Late Bronze Age to Middle Iron Age Research Agenda

LBA-MIA 01: What can be done to refine the chronology of the Late Bronze Age to Middle Iron Age?

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There is a need to improve the dating of the Late Bronze Age to Middle Iron Age. In particular, dating has tended to focus on the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, leaving many outstanding questions about the date of Middle Iron Age sequences and material chronologies. There are gaps in the tree-ring sequence for the Early Iron Age and a plateau in the C14 curve for the Middle Iron Age, both of which are problematic. There is a need to broaden the range of dating methods to include OSL, archaeomagnetism and pottery hydration. Greater chronological refinement might be achieved via the application of Bayesian modelling to radiocarbon dates to help refine chronologies.
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DATING TECHNIQUES, RADIOCARBON DATING, IRON AGE, LATE BRONZE AGE, Optically Stimulated Luminescence, Archaeomagnetism, Chronology

LBA-MIA 02: Should the Middle Iron Age really be thought of as a distinct period?

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There is some discussion about whether the term Middle Iron Age is helpful, and whether it is really being used to collectivise everything that isn’t obviously Early Iron Age or Late Iron Age. In particular, it is wondered whether Middle Iron Age pottery might be better renamed with a typological name and understanding the dating of pottery in each region is important.
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IRON AGE, POTTERY, LATE BRONZE AGE, typology, Chronology

LBA-MIA 03: Which features should be sampled to give us the best understanding of the Late Bronze Age to Middle Iron Age and the chronology of change?

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Long term palaeoenvironmental sequences that traverse the Late Bronze Age to Middle Iron Age are high priority. Focus on long-lived features as a sampling area for control and understanding of the environment and its chronology of change, for example strip-lands, water-holes and other deep, well-preserved waterlogged pits. Exposures in wetland and coastal areas should be targeted.
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IRON AGE, LATE BRONZE AGE, Palaeoenvironmental Analysis, Chronology

LBA-MIA 04: How can we increase our understanding of the Early to Middle Iron Age transition?

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Further work is required to understand changes that occurred across the Early-Middle Iron Age transition, at a point conventionally placed during the 4th century BC. It should be noted that transitions take place at different times within the region. Details of shifts in settlement morphology, material traditions and the wider social geography of the region’s landscapes requires further definition, with aspects of these changes deserving of much closer dating.
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IRON AGE, LATE BRONZE AGE, Chronology

LBA-MIA 05: How can we increase our understanding of the familial and communal organisation?

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Future questions about social organisation and tribal politics should be pitched to better understand small, rural homesteads as the basis for familial and communal organisation, as opposed to addressing more abstract concepts of social hierarchy or identity in this period. We should attempt to identify and date the transitions from family-based units to territorial/tribal-based social groups. This may be reflected in building size.
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IRON AGE, LATE BRONZE AGE

LBA-MIA 06: How do we identify and characterise regional difference during the Late Bronze Age to Middle Iron Age?

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There is a need for comparative work to understand regional differences, and, indeed, cross-Channel differences. There may be widespread acknowledgement that things are different between areas, but the details have not been formally articulated. Collaboration with continental colleagues might allow the identification of contact between identifiable tribal groups in the East of England and identifiable groups in the Netherlands or Belgium.
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IRON AGE, LATE BRONZE AGE

LBA-MIA 07: What can we infer about the relationship between open and enclosed settlements?

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Excavated Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age settlement sites are now much more widely recorded across the region. Basic gaps in the settlement record have been filled, with each county having examples of unenclosed settlements. The relationship between these open settlements and settlement types such as ringworks, enclosures and large agglomerated pit-dominated sites requires further study and may reveal intra-regional differences in the character of settlement geography.
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SETTLEMENT, IRON AGE, ENCLOSURE, LATE BRONZE AGE, Settlement pattern

LBA-MIA 08: What can the relationship between settlements tell us about social change?

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There is a need to explore the range of settlement forms in the Late Bronze Age to Middle Iron Age and establish their patterning and distribution. We need to define more closely different types of settlement and enclosure, and explore how these vary over space and time. Examination of the inter-relationships between settlements, together with the variation and changes in settlement types, offers potential to explore the social changes taking place, as well as the inter-relationship between settlement and monuments.
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SETTLEMENT, IRON AGE, LATE BRONZE AGE, Funerary Enclosure, Funerary, Settlement pattern

LBA-MIA 09: Were settlements permanently or periodically occupied?

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We need to consider the issues of mobility and transhumance against the persistence of settlement. Sites may have been repeatedly or seasonally occupied and in this may be reflected in plant/animal signatures, and potentially also waterlogged insects remains. Related issues include how long settlements were used for and why are some sites were reused and others abandoned. Consideration also need to be given to environmental factors, such as the cooling of the climate c.800–700 BC.
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SETTLEMENT, IRON AGE, ANIMAL REMAINS, LATE BRONZE AGE, Plant Remains, Communications And Movement, Climate change, Settlement pattern

LBA-MIA 10: How can we better understand the relationships between contemporary sites?

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Further work is needed to explore connections between sites that are thought to be contemporary. How did they relate physically, economically and socially? The artefactual record should be used to explore differences in terms of status and adoption of different (and potentially linked) economic strategies.
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SETTLEMENT, IRON AGE, LATE BRONZE AGE, COMMUNICATIONS, Communications And Movement, society, Economy, Settlement pattern

LBA-MIA 11: Can finds assemblages be better used to characterise sites?

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Attempt to correlate patterns with quantity and range of finds to try to benchmark different types of sites. Is there a correlation between enclosure forms and economic signature from animal bone or pottery retrieved? Are all types of finds found across all types of site, or is there patterning in the content and composition?
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SETTLEMENT, IRON AGE, LATE BRONZE AGE, Economy, Settlement pattern, Artefact analysis, Artefact studies

LBA-MIA 12: How do we increase our understanding of hillforts, ringworks and other aggrandised enclosures?

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Hillforts in the region have seen little investigation in recent years. How East Anglian hillforts fit within the different interpretations advanced for hillforts in other parts of Britain needs more work. There is a need for synthesis of evidence from hillforts, ringworks and other aggrandised enclosures to further investigate their origins, history and status. An outline chronology based on scientific dates is needed for each of these sites if we are to properly understand their function and relationship to surrounding sites and one another. We need to understand more about why hillforts were positioned where they are in the landscape and what sort of environment they were located in when they were constructed. This will require the revisiting of archives, as opportunities for further site-based investigation are likely to be rare, together with the use of museum and archive collections for sites adjacent to older excavated sites. Late Bronze Age ringworks would benefit from further review and study. Programmes of absolute dating are needed to establish the origins and duration of activity at these sites. Were these sites still in use in the Earliest Iron Age and, if so, did their role and function change over the Bronze Age-Iron Age transition?
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DATING TECHNIQUES, HILLFORT, IRON AGE, ENCLOSURE, LATE BRONZE AGE, Ringwork, Chronology

LBA-MIA 13: When and how were the claylands settled?

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Further work is needed to understand the processes of permanently settling the claylands (although these are not all the same) and how they unfolded over the course of the period. To what extent can we recognise pioneering phases of occupation, and when did these give way to widespread permanent settlements? In order to achieve this, the character of clayland occupation in the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age needs closer definition, and an assessment made of whether this occupation differed to that on the gravels or other geologies. We should look for evidence of any distinct clayland communities emerged in the region during this period. We also need to consider whether there is any evidence that specific activities were being conducted on the clay, and the degree to which agrarian regimes on clayland sites complement or contrast to those on other geologies.
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SETTLEMENT, IRON AGE, OCCUPATION SITE, LATE BRONZE AGE, Community, Settlement pattern

LBA-MIA 14: What were the functions of pits and pit alignments?

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More analysis needs to be undertaken of pits and pit alignments and in particular their fills. There is a particular need for greater study of the pit alignments recorded in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. Further work is required to ascertain the relationship between pit alignments and ditch alignments, and whether they relate to land division.
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IRON AGE, LATE BRONZE AGE, PIT, PIT CLUSTER, Pit Alignment, Pit Defined Enclosure

LBA-MIA 15: How can we increase our understanding of Bronze Age field systems?

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Research is needed to define if, where and when earlier field systems were actively maintained, and/or establish whether new systems were constructed. Where field systems fell out of use, we need to understand why. Further work is required to tell us how long Middle Bronze Age boundary systems continued to structure the organisation of the early- to mid-1st millennium BC landscape. We need a strategic/selective approach to excavation of field systems, and dating work is required on field/ditch systems, with a need to target features that bracket field systems, i.e. are cut by them or that cut them. There is a risk of field/ditch systems identified by remote sensing being incorrectly dated if there is no fieldwork to ground-truth these identifications.
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DATING TECHNIQUES, FIELD SYSTEM, EXCAVATION, MIDDLE BRONZE AGE, LATE BRONZE AGE, DITCH, Boundary, Boundary Ditch, Chronology

LBA-MIA 16: What crops were grown and which animals reared during this period?

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There should be greater emphasis on what pollen evidence can tell us about crop production during this period, for example, whether some weed species were cultivated as human and/or animal crops. Faunal assemblages can be used to illuminate whether stock rearing practices changed over time and/or within different parts of the region. Isotopic analysis should be used to shed light on whether different types of livestock were raised on different geologies and/or whether there was movement between clay, chalk and fen.
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AGRICULTURE AND SUBSISTENCE, IRON AGE, AGRICULTURE AND SUBSISTENCE, ANIMAL REMAINS, LATE BRONZE AGE, Ancient Biomolecular Analysis, Pollen, Plant Remains, Agriculture

LBA-MIA 17: How can we better understand the nature and extent of Bronze Age cremation?

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Further work is needed to understand the nature and extent of unurned cremations. These can no longer be assumed to date from the Middle Bronze Age in Eastern England. These cremations are being found in varying contexts and locations, as isolated burials, small groups, as or as part of larger cemeteries. Further work is needed to understand the nature and extent of this funerary tradition, and the degree of continuity with practices from the Middle Bronze Age. A present, dates achieved for Late Bronze Age cremations appear to cluster between c. 1200–1000 BC, but the chronology requires further resolution. This may allow for the identification of changes in Late Bronze Age cremation practice be recognised over time. Some Early Iron Age examples have also been recorded suggesting continuity into the earlier 1st millennium BC.
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IRON AGE, HUMAN REMAINS, LATE BRONZE AGE, CREMATION, CREMATION CEMETERY, Urn, Funerary, Chronology

LBA-MIA 18: How can we improve the dating of Bronze Age cremations and inhumations?

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Routine radiocarbon dating of cremations is crucial. Isolated cremations should be dated and the extent of dating programmes for cemeteries will need careful consideration on a site-by-site basis. The same is true for isolated, often flexed, inhumations, which have yielded dates covering the whole of the late 2nd and 1st millennia BC. It has been suggested that all finds of isolated human bone should be radiocarbon dated, and consideration needs to be given to what happened to the cremated bone which was not buried.
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DATING TECHNIQUES, RADIOCARBON DATING, IRON AGE, HUMAN REMAINS, LATE BRONZE AGE, INHUMATION, CREMATION, CREMATION, Chronology

LBA-MIA 19: How can we improve our understanding of LBA to MIA burial practices?

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Further work is needed to establish patterns in burial practice and the treatment of human remains, and the extent to which different burial traditions varied over space and time. The nature of Iron Age funerary practices within the region, and specifically the use of funerary monuments such as barrows or mortuary enclosures, needs further study. It may be possible to identify patterns in the age and sex profile of human remains and these may differ in relation to treatment in burial. There may be patterning in the selection and deposition of disarticulated body parts. Further work is needed to examine the modification of human bone, as worked and sometimes polished human remains are increasingly being identified. We need to better understand the status of these bones and how they were used. We should also look for evidence for more ephemeral burial practices, such as excarnation, and also to the recovery of infant bones, which are often misidentified as animal bone.
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BARROW, IRON AGE, HUMAN REMAINS, LATE BRONZE AGE, INHUMATION, CREMATION, CREMATION, Funerary Enclosure, Funerary

LBA-MIA 20: What can we say about the use of grave-goods during the LBA to MIA?

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Work is needed to examine grave-goods in more detail. Formal burial of complete bodies often contain grave-goods, particularly items of personal adornment, or, more rarely, pots. There may be patterning in which objects were selected for burial and where we find them. We also need to consider how common the practice was and what might it tell us about the construction of identity and personhood. There may have been a difference between goods used in life and those chosen as grave-goods.
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BRONZE AGE, BURIAL, LATE BRONZE AGE, Dress And Personal Accessories, Identity, Grave goods

LBA-MIA 21: How can we improve our understanding of the characterisation, production, use and distribution of artefacts?

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The distribution and patterning of most basic artefact categories requires further study and synthesis. There may be differences in geographical patterning of particular artefacts or artefact attributes (form, material, decoration) and these distributions may correlate with particular site types. The existing typologies for most artefact types require critical review and renewal – many have not been updated for decade – and technological studies are needed to establish how artefacts were manufactured and the different processes and raw materials involved in their production. Scientific analysis of artefacts is required to properly characterise (and potentially provenance) raw materials and examine production techniques. This may tell us whether artefacts that are visually similar were always made in the same way, or if there were underlying differences in technological tradition. Such analysis of artefactual assemblages must be pitched at appropriate geographic and contextual scales. Further resources and support are required to characterise and investigate the broader patterning of artefacts in space and time.
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IRON AGE, LATE BRONZE AGE, Material Type, technology, Production, Artefact studies

LBA-MIA 22: How can we improve our understanding of manufacturing and industry during the LBA to MIA?

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The nature and extent of manufacturing needs further study – how much was on a commercial basis and how much small scale and localised cottage industry/production. We need to understand the movement of raw materials and finished products, and how far each of these was likely to travel, and we need to understand where bronze was coming from, as there is no native source. Such studies should include kiln sites, evidence of secondary working of copper alloys, salt production, etc., and should be compared with continental evidence. The extent of flint-working in the Middle Iron Age requires further study and may vary across the region. Metalworking in the Early Iron Age is still poorly understood and evidence for iron smelting is also scarce. There is a need for a more joined-up approach to studying metalworking evidence, such as metalworking specialists working with ceramic specialists to understand moulds. Thin-section analysis should be used to explore manufacturing techniques, sources of materials and how far pottery is transported from its place of manufacture.
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MANUFACTURE AND PROCESSING, SALT PRODUCTION SITE, IRON AGE, LATE BRONZE AGE, KILN, Copper Alloy, Salt Production, Manufacturing Industry, Artefact analysis, Production

LBA-MIA 23: How can we better understand saltworking during the LBA to MIA?

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Salt working sites need large-scale excavation with the aim of understanding a whole salt production complex (its component parts, dating and development) and locate any associated structures. So far, evidence of this nature is only available from Essex and from Ormesby St Margaret (Norfolk), and we also need to consider this evidence alongside that from Lincolnshire and other places.
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SALT PRODUCTION SITE, IRON AGE, LATE BRONZE AGE, Salt Production

LBA-MIA 24: How can we prioritise environmental sampling for LBA to MIA sites?

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The East of England is a good region for studying organic artefacts, where the fens and marshes offer good opportunities for preservation. We need a priority list for highly desirable environmental sampling targets, for example for saltworking, cereal processing/storage facilities and waterlogged areas. Examples of Early Iron Age timber are especially desirable, as there is currently a gap in the dendrochronological sequence.
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ENVIRONMENTAL SAMPLING, SALT PRODUCTION SITE, IRON AGE, LATE BRONZE AGE, SAMPLE, WOOD, DENDROCHRONOLOGY, Grain Storage Pit, Salt Production

LBA-MIA 25: How can we better understand depositional practices on LBA to MIA sites?

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Further work is needed to explore the wider nature of depositional practices on sites. Discussions have tended to focus on overtly formal acts of structured or ritual deposition (which should not be conflated), but interpretation needs to move beyond definition and identification if it is to continue to further the understanding of these practices. Crucial is the recognition that material entered the ground in a variety of different ways and for a variety of different reasons, grading from the largely unconsidered disposal of refuse at one end of the spectrum to overtly and explicitly symbolic acts of deposition at the other. All require analysis to understand routine practice and changes over time. In particular, work on this topic should address the issue of refuse maintenance and the formation of middens or surface refuse heaps. This may allow us to track how middening within settlements changed in this period, and help identify any differences in the configuration, location and scale of middens.
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IRON AGE, MIDDEN, DEPOSIT, LATE BRONZE AGE, Rubbish Pit