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4. LATE BRONZE AGE AND IRON AGE (c.1150 cal BC-AD43): RESEARCH OBJECTIVES#

Mesolithic Updated Agenda and Research Objectives Table

Click here to see details of agenda themes and topics for this period.
For more information about each Research Objective, select from the links below:

Research Objective 4A Research Objective 4B Research Objective 4C Research Objective 4D Research Objective 4E Research Objective 4F Research Objective 4G Research Objective 4H Research Objective 4I Research Objective 4J

Research Objective 4A#

Compile an audit of radiocarbon, dendrochronological and other scientific dates#

Summary:
There is a pressing need for the compilation of a database of radiocarbon, dendrochronological, luminescence and archaeomagnetic dates from Late Bronze Age and Iron Age sites in the East Midlands, incorporating details such as material type, context and artefact associations. This could provide the basis for a review aimed at assessing the relative reliability of dates, identifying particular lacunae and problems, and highlighting priorities for future dating. A particular concern for this period, which should be central to the development of a scientific dating strategy, is the flattening of the calibration curve from around 800 to 400 cal BC and the particular problem of dating Early Iron Age sites[1]. This baseline study would provide a secure basis for a regional guidelines document, building upon current recommendations for the scientific dating of first millennium BC sites[2] and the results of dating programmes at sites such as Rainsborough Camp in Northamptonshire[3] and Market Deeping[4] and Fiskerton[5] in Lincolnshire. It would also permit the identification of sites offering a series of radiocarbon dates appropriate for Bayesian modelling[6].

Agenda topics addressed: 4.1.1; 4.1.2; 4.3.1

Archaeology of the East Midlands: 116, 128-29

SHAPE 2008: Understanding artefacts and material culture (11111.510); New frontiers: clarifying poorly understood chronologies (11112.510); Bright science: technical and technological innovation (14171.210)

Other research frameworks:
EH Research Strategy for Prehistory 2011: Theme PR3, Topic 19 (Prehistoric material culture in context); Theme PR4, Topic 24 (Building chronologies for prehistory); Theme PR5, Topic 26 (Developing dating techniques for prehistory)
Understanding the British Iron Age 2001: B2.1 (Dating audit)
EH National Heritage Science Strategy Report 2, 2009: Section 3.2.1 (Chronology).
Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group 2010 The Study of Later Prehistoric Pottery: General Policies and Guidelines for Analysis and Publication, 4

References:

Fiskerton, Lincolnshire: tree-ring dating of the timbers in this causeway across the Witham Valley provided evidence for construction and rebuilding from at least 456 to 321 BC (Field and Parker-Pearson 2003, 24-37; photograph: Naomi Field)
Fiskerton, Lincolnshire


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Research Objective 4B#

Refine first millennium BC ceramic chronology by additional radiocarbon dating and typological analyses#

Summary
The synthesis of the East Midlands first millennium BC ceramic sequence published in 2002[7] requires updating to take account of the substantial body of new data that is now available for study. There is also considerable scope for refining the regional ceramic typology and developing an East Midlands ceramic type series as guidance for ceramic specialists, excavators and other researchers. This should be accompanied by a systematic programme of radiocarbon dating, with particular emphasis upon the carbonised residues that occur commonly on the inner and outer faces of first millennium BC domestic pottery[8]. It is recommended that major published assemblages, with well-ordered archives including details of vessels preserving carbonised residues appropriate for radiocarbon dating, should be targeted initially. It is proposed that dating programmes focus upon typologically diagnostic vessels such as Scored Ware[9] and pottery embellished with curvilinear and rectilinear designs inspired by the La Tène ornamental style[10]. In addition, sites with well-stratified ceramic assemblages should be accorded a high priority in future excavation programmes[11].

Agenda topics addressed: 4.1.1; 4.1.2; 4.3.1

Archaeology of the East Midlands: 116

SHAPE 2008: Understanding artefacts and material culture (11111.510); New frontiers: clarifying poorly understood chronologies (111112.510); Bright science: technical and technological innovation (14171.210)

Other research frameworks:
EH Research Strategy for Prehistory 2011: Theme PR3, Topic 18 (Prehistoric material culture in context); Theme PR4, Topic 24 (Building chronologies for prehistory); Theme PR5, Topic 27 (Developing scientific techniques for prehistory)
Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group 2010 The Study of Later Prehistoric Pottery: General Policies and Guidelines for Analysis and Publication, 4
Understanding the British Iron Age 2001: B.2.2 (Scientific dating strategies for fieldwork).
EH National Heritage Science Strategy Report 2, 2009: Section 3.2.1 (Chronology)

Gamston, Nottinghamshire: excavations unearthed a wide range of ceramic types, including carinated jars with finger-impressed ornament, Scored Ware (bottom right) and wheel-made ovoid jars (top centre), but the chronology of these types remains hazy (Knight, D 1992 `Excavations of an Iron Age settlement at Gamston, Nottinghamshire`. `Transactions of the Thoroton Society` 96, 16-90; photograph: Philip Dixon)
pottery from Gamston, Nottinghamshire

References:


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Research Objective 4C#

Characterise the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age settlement resource and investigate intra-regional variability#

Summary:
Further research is recommended to investigate the morphology and functions of settlements dating from this crucial transition period and to investigate the environmental evidence for seasonal or permanent settlement. Settlements of this period are represented over much of the region by extensive and seemingly random spreads of unenclosed roundhouses, pits, post-holes and other features[12]. The picture is clouded by the difficulty of locating such ephemeral remains prior to large-scale excavation and by the growing evidence for significant intra-regional variability. Baseline surveys are recommended to define more precisely the distribution of enclosed settlements, which are known to have been constructed in this early period along the Lincolnshire Fen Edge and some other parts of the region[13], and their relationship to unenclosed settlements. It would also be useful to review the range of contemporary monument types, which in parts of the region may include ringforts[14] hillforts[15], palisaded enclosures[16], middens[17] and burnt mounds[18]. Many settlements of this period have been found by chance, often stratified beneath later settlements, suggesting protracted but not necessarily continuous use of preferred locations. It would be useful to review unpublished archive data with the aim of identifying hitherto undetected activity foci of this period[19] and the resource for further analysis and publication. From the management perspective, such work would also assist determination of the most appropriate evaluation techniques for locating settlements of this period.

Agenda topics addressed: 4.2.1-4.2.3; 4.3.1-4.3.3; 4.6.1-4.6.3; 4.8.1-4.8.4; 4.9.1; 4.9.3; 4.10.1-4.10.3

Archaeology of the East Midlands: 130

SHAPE 2008: Understanding place: researching regional diversity (11111.310) and assessing regional historic environment components (11111.170); understanding ancient environments and ecologies (11111.420)

Other research frameworks:

Rainsborough Camp, Northamptonshire: Iron Age stone-faced rampart, viewed from the interior of the hillfort. The rampart sealed scattered post-holes and occupation debris deriving from early first millennium BC settlement of uncertain character (Avery et al 1967, 212, Plate XXV; reproduced by courtesy of Michael Avery and the Prehistoric Society)
Rainsborough Camp, Northamptonshire
EH Research Strategy for Prehistory 2011: Theme PR1, Topics 2 (Political and ritual landscapes in prehistory), 6 (Regional diversity in prehistory) and 7 (Mobility and sedentism in prehistoric agricultural societies)
Understanding the British Iron Age 2001: C2.1 (settlements)

References:


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Research Objective 4D#

Assess the regional resource of hillforts and analogous sites #

Summary:
It is proposed that resources be focused upon characterising the heterogeneous group of defensible sites of the region[20], including hillforts[21], ringworks[22], possible 'marsh forts'[23] and other defensible lowland enclosures such as Aslockton in Nottinghamshire[24], with a view to identifying further sites, examining their relationship to other settlements of the period and investigating sub-regional patterning. Comparatively few hillforts or analogous enclosures within the region have been excavated to modern standards, among them Mam Tor[25] and Fin Cop[26] in Derbyshire and Rainsborough[27] and Thrapston[28] in Northamptonshire, and many questions remain regarding their origins, functions and interrelationships. Further investigations, following the examples of on-going excavations at Burrough Hill in Leicestershire[29] and Fin Cop in Derbyshire[30], should include geophysical survey, excavation and detailed studies of the associated pottery, other artefacts and environmental data. These sites may also provide appropriate foci for community projects, with opportunities for involvement in a broad range of fieldwork and post-excavation activities, as demonstrated by the Heritage Lottery Fund-supported investigations at Fin Cop (by the Longstone Local History Group in partnership with Archaeological Research Services Ltd).

Agenda topics addressed: 4.2.2; 4.3.3; 4.4.1; 4.4.2; 4.9.1; 4.9.3

Archaeology of the East Midlands: 92-95

SHAPE 2008: Understanding place: analysis of specific historic assets and locales (11111.130) and regional historic environment components (11111.170)

NHPP 2011: Identification of terrestrial assets via non-intrusive survey (3A4)

Other research frameworks:
EH Research Strategy for Prehistory 2011: Theme PR1, Topic 2 (Political and ritual landscapes in prehistory); Theme PR2, Topic 12 (Characterising and classifying prehistoric sites and monuments).
Understanding the British Iron Age 2001: C2.1 (settlements)
Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group 2010 The Study of Later Prehistoric Pottery: General Policies and Guidelines for Analysis and Publication, 5

References:

Burrough Hill, Leicestershire: view from the south, showing the ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort silhouetted against the sky (photograph: D. Knight)
Burrough Hill, Leicestershire: view from the south

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Research Objective 4E#

Assess the evidence for the evolution of settlement hierarchies#

Summary:
It is recommended that the character of Late Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement be assessed to identify sites that on the basis of landscape situation, structural remains or finds may represent sites of higher socio-economic status, and to investigate sub-regional variability. Potential higher status settlements include the Late Iron Age 'nucleated settlements' of Lincolnshire[31], many of which have yielded large quantities of metalwork, coins, mint debris and high quality pottery[32], 'aggregated' settlements in Northamptonshire (e.g. Crick and Stanwick[33]), Leicestershire[34][35] and Nottinghamshire (e.g. Rampton and Collingham[36]), and some hillforts[37] and analogous lowland enclosures[38]. Cropmark studies, combined with analyses of surface scatters of metalwork, coins and other artefacts recorded during fieldwalking and metal detecting may highlight high status settlement foci[39]. This may guide further targeted investigation by detailed geophysical survey and excavation, perhaps involving community groups. Coins and other metal objects recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme have particular potential as evidence for hitherto undetected high status sites.

Agenda topics addressed: 4.4.3; 4.5.1-4.5.3; 4.9.3; 4.10.1

Archaeology of the East Midlands:109-110

SHAPE 2008: Understanding place: analysis of specific historic assets and locales (11111.130); assessing regional historic environment components (11111.170)

NHPP 2011: Identification of terrestrial assets via non-intrusive survey (3A4)

Other research frameworks:
EH Research Strategy for Prehistory 2011: Theme PR1, Topic 2 (Political and ritual landscapes in prehistory); Theme PR2, Topics 10 (Setting prehistoric sites in context) and 12 (Characterising and classifying prehistoric sites and monuments)
Understanding the British Iron Age 2001: F2.2 (Settlement expansion)
Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group 2010 The Study of Later Prehistoric Pottery: General Policies and Guidelines for Analysis and Publication, 5

References:

Humberstone, Leicester: plan of aggregated Middle to Late Iron Age settlement (Thomas 2011, Fig 5; reproduced by permission of University of Leicester Archaeological Services)
Humberstone, Leicester: plan of aggregated Middle to Late Iron Age

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Research Objective 4F#

Investigate intra-regional variations in the development of fields and linear boundary systems#

Summary:
Extensive Bronze Age field systems are known in some upland and lowland areas of the region, including the Derbyshire gritstone moors[40] and the Lincolnshire Fen Edge[41], but these are very unevenly distributed. In the Trent Valley, for example, field systems are currently unknown before the mid-first millennium BC[42][43], whereas rectilinear ditched field systems appear to have developed in parts of the Middle Nene Valley from the Middle Bronze Age[44][45]. These contrasts may reflect intra-regional variations in the agricultural economy and/or variable pressures upon land resources, and further investigations into the origins of field systems, developments over time, and intra-regional variations in landscape organisation remain priorities for research. Linear land divisions are a particularly distinctive feature of the East Midlands[46], and further research on the origins, functions and interrelationships of pit alignments[47] and linear ditched boundaries and the relationship of these boundaries to field systems is a major priority. Work is also recommended to investigate the uses to which the fields were put, variations within the region and their relationship to contemporary settlements. Further information on the spatial extent of these boundary systems should be recovered from air photography, lidar and other remote sensing techniques, but only targeted excavation can hope to unravel the development of field systems and their relationship to other linear boundaries. Particular attention should also be focused upon the impact of topography, which in Nottinghamshire, for example, could explain the contrasting spatial organisation of the Late Iron Age to Roman coaxial field systems around Newark[48][49] and the broadly contemporary 'brickwork plan' systems of the Sherwood Sandstones[50][51].

Agenda topics addressed: 4.2.2; 4.6.1-4.6.3; 4.7.1; 4.7.3; 4.8.1-4.8.4; 4.10.3

Archaeology of the East Midlands: 121-125, 132, 268, 272

SHAPE 2008: Understanding place: researching historic areas (11111.150) and regional diversity (11111.310); understanding ancient environments and ecologies (11111.420)

NHPP 2011: Identification of terrestrial assets via non-intrusive survey (3A4); Field systems (4F2)

Other research frameworks:
EH Research Strategy for Prehistory 2011: Theme PR1, Topics 1 (Moving beyond the site: landscape themes in prehistory), 6 (Regional diversity in prehistory) and 7 (Mobility and sedentism in prehistoric agricultural societies)
Understanding the British Iron Age 2001: C2.2 (Landscapes)

References:


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Research Objective 4G#

Study the production, distribution and use of artefacts#

Summary:
Further petrographic and other scientific analyses are recommended to elucidate the production and distribution of artefacts that may be tied to specific raw material sources. Examples of closely provenanced finds include prehistoric pottery tempered with granitoid inclusions derived from Mountsorrel granodiorite and quartzdiorite sources in Charnwood Forest[52], ceramic salt containers originating from production centres in the Droitwich area or in the Cheshire Plain[53], and querns of Millstone Grit, granite, greensand and other materials that may be tied to specific raw material sources[54]. Typological analyses of artefacts may also elucidate medium to long distance exchange networks, as demonstrated by studies of Glastonbury Ware pottery from Weekley, Northamptonshire[55], coins attributed to the Corieltauvi[56] and metalwork deriving from other regions of Britain and the Continent[57]. Further systematic study of the residues occurring on Late Bronze Age and Iron Age pottery should also be encouraged as an aid to understanding their use[58].

Agenda topics addressed:4.9.1-4.9.3; 4.10.1; 4.10.3

Archaeology of the East Midlands: 134

SHAPE 2008: Understanding artefacts and material culture (11111.510); Bright science: technical and technological innovation (14171.210); Realising the research dividend from past unpublished historic environment investigations (111113.110)

Other research frameworks:
EH Research Strategy for Prehistory 2011: Theme PR3, Topic 17 (Technology and society in prehistory); Theme PR 5, Topic 27 (Developing scientific techniques for prehistory); Theme PR8, Topic 37 (Realising the potential of prehistoric archives and collections)
Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group 2010 The Study of Later Prehistoric Pottery: General Policies and Guidelines for Analysis and Publication, 4-5
Understanding the British Iron Age 2001: D2.1 (production and distribution)
Lithic Studies Society 2004. Research Frameworks for Holocene Lithics in Britain, 4
EH National Heritage Science Strategy Report 2, 2009: Section 3.4.1 (Understanding materials)

References:

Mountsorrel, Leicestershire: augering of alluvial clays in the Soar floodplain. This was conducted as part of an on-going project to investigate the raw material sources of granitoid-tempered prehistoric pottery from the East Midlands (Knight et al 2003; photograph: D. Knight)
Mountsorrel, Leicestershire: augering of alluvial clays in the Soar floodplain

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Research Objective 4H#

Characterise placed deposits and sites of shrines or temples#

Summary:
A wide range of ritual activities may be implied by discoveries of metalwork and other artefacts that appear to have been deliberately deposited in riverside and other watery locations[59], notably along the Trent and at such remarkable sites as the timber causeway at Fiskerton in the Witham Valley[60]. Further evidence for ritual activity may be provided by the discovery in pits and other occupation features of human and animal remains[61] and artefacts such as pots or querns[62] that appear to have been deliberately placed. Further work is required to characterise the variety of placed deposits, analyse their spatial and chronological distribution and review their relationship to settlements and other sites. The relatively common discoveries of metalwork in watery contexts contrast with the apparent paucity of deliberately placed human and animal remains and may suggest specific regional characteristics. Research may usefully be extended to the rare examples of possible shrines or temples, among them a probable late Roman temple at Red Hill, Nottinghamshire, which is thought to have had an Iron Age predecessor[63]. Little is known of the landscape setting of placed deposits and possible shrines or temples, or of their relationship to settlement features. There is a strong likelihood that some shrines were sited, without associated buildings, at significant locations in the landscape, as postulated at the nationally important site of Hallaton in Leicestershire[64], and hence may be significantly underrepresented in the archaeological record.

Agenda topics addressed: 4.7.1-4.7.3

Archaeology of the East Midlands: 132

SHAPE 2008: Understanding place: assessing regional historic environment components (11111.170); Understanding artefacts and material culture (11111.510); Revealing ancient cultures (11111.610)

Other research frameworks:
EH Research Strategy for Prehistory 2011: Theme PR1, Topics 5 (Addressing gaps in our knowledge of prehistoric landscapes) and 11 (Intra-site studies in prehistory); Theme PR3, Topics 18 (Prehistoric material culture in context) and 20 (The place and role of the dead in prehistory)
Understanding the British Iron Age 2001: D2.3 (Deposition)
Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group 2010 The Study of Later Prehistoric Pottery: General Policies and Guidelines for Analysis and Publication, 4

References:

Iron Age torc of electrum (an alloy of gold and silver), deposited in a pit on a settlement near Newark, Nottinghamshire; internal diameter 130mm (© The Trustees of the British Museum)
Iron Age torc of electrum (an alloy of gold and silver), deposited in a pit on a settlement near Newark, Nottinghamshire

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Research Objective 4I#

Prospect for Iron Age settlement in upland areas of the Peak District #

Summary:
Iron Age settlement in upland areas of the East Midlands is poorly known, especially across the gritstone and limestone moors of the Peak District[65]. Recent discoveries of first millennium BC buildings on Gardoms Edge[66], together with finds of first millennium BC pottery and structural remains during investigations on other sites in the Peak[67], suggest that this absence of activity may in fact be more apparent than real. This would fit better with the growing environmental evidence that many of the densely distributed earlier Bronze Age settlements and field systems of the eastern gritstone moors had continued in use into the first millennium BC[68], and further research on the chronology of the many Bronze Age sites that have been identified in these areas may be flagged as a research priority. We may speculate also on how many of the well-preserved Romano-British earthworks that have been recorded in the Dark and White Peak might have earlier ancestries[69]. There is a need, therefore, to review the field evidence across the Peak District and to encourage further field survey, airborne remote sensing and excavation, with particular emphasis upon the retrieval of environmental evidence. This should extend to the use of caves, which in the White Peak have yielded important collections of pottery and other finds[70]. Much of this material seems to date from the later Iron Age, but reassessment of the range and variety of artefacts and their dating is long overdue.

Agenda topics addressed:4.2.1-4.2.3; 4.3.1-4.3.3; 4.4.1; 4.4.2; 4.8.4; 4.10.2; 4.10.3

Archaeology of the East Midlands: 132, 272

SHAPE 2008: Understanding Place: assessing historic areas (11111.150) and regional historic environment components (11111.170); researching regional diversity (11111.130)

NHPP 2011: Identification of terrestrial assets via non-intrusive survey (3A4); Field systems (4F2)

How many of the numerous earthwork sites in the Peak District that are thought to date from the Roman period might have earlier origins? This plan shows the well preserved earthworks of a Romano-British settlement and field system at Chee Tor, Blackwell, Derbyshire, which survive either side of the village`s medieval common field (Bevan 2005, Fig 4; reproduced by courtesy of Bill Bevan and the Derbyshire Archaeological Society)
Plan showing well preserved earthworks of a Romano-British settlement and field system at Chee Tor, Blackwell, Derbyshire.
Other research frameworks:
EH Research Strategy for Prehistory 2011: Theme PR1, Topics 1 (Moving beyond the site: landscape themes in prehistory), 5 (Addressing gaps in our knowledge of prehistoric landscapes) and 6 (Regional diversity in prehistory)
Understanding the British Iron Age 2001: E2.3 (Areas without a framework)
EH National Heritage Science Strategy Report 2 2009: Section 3.5.1 (Detecting and imaging)

References:


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Research Objective 4J#

Investigate the settlement and environmental resource of the Witham Valley#

Summary:
The Witham Valley is well-known as a focus of activity from Mesolithic and Neolithic times, but has yielded an especially impressive battery of evidence for the exploitation of this wetland zone during the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age periods[71]. An exceptional collection of riverine metalwork[72] is rivalled in quantity only by finds from the Thames. The region has also yielded logboats[73], later Bronze Age ritual and ceremonial sites such as Washingborough[74] and, most remarkable of all, the Iron Age timber causeway with associated votive finds at Fiskerton[75]. A valley-wide palaeoenvironmental research design has been published by the Witham Valley Archaeology Research Committee and provides a valuable springboard for studies of landscape change during the first millennium BC and beyond[76][77]. Other key themes include the development of later Bronze Age and Iron Age rural settlement, the changing agricultural economy, the role of the river as a focus for ritual activity, trade and transport and, in view particularly of the proximity of Roman Lincoln[78], the impact of the Roman Conquest upon the rural landscape.

Agenda topics addressed: 4.3.2; 4.7.1; 4.7.2; 4.8.1-4.8.3; 4.9.1; 4.10.3.

Archaeology of the East Midlands: 268, 272, 285-286.

SHAPE 2008: Understanding place: researching regional diversity (11111.310); Understanding ancient environments and ecologies (11111.420).

NHPP 2011: Identification of wetland/waterlogged deposits (3A5).

Other research frameworks:

Washingborough, Lincolnshire: remnants of finds-rich layer of heat-shattered stones, burnt animal bones and Late Bronze Age pottery overlying timber-lined tank. The latter may have held water heated by hot stones and could have been used for purposes such as cooking, leather-working or brewing (Allen 2009, Fig 3.6; reproduced by permission of Colin Palmer-Brown)
Remnants of finds-rich layer of heat-shattered stones, burnt animal bones and Late Bronze Age pottery overlying timber-lined tank, Washingborough, Lincolnshire
EH Research Strategy for Prehistory 2011: Theme PR 1, Topics 1 (Moving beyond the site: landscape themes in prehistory) and 6 (Regional diversity in prehistory); Theme PR6, Topic 31 (Human interactions with plants and animals in prehistory).
Jones, M J, Stocker, D and Vince, A 2003 The City by the Pool: Assessing the Archaeology of the City of Lincoln: Archaeological Research Agenda Zones 5.8 and 5.9
Catney, S and Start, D (eds) 2003 Time and Tide: the Archaeology of the Witham Valley, 33-42

References:


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This page (revision-12) was last changed on 22-Jun-2017 13:54 by Tina Roushannafas