites and houses to place the evidence from these two sites within what was an evolving settlement system and economic landscape (Thomas 2011a, chapter 9). The roundhouses, for instance, are compared by time period (ibid. fig.124), while settlement/activity and organization are suggested by functional areas at Manor Farm (ibid., fig. 127). The experience of daily life and common practices for site inhabitants is also considered in that publication and somewhat echoes the contextual and sensory perspectives innovatively pursed with the Covert Farm, Crick investigations (Hughes and Woodward 2015, chapters 9 and 10). In the case of Soar Valley Way, Enderby, also in Leicestershire, the known Iron Age landscape in the vicinity of the site was likewise mapped but in this case also annotated with interpretations of how space was suggested to be used in this landscape (Kipling and Beamish 2018, fig. 94). A series of interventions around Crick have likewise provided a broader picture of the extensive settlement of the area, particularly in the Middle Iron Age, showing the later prehistoric ‘neighbourhood’ ((Hughes and Woodward 2015; Masefield et al. 2015). Deegan’s collation of evidence from Northamptonshire includes plots of sites and cropmarks across landscape blocks together with a very useful corpus of site plans (Deegan 2007). Such mapping enables analysis but also, by looking beyond the traditional site based focus, shows those sites in a new light, generating questions and interpretations as to how contemporary sites in proximity worked.

14. Social Relations and Society in the First Millennium BC

The nature of social relations in the region is a fundamental area as it will have been significant in shaping decisions and forms of expression. Further, it is a key aspect in any attempts to view the ‘bigger picture’, for interpreting the period and in con­structing syntheses. Nonetheless, detailed attention to social relations is something to be addressed elsewhere. Here, some aspects are highlighted.

As the first millennium progresses there is increasing evidence for an organized and controlled landscape geared to economic productivity, in order for communities to reproduce themselves and for exchange of surplus. How this was arranged and where authority lay, and the nature of that authority is less clear. The Early and Middle Bronze Age likewise had levels of organization and imprint; in the first millennium BC the manifestations are different and become more widespread with time. Enclosure and land division, together with settlement foci, emerge and become marked, and can now be seen in many places, in what becomes, more so than before, a ‘continuous landscape’ of habitation and use. The middle and lower valleys of the main rivers of the region, for instance, demonstrate cropmarks confirming the attraction and heavy use of the alluvium and gravels, yet equally the uplands saw occupation, mixed agriculture and human signature. Manifestations were framed and fashioned by ideas and choices made locally but evidently often demonstrating strands of shared ideology and practical realization. There occur variations and similarities, areas of thin record and those where it is concentrated. By the end of the Iron Age society and its forms in central England have transformed from what existed in the later Bronze Age (See Section 1.3.3). Given the timescale involved, the varied geography and variability within the archaeological record of the millennium generalization must be limited and come with provisos, though the rough sketch of this Section is a reasonable vignette of the evidenced trends.

Social relations during the Late Bronze Age are enigmatic: society was changing then with the ending of the round barrow burial tradition, more settled agriculture, large scale hoard deposition, the growing prominence of personal arms, and yet comparatively little settlement evidence. The degree of social continuity into the Early Iron Age is also obscure. Certainly there were particular sources of social stress during the first half of the millennium due to climatic changes, the full debut of iron replacing copper alloy as the leading technology, potential population increase, new organization of land rights, etc. (cf, Needham 2007).

The early part of the first millennium seems likely to have witnessed the decline of transhumance and increased ‘permanent’ settlement and with it land division/holding (cf. Bishop 2000; Knight 2007). In the East Midlands, as elsewhere in lowland Britain, the first millennium BC, particularly from the middle centuries onward, was a period of marked population growth. By conventional thinking a dynamic of population increase and agricultural colonisation, intensification and innovation becomes apparent, leading to changes in landscape use impacting to various degrees across the region. Population increase and agricultural change were entwined drivers of change with the latter enabling and required by the former. This package of change transforms society. Claylands, the Fens and other wetlands were brought into use (or more intense, different usage). An increase in grain production, and also of other products is suggested by the archaeological remains such as the various storage means: pits, timber granaries, new large ceramic vessels. These patterns are becoming clearer through the concerted work of the past 30 years and ongoing (building upon earlier significant site investigations).

Mineral exploitation in the form of iron smelting and metalworking and intensification of salt production, together with agricultural surplus and its secondary products, as well as craft production, will have generated commodities to exchange and, from that, forms of ‘wealth’ and perhaps empowerment. There may have been contestation in these areas (forms of conflict). How these new types of economy were organised and controlled is a key matter for investigation via theory and interpretation, grounded in the archaeological evidence. Centralising control may have existed, or egalitarian structures may have been in place; there may have been variations in time and space. The model of a comparatively egalitarian (long) Middle Iron Age in England proposed by Sharples (1991) and Hill (1995a) is seemingly not contradicted by the evidence from the East Midland region: there are no indicators of ‘chiefs’, conspicuous wealth, grander residencies, differences in consumption or patterns at this time, as the complexes at Brackley and Crick demonstrate. Work in the Trent valley, for example, has yielded few artefacts indicative of significant status variations for any part of the first millennium BC. That finds of brooches or glass beads is only occasional indicates access to or interest in higher value commodities was minimal in this sub-region and there was limited use of adornment or accoutrements to signal wealth or status difference (e.g. Henderson 1992b; Knight 2007, 208). Until the Late Iron Age material culture and life look to have been in many ways circumscribed: finds assemblages are limited in range, numbers and forms, with little decoration; foods and diets will have been repetitive lacking variety; settlements probably looked more or less the same. The record speaks to a certain monotony in material culture, consumption and expression, at least on the face of it. There is nothing certain in the layout or sizes of sites and buildings to suggest hierarchy. If status differences existed they left no trace. In terms of what is discernible the evidence for much of the first millennium conforms to an interpretation of egalitarian social relations.

In the latest Iron Age, changes occur, as elsewhere in southern and eastern England, suggestive of more social differentiation and hierarchy, and centralization of wealth, contacts and power, implicit from coin making and circulation, centripetal incidence in the distribution of exotic imports and a sense of ‘centres’, some enclosed with long dykes (but not so in the East Midlands on current knowledge). This new configuration is much more manifest in the south and east of the region than in the north and west. The adoption of coinage, and the greater use of personal accoutrements such as brooches, and attention to the appearance of the self, implied by cosmetic instruments, may be bound up with status and a new or more manifest categorisation of individuals in society (cf. Hill 1995a).

Warfare and hostility seem to have been uncommon through the whole of the period. This remains a matter for investigation as it may simply be a function of lack of evidence, not necessarily meaning violence did not often occur. This is a debated area (cf. Section 6) . The sparse human skeletal record available for the region indicates little in the way of endemic violence, though it is seen more so beyond the region in certain instances through skeletal remains (cf. Section 6); so why would the East Midlands be different? The evidence recovered for a massacre at Fin Cop is a standout case and without parallel to date within the region (though similar cases were noted elsewhere (Section 6)). It is unclear how exceptional this brutal event was. Whilst there is a wide corpus of martial items for the region much of this seems likely to have been ceremonial, symbolic and impractical as a means of attack or defence. Yet since the context of these finds would appear to be votive this may be unrepresentative; more functional robust equipment could surely be called upon, as in the case of swords and indeed the bark shield from Soar Valley Way, Enderby (Section 4.5). However, genuinely defended settlements within the region are thin on the ground (even if the Wootton Hill enclosures were for defence in possibly hostile times). Further, from the later Middle Iron Age if not before a lack of endemic conflict is implicit in the evident success of agriculture, economy and population, and from the nature of most enclosed sites, where some were still open or one side of a boundary ditch that appears non-defensive at this time. An absence of armed conflict, or of conflict resolution without mass violence, would have enabled productive activities to flourish. In such a world, ritual involving weaponry may have been symbolic, and in this connection it is pertinent to note the corpus of miniature versions of martial equipment from the region (cf. Bagnall Smith 1999).

Scrutiny of settlement morphology demonstrates that the builders followed entrenched templates in realising particular elements (e.g. circular structures, enclosures, settlement entrances). How these features were configured varied from site to site, though occasionally neighbouring enclosed settlements mirror each other or form pairs (Section 4.3). In consequence a landscape of settlements existed that shared considerable uniformity of elements but often diversity in the detail of their assembly. This picture contrasts with the more homogeneous patterns seen in some contemporary regions of Britain such as north-east England. Overall this pattern shows common cultural and phenomenological perceptions.

Something of a consensus view had been, that through much of its duration, the Iron Age was a world of individual farmsteads each inhabited by an extended family or small kin group (Hingley 1984; Hill 1995a). The archaeology seemed to underscore this idea with a patchwork pattern of small enclosed settlements around 0.25 ha. An idea that these were separate farms (as they did not occur in groups) led to the popular idea they were largely self-sufficient. In the East Midlands, in discussing the later Iron Age sites at Huncote and Enderby Meek described a world of small enclosed farmsteads across the landscape, characterized by a self-sufficient subsistence economy based on single family units/extended family units (Meek et al. 2004, 28). Chapman took the same view in characterizing the site at Hinkley, only in this case it was mainly pastoral (Chapman 2004, 79). Likewise the communities of the Peak District were seen as self-sufficient farms, separate and inward looking (Barnatt 1999; Barnatt and Smith 2004, 25). However, Cootes and Quinn questioned this idea of self- sufficiency and demonstrated that at last with regard to pottery the settlements were part of a wider connected community across the Peak District (Cootes and Quinn 2018; see Section 8.10.2). The discovery of the sites formed by agglomerated clusters of settlement, with large communities of several hundred people living in proximity, showed that different social arrangements existed and the need for more sophisticated thinking (models?) on how populations and economies operated.

Prehistorians have regularly seen large scale physical endeavours such as monument creation or the institution of earthworks at hillforts as collective undertakings that brought people together from dispersed settlements to a specific point in the landscape, these projects binding them in shared goals and experiences. Sharples saw the creation of the Iron Age hillfort at Maiden Castle, Dorset, in these terms, assisting community cohesion (Sharples 1991). The making of pit alignments and multiple dykes of the East Midlands may, by such thinking, have had similarly binding social effects. Feasting occasions too are seen in this light (cf. Needham and Bowman 2005; McOmish 1996; Gwilt 2009), remaking community and marking relations. There is some evidence for feasting within the region. The excavations at Washingborough, by the Witham, recovered apparent evidence for feasting during the era 1100-800 BC (Allen 2009). At Winton Road, Navenby, Lincolnshire, the content of a series of pits dating to the Early Iron Age suggests they received debris from feasting, perhaps with a ritual dimension, representing occasional but repeated communal activity, arguably reinforcing cohesion amongst a normally widespread community (Palmer-Brown and Rylatt 2011, 13-4). Equally, at the opposite end of the period, at Hallaton, Leicestershire, evidence indicates feasting as an element of group activities and ceremonies at that site (Score 2011). Feasts were for larger gatherings in which the consumption of food will have been one element alongside perhaps games, the reciting of group folklore, group recognition of individuals honouring achievements and status passages, all potentially underscoring the social fabric. Finds of martial equipment and other items in the rivers of the region, as noted (Section 10.5), have been seen in terms of a narrative of gifting, envisaging a ceremonial act of social drama, witnessed and shared by a community (Davies 2006; cf. Fitzpatrick 1984). Formal religious practices may have had a role in sustaining cohesion but again identifiable formal religious places are few and late in the sequence. We have no knowledge that any of these activities engendered social cohesion or to what level. The feasting and feature creation activities at least must have included a coming together of people; but with votive deposition that is not certain.

Coin types and distributions of the Late Iron Age are often seen as a portal on politics and relations at this time. They have been used to extrapolate the dynamics of power and authority on the cusp of the Roman period. Leins follows this line in discussion of the Hallaton coin hoards and beyond (Leins 2011, 56-7).

15. Summary: The Resource and its Potential

The East Midlands is rich in archaeological remains of the first millennium BC. Only a small fraction of the remains has been investigated and recorded archaeologically, despite the explosion of mitigation work since the advent of PPG16 in 1990. In some areas extant remains are clearly extensive, as witnessed by cropmarks, or revealed by area stripping or seen through multiple interventions. In other areas, less well-known, the archaeology may also be extensive but not readily detected by remote means and where development work may be at most sporadic. The density of sites and field systems discovered in the Killingholme area and hinterland in general of modern Grimsby in North-East Lincolnshire since 2000 has been a real revelation in this respect shows what can be present in areas with hitherto little record. In parts of Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, already known to have extensive remains for this period from earlier fieldwork and recording, the knowledge base has thickened dramatically in the past 25 years. On the other hand upland Derbyshire has, within an East Midlands context, an exceptional amount of upstanding archaeology, some well explored, but much is yet to be confidently dated and examined.

From a chronological perspective more is now known for the first half of the millennium when, previously, evidence was often elusive; better knowledge of pottery and more radiocarbon dating has assisted in the identification of remains of this period, but it is still a ‘thin record’. Archaeology of Middle Iron Age date has been prominent amongst the sites discovered and explored since 1990, adding more balance, as previously knowledge had been more skewed towards Late Iron Age sites especially through surface finds of coins and brooches recovered from the late 1960s with the advent of recreational metal detecting. Consequently, a great deal more is now known and full published compared to the period of gestation of the original Resource Assessments c. 2000-2003, as commercial archaeology has continued to recover data by controlled methods. This means there is knowledge of stratification and context, association and date (where radiocarbon programmes have been possible or finds – especially pottery – can provide this).

In consequence there are of course many more samples of artefacts and environmental remains to draw upon. The extent to which these assemblages have been studied and taken to publication is variable. So, more interventions and samples have not resulted in necessarily better quality data. Excellent and innovative work continues to be undertaken but the potential of the resource is often not fully realized; perhaps this is for reasons of limits to budget, time and other resources. Much reporting is formulaic, fitting lines of convention and not going beyond. Some recording and presentation techniques have changed within the past twenty years or so with digital recording and other technical and scientific advances manifest (e.g. applied use of GIS, LiDAR data, isotope analysis, ORA, a means of establishing more reliable C14 dates, etc.) and this has impacted on methods in some areas. That said, in many areas the basic methods are unaltered such that a practitioner from the 1970s would readily recognize approaches and techniques of the 2020s or their ethos. This is not a criticism but rather a reminder of how customary and conservative approaches have remained. The strength is that the records are objective and accessible but on the other hand their meaning and significance can be under realised. For instance, discussions sections can be brief, with limited or no attention to standard overview and synthesis literature for the period and some tendency not to reference beyond local reports, while finds studies remain compartmentalized with little attempt to integrate and synthesize the material remains beyond their type categories as an overall assemblage and testimony to the life of a site. Instead this is often left to summary points in discussion rather than a specific engagement with the findings across categories of type that Evans called for with Roman sites (Evans 1995b) and which has been undertaken for some first millennium BC sites elsewhere (e.g. Hunter 1999). It might be said in a counter to this latter suggestion that finds recovery is too numerically modest at first millennium sites to make this worthwhile, but if that is the case that is an argument for the excavation of greater fractions of feature fills and layers. No reports viewed for the original Resource Assessment nor the current one carried any volumetric analysis despite the fact that this is straightforward to undertake (recording soil volumes excavated on site at the time or calculated digitally during post excavation from context measurements) and has been demonstrated to be a useful means of comprehending site formation processes (human practice) and site consumption patterns which may be compared site to site (e.g. Eastaugh et al. 2006). This method establishes the ratio of finds to volume excavated per context and or context type and so establishes the frequency of items like pottery, bone and querns and by extrapolation environmental finds. At Foxhills, Brackley, for example, (see Section 4.2) there must have been a very high volume of excavated deposits per find but what was that ratio and how does it compare with other settlement clusters of similar date at Brackley and elsewhere? Volumetric analysis moves interrogation of finds beyond distribution/incidence plots or similar maps with absolute quantities shown by scaled symbols (useful as these may be when they occur). Doubtless in part ‘innovation’ is not happening because of the sheer scale of work needing to be undertaken day to day in order for archaeological recording to keep up with development (demands should not be underestimated) and perhaps simple lack of awareness of these approaches, and as there is no imperative to innovate, while being also a matter of the content of the briefs and standards projects are working to.

Often funds related to development work do not extend budgets for full write-ups even where the evidence recovered is of particular significance. It is important that the information recovered in these cases is studied and made accessible for ‘full-benefit. Cases in point include Polwell Lane, Barton Seagrave, Northamptonshire (Simmonds and Walker 2014), and Hoveringham Quarry, Gonalston, Nottinghamshire (Knight and Elliott 2008).

The remains vary; some sites are palimpsests of recut ditches, gullies and structural features, others have few features with few intersections. Hence relative simplicity or complexity may be encountered. Meanwhile the numbers of finds (especially metal items) being recorded subsequent to the introduction of the Portable Antiquities Scheme has proved enormous, with highlights for the period appearing in the popular ’50 Finds From …’ book series published by the county Finds Liaison Officers. All these recovered elements, through study and synthesis, carry tremendous potential for informing about the ‘life and times’ of this period: the everyday and the mundane, the special and the event. The region participated in processes discernible elsewhere in Britain, but also has distinctiveness and both regional and sub-regional dimensions of contrast. The diversity of settlement evidence includes some breath-taking foci of human activity (e.g. Mam Tor, Borough Hill (Daventry) and Hunsbury hillforts) alongside more ‘ordinary’ domestic settlements, while the material culture includes some of the most remarkable metal and none-metal artefacts to have been recovered from later prehistoric Britain, for instance the older finds of the Desborough mirror and the Witham shield (Brailsford 1975; for the mirror see too the British Museum website, accession 1924,0109.1) and more recent discoveries such as the set of beads from the Near East recovered at Gardom’s Edge dating to the first half of the millennium (Jackson 2017) and the bark shield from Enderby (Kipling and Beamish 2018). Yet still a great deal more remains to be either unearthed or preserved in situ. The rich nature of the evidence, through analysis and (changing) interpretations, can reveal how people situated and structured their lives, tackled practicalities and negotiated beliefs. Both strengths and weaknesses exist in the record, and their clarification by means of this review has highlighted a series of research priorities some of which are already addressed in the existing agenda and strategy for the region (Knight et al. 2012) but others have emerged.

Despite advances, this improved knowledge is very incomplete. For the period c. 1000–500 BC in particular, and in some areas generally, the available information is weak. That much of our record of settlement and activity for the millennium derives from river valleys and margins and areas of permeable geology is unsurprising and reflects patterns seen elsewhere for the first millennium BC (e.g. in Warwickshire). This is clearly, in part, a consequence of the agricultural practices of the period. For various reasons, including the latter, the record for Northamptonshire is comparatively strong, while that for parts of Leicestershire (especially in the hinterland of Leicester, particularly to the north), parts of the Fens, and the Trent valley is now equally firm. For these areas something of a coherent picture is beginning to emerge. In certain places enough information has been gathered from survey and excavations to plot records for areas through time to begin to reconstruct wider views beyond individual sites and place them within their contemporary landscape milieu (cf. Section 13). Contrasts exist between areas conducive to intense study by a particular method (e.g. aerial photography of large areas of Lincolnshire), and relatively ‘blank’ landscapes (e.g. the Lincolnshire Marsh).

Across the counties, the quantity of archaeological fieldwork on first millennium BC remains has been increasing. As in some other parts of Britain, the archaeology of the first millennium has been a, if not the, major beneficiary of PPG16 and its successors: that is to say more information relating to this era has been forthcoming in the context of modern development, than for other periods. It is likely that the existing biases in the environs examined by development-led archaeology projects will continue, exacerbating the patchy records of ‘hot-spots’ around existing urban areas and certain route-ways, while elsewhere there is little intervention and therefore little new data.

The archaeology of the first millennium BC in the East Midlands is of great significance for understanding wider patterns and processes of the period in Britain. A huge amount of work at various levels has been undertaken to realize the strong records now held for the region. The speed and scale of data ‘inflow’ and requirements and demands on those collecting and curating the information are considerable. The potential of the resource, both recorded and extant but not yet known is likewise considerable.

Appendix. A Note on Illustration

Whilst updating this Resource Assessment a colleague engaged in a similar update elsewhere in Britain contacted me as they noted what they saw as a decline in the frequency of the drawing of finds and in the quality of the drawings and they wondered if this was the case too for the East Midlands for the period considered here and wondered too more generally on the question of training and standards nationally.

The publication of the Washingborough excavations includes extensive illustration to a high standard including reconstruction by the late David Hopkins, which creates a helpful visualization closely reflecting the evidence recovered. The illustration of the various finds types in that volume is also exemplary.

Notes

1. The term roundhouse is used frequently in this Assessment. A more neutral term is circular structure (occasionally used). Roundhouse implies domestic living quarters and circular structure carries the possibility of a variety of uses. The term circular structure can have the disadvantage of making such foci seem ‘academic’ and abstract whereas these buildings were likely in the greater part to be lived and worked in places where daily routines, emotions, etc. were experienced; from that perspective roundhouse may be preferable term even if it carries some interpretative implications. All said the quality of the evidence for these foci is normally not specific as to use and functions and the terms are often used interchangeably and without specific definition in the literature of the region.

2. This Assessment does not extend to extracting information on finds from the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Acknowledgements

This present Assessment is developed from the original version that was completed in 2003 and published in 2006. Accordingly, the acknowledgements stand from the earlier version. The author remains indebted to the following individuals, and their teams, who wrote the individual county Assessments on which this framework still partly draws: David Barrett, Michael Bishop, Patrick Clay, Sandy Kidd and Steven Membery. No county Assessments were generated for this revision but county HER teams and contracting units kindly recommended or supplied selected copies of reports published since 2003 or HER documentation. The following people commented upon the draft of the original Assessment and are thanked: Mark Allen, John Barnatt, Patrick Clay, Bill Bevan, Graeme Guilbert, Colin Haselgrove, Sandy Kidd, David Knight and Angela Monckton. Turning to this revision, Milica Rajic kindly supplied information on the work in advance of the Hornsea Wind Farm cable transect. Paul Buckland, Jerry Evans and Richard Watts likewise sent through information on request. Anna Badcock and Allison Williams are also thanked. Feedback was gratefully received from those who attended the presentation of the revised Assessment on the 7th July 2021 as a ‘work in progress’ statement and the following roundtable discussion. Comments from the Steering Committee on an advance draft of the present Assessment were helpful and the contributors are thanked. The following people commented upon the content of this revised Assessment as requested readers and their contributions are similarly appreciated. Nick Cooper offered much practical assistance and advice with the original Assessment as well as helpful suggestions for this revision, and likewise David Knight with the revised version.

Bibliography

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