Late Iron Age and Roman


The Late Iron Age and Romano-British collections, relative to the proportion of the total collections that they represent, are probably the most under-utilised area of the collections, except for the almost total absence of interest in the much smaller Medieval and Post-Medieval Collections. The majority of the objects from these periods accessed are chance finds, and the vast majority of studies have been primarily typological in focus (e.g. terrets, Lewis 2014; beads, Foulds 2014; brooches, Booth 2015; seal-rings, Marshman 2015; Brancaster- type seal-rings, Gerrard and Henig 2017; metal figurines, Durham 2010; 2014; Loomweights, Shaffrey 2017; glass bangles, Ivleva 2020; pewter vessels, Partridge, in press; tiles, Locke, in prep.). Whilst these typological studies are undoubtedly important and valuable pieces of research, they rarely provide detailed new information on the sites or objects accessed, typically, rather, providing revised or refined dating or classification. Only a single researcher has undertaken a reconsideration of a site from this period using material and archives held in the collections (Partridge 2022).

By far the stand out piece of research undertaken for this period has been Ellis’ (2021) recent re-examination of the Marlborough bucket. Through a detailed art-historical analysis of the figurative and zoomorphic decoration of the vessel, Ellis has been able to present exciting new interpretations of the bucket and its historical context, as well as producing high- quality photographs which will aid in future research and display.

Research projects and publications

Booth, A. (2014) Reassessing the long chronology of the penannular brooch in Britain: exploring changing styles, use and meaning across a millennium, Unpublished PhD thesis: University of Leicester.

Durham, E. (2010) Metal figurines in Roman Britain, Unpublished PhD thesis: University of Reading.

Durham, E. (2014) ‘Style and Substance: some metal figurines from South-West Britain’ Britannia 45, 195-221.

Ellis, R. (2021) The Marlborough Bucket: Breakdown, Unpublished report.

Foulds, E. (2014) Glass Beads in Iron Age Britain: A Social Approach, Unpublished PhD thesis: University of Durham.

Gerrard, J., and Henig, M. (2017) ‘Brancaster type signet rings: a study in the material culture of sealing documents in Late Antique Britain.’ Bonner Jahrbücher 216, 225-250.

Hayward, K. (2017) Unpublished report.

Henig, M. (2018) A newly discovered relief depicting the three Fates, from Calne, Wiltshire Association of Roman Archaeology News 39, 41- 42.

Ivleva, T. (2020) The Origin of Romano-British Glass Bangles: Forgotten Artefacts from the Late Pre-Roman Iron Age Britannia 51, 7-52.

Lewis, A. (2015) Iron age and Roman-era vehicle terrets from Western and Central Britain: An interpretive study, Unpublished PhD thesis: University of Leicester.

Locke, J. (in prep.) Romano-British Tiles, PG Research: University of Reading.

Marshman, I. (2015) Making Your Mark in Britannia: an investigation into the use of signet rings and intaglios in Roman Britain, Unpublished PhD Thesis: University of Leicester.

Partridge, W. (in press) Picking up the Pieces: A re-evaluation of Romano-British pewter tablewares in Wiltshire, WANHM

Partridge, W. (2022) Blagan Hill: An assessment of the Romano-British material, unpublished interim report: University of Exeter.

Shaffrey, R. (2017) A re-investigation of British stone loomweights, in Shaffrey, R. (ed) Written in stone: papers on the function, form and provenancing of Prehistoric Stone objects in memory of Fiona Roe, Highfield Press, pp. 229- 248.

Research Priorities

he disparate nature of the collections, and the lack of serious academic attention of the Later Iron Age and Romano-British periods makes identifying a clear focus for future research impossible. Despite the lack of key sites driving research, the summaries published in Ellis (2001), and especially the work of the Rural Settlement of Roman Britain project (Allen et al. 2018), ensure that general patterns of occupation in this period are, relatively, well understood during this period.

Possibly the most valuable in terms of increasing the future research potential of the collections would be projects which improve our knowledge of previously unpublished (or summarily published) site assemblages within the collections. These include sites such as Bratton, near Westbury, Allington, near Chippenham, and Ashton Keyes, near the Gloucestershire border, none of which feature in the Rural Settlement of Roman Britain Project database. At the latter site in particular, a small- scale rescue excavation in advance of gravel extraction, multiple larger-scale excavations have continued in the immediate area, such as Cleveland Farm and Dixon’s Gate, which provide ample opportunity for the site to be placed in its regional context. Similarly, projects centred around the Littlecote Roman Villa archive would be extremely beneficial, although it must be stressed that this would represent an enormous project. The Museum’s modest collection of human remains from this period is similarly under-published, yet an assessment carried out as part of this project demonstrates that sufficient skeletal material survives for many of these individuals to merit further study, and may be particularly useful for smaller-scale student osteological projects.

The Museum would like to see its ceramic assemblages from this period be more widely utilised by researchers. Greenwood’s (2020) recent use of lipid analysis on Roman ceramics in the Cirencester Hinterlands, demonstrates the applicability of scientific methods usually reserved for other periods. Further studies in this vein may themselves be interesting, perhaps comparing the results of the Thames and Bristol Avon valleys with the chalk uplands, where agricultural regimes differed at this time (Rippon et al. 2015). A number of ceramic industries are known to have operated in and around Wiltshire at this time, particularly in the north of the county (Anderson 1979), although a growing number of kiln sites and local fabrics have been identified in the region (e.g. Corney et al. 2014). Whilst the Gloucester and Cirencester fabric series’ are applicable in the north, the reporting of Romano-British ceramics in Wiltshire is inconsistent between different archaeological units and sites (personal observation). The value of studying regional coarse-ware fabrics is increasingly recognised, but such studies require comparable datasets (e.g. Rippon 2017; Rippon and Gould 2021; Timby 2017). The development of a fabric type series for Wiltshire housed at the Museum would be an excellent opportunity to better utilise this aspect of the Collections, improve wider reporting, and ensure that Wiltshire Museum becomes embedded in regional Roman archaeological research.

The Museum also encourages further material culture studies, particularly those that apply scientific methodologies, such as pXRF analysis, and take a holistic view of assemblages as a whole, rather than examining individual objects outside of the context of their wider assemblage. In particular, the large assemblage of Iron Age and Roman brooches from Cold Kitchen Hill may be appropriate for such a study. The results would complement those of Bayley and Butcher (2004) concerning the brooches of the Roman fort at Richborough, Kent, and may provide interesting comparisons in terms of both typological classes and alloys used, especially considering the proximity of the site to the Mendips, considered to be region in which many types were produced.

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