Iron Age village discovered in Essex may have been burnt down by Roman forces in retaliation for the Boudiccan revolt

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Iron Age village discovered in Essex may have been burnt down by Roman forces in retaliation for the Boudiccan revolt of 61 AD, archaeologists claim

Experts excavated the 'important' settlement at Tye Green, near Cressing
The ancient village was built on a prominent ridge overlooking the Brain Valley
It sported at least 17 roundhouses and screens that may have protected hearths
After the main enclosure was abandoned, the site appears to have been farmed
But the team found a site for offerings that operated on into the 3rd Century
From here they have found hundreds of brooches, as well as coins and beads


By IAN RANDALL FOR MAILONLINE
21 December 2020

Archaeologists have dug up remains of an Iron Age village in Essex — one that may have been burnt down by Romans in retaliation for the Boudiccan revolt of 61 AD.

Experts from Oxford Archaeology East have revealed at least 17 roundhouses within a large defensive enclosure at Tye Green, Cressing, in the district of Braintree.

The village — built on a 'prominent ridge' overlooking the Brain valley — was likely of 'some importance' in the late Iron Age and early Roman period, the team said.

After the main settlement was razed, however, its significance dwindled — although offerings appear to have been made at the site well into the 3rd century.

Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of an Iron Age village in Essex,ne believed burnt down by Roman forces in retaliation for the Boudiccan revolt of 61 AD.

Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of an Iron Age village in Essex, pictured — one believed burnt down by Roman forces in retaliation for the Boudiccan revolt of 61 AD

The village — built on a 'prominent ridge' overlooking the Brain valley — was likely of 'some importance' in the late Iron Age and early Roman period, the team said. Pictured, a copper alloy cockerel figurine, one of the numerous finds recovered from the Essex-based site

The village — built on a 'prominent ridge' overlooking the Brain valley — was likely of 'some importance' in the late Iron Age and early Roman period, the team said. Pictured, a copper alloy cockerel figurine, one of the numerous finds recovered from the Essex-based site

'The substantial enclosure ditch and the roundhouses themselves were clearly built to impress,' said Oxford Archaeology East's project officer Andy Greef.

The roundhouses would have been up to 49 feet (14 metres) in diameter, and were enclosed in gullies some 1.6 feet (0.5 metres) deep.

'The enclosure itself has an avenue-like entrance leading up to [it], aligning with the central roundhouse within, which hints at its prominence within the local landscape,' Mr Greef added.

Alongside the roundhouses, the researchers also uncovered the remains of other semi-circular structures, which they believe were screens or wind-breaks.

Many of these small structures were found in association with hearths, the team said — sporting artefacts including a tiny crucible, a casting sprue through which molten lead would be poured into a mould, and fragments of copper slag.

According the the researchers, the Iron Age settlement continued to expand even after the Roman conquest of 43 AD — with an enlargement of the main enclosure and and increase in construction to the east.

'At some point during the later 1st century AD, the main enclosure was cleared, while a number of the larger roundhouses were burnt down,' Mr Greef explained.

'There is potential that this represents evidence for reprisals on local important families following the Boudiccan uprising,' he added.

'The local Trinovantes tribe joined the AD 61 rebellion — and after Boudicca's defeat we know the Romans punished everyone involved,' Mr Greed told BBC News.

After the main settlement was razed, however, the site's significance dwindled — although offerings appear to have been made in the site's west into the 3rd century

After the main settlement was razed, however, the site's significance dwindled — although offerings appear to have been made in the site's west into the 3rd century


'The substantial enclosure ditch and the roundhouses themselves were clearly built to impress,' said Oxford Archaeology East's project officer Andy Greef. The roundhouses would have been up to 49 feet in diameter, and were enclosed in gullies some 1.6 feet deep

'The substantial enclosure ditch and the roundhouses themselves were clearly built to impress,' said Oxford Archaeology East's project officer Andy Greef. The roundhouses would have been up to 49 feet in diameter, and were enclosed in gullies some 1.6 feet deep

Alternatively, the researchers conceded, the abandonment of the site could simply represent the relocation of the local elite to other villa sites nearby — leaving Tye Green to devolve into smaller farmsteads.

Evidence for this theory comes in the form of new large enclosures, built in the late 1st and 2nd centuries, which contained the remains of two granaries.

One of these appears to have been somewhat atypical in its design, the team explained, being made with 12 large posts and bearing more similarities to medieval granary stores than a Roman building.

It is possible, they said, that the granary was used as storage for grain taxes.

Alongside the roundhouses, the researchers also uncovered the remains of other semi-circular structures, which they believe were screens or wind-breaks. Many of these small structures were found in association with hearths, the team said — sporting artefacts including a tiny crucible and a casting sprue through which molten lead would be poured into a mould

Alongside the roundhouses, the researchers also uncovered the remains of other semi-circular structures, which they believe were screens or wind-breaks. Many of these small structures were found in association with hearths, the team said — sporting artefacts including a tiny crucible and a casting sprue through which molten lead would be poured into a mould
 

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The researchers said that one of the more intriguing parts of the site was an area at the western end of the main enclosure, where a mix of intercutting gullies and pits truncate in an infilled section of the original ditch.

These pits and gullies contain so-called feasting deposits — including large amounts of animal bone and oyster shell — as well as sacred offerings.

'More than 100 brooches, 10 Iron Age coins, dozens of Roman coins, hairpins, beads, finger rings and a lovely copper alloy cockerel figurine were discovered,' Mr Greef told the BBC.

The brooches have been dated back to between the 1st and 3rd centuries — while the older coins even include a gold stater (an ancient Greek coin).

'It could be there was a shrine on the site that continued to attract people and — as it's very close to the Roman road [of] Stane Street — it was easy to access,' said Mr Greef.
The dig, he added, has also yielded 'one of the most significant assemblages of late Iron Age pottery from Essex in recent years.'

'More than 100 brooches, 10 Iron Age coins, dozens of Roman coins, hairpins, beads, finger rings and a lovely copper alloy cockerel figurine were discovered,' Mr Greef told the BBC. Pictured, a copper tankard handle from the site
'More than 100 brooches, 10 Iron Age coins, dozens of Roman coins, hairpins, beads, finger rings and a lovely copper alloy cockerel figurine were discovered,' Mr Greef told the BBC. Pictured, one of the iron age coins from the site

'More than 100 brooches, 10 Iron Age coins, dozens of Roman coins, hairpins, beads, finger rings and a lovely copper alloy cockerel figurine were discovered,' Mr Greef told the BBC. Pictured, a copper tankard handle (left) and one of the iron age coins (right) from the site

According the the researchers, the Iron Age settlement continued to expand even after the Roman conquest of 43 AD — with an enlargement of the main enclosure and and increase in construction to the east Pictured, researchers world to excavate the site in Essex

According the the researchers, the Iron Age settlement continued to expand even after the Roman conquest of 43 AD — with an enlargement of the main enclosure and and increase in construction to the east Pictured, researchers world to excavate the site in Essex

The researchers believe that the deposits may have been linked to the Cult of Mercury — which worshipped the Roman god of both communication and commerce, among other things.

If this is correct, the site could have housed multiple variations of shrine built across two centuries — suggesting that this part of the site was held in special regard well into the mid-Roman period of British history.

Excavation efforts at the site near Cressing — which is destined for a new housing development — began just before the first lockdown, and lasted for eight months.

'Working under the new COVID-19 health and safety requirements [was] tough, but everyone has worked together to achieve the impressive results seen on the site,' Mr Greef commented.

The team have said that, once the finds have been analysed, it is hoped the artefacts recovered from the site may find homes in local museum collections.

Experts from Oxford Archaeology East have revealed at least 17 roundhouses within a large defensive enclosure at Tye Green, Cressing, in the district of Braintree

Experts from Oxford Archaeology East have revealed at least 17 roundhouses within a large defensive enclosure at Tye Green, Cressing, in the district of Braintree

THE BOUDICCAN REVOLT

Pictured, Queen Boudicca of the Iceni

Pictured, Queen Boudicca of the Iceni

The Boudiccan Revolt raged from 60–61AD and saw British tribes, under Boudicca of the Iceni, unsuccessfully try to defeat the Roman army.

Boudicca was Queen of the Iceni people, a British tribe who lived in what is today Norfolk and parts of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

Her name is an early for of the more commonly known name 'Victoria'.

Her husband, Prasutagus, was ruler of the Iceni people and the Romans allowed Prasutagus to continue as king, ruling on their behalf.

But when Prasutagus died, the Romans decided to rule the Iceni directly and they confiscated the property of the leading Iceni families.

The Romans are also said to have stripped and whipped Boudicca, and raped her daughters.

The revolt resulted in Camulodunum, now Colchester, London, and Verulamium, now St Albans, being burnt to the ground while thousands of people on both sides lost their lives.
Colchester was the first target of the Boudiccan army and many of the townspeople were rounded up and sacrificed.

Source: The British Museum


History: Iron Age village in Essex may have been burnt down by the Romans after the Boudiccan revolt | Daily Mail Online