3.3.3 Site chronology

D. Hurst

Iron Age Site Description (1979)

The dating of the Iron Age phase relies on its associated artefactual evidence and especially the pottery. Morris (see Prehistoric pottery) has concluded that the date range of this occupation is from c. 100-c. 50 BC. This fits well with the other datable artefactual evidence such as the iron brooches, which were of later Iron Age type. Fragments of rotary querns (and a complete lower stone, now lost) also suggest a later rather than earlier Iron Age date range. A single radiocarbon date was derived from a piece of carbonised wood from posthole 0135 (F5; Fig. 10), which was located in the centre of the site just to the east of a pit alignment (PG5) and on the edge of the possible open space to its east. This gave a date range of 410 cal BC-cal AD 30 (95%); the excavators, however, expressed some doubts about whether the wood was directly related to the use of this feature as a posthole.

The two enclosure ditches were assigned a tentative chronological sequence based on an interpretative scenario, and the available pottery dating gave some credence to this with the latest Iron Age pottery being associated with only the outer ditch. The life span of the gate was also estimated (Davenport and Hunt 1979), based on the then prevailing idea that a large earth-fast post would survive around 30 years before needing to be replaced, as Stanford (1974) had calculated for Croft Ambrey and Credenhill Camp hillforts. From this, Davenport and Hunt estimated a duration of 60 years for the gate, based on the two phases of inner gate construction, an estimate remarkably close to the life span of the site as indicated by the current understanding of the pottery evidence.

In the case of the interior of the enclosure it is much more difficult to suggest any obvious stratigraphic sequences. Pit groups tended to be in the centre of the enclosure, with the exception of pit group 1 which was just within and to one side of the entrance. Buildings were so indistinct that their spatial arrangements are quite problematic, though it is noticeable that all three possible roundhouses are located in the centre of the site in the vicinity of some of the pit groupings. This may indicate a central focus for more domestic concerns with the outer part of the enclosure, behind the bank, used for other purposes. For instance, with pit 1027 assigned to the earlier prehistoric phase the northern end of the enclosure is relatively empty of any major excavated features that might indicate here a separate zone of activity, possibly an animal corral or a horticultural area. The inner annexe is also within this outer precinct and clearly demarcated some special activity probably associated with the earliest days of the enclosure.

It is notable that no early Roman pottery was clearly evidenced at the site, which tends to confirm that the demise of occupation occurred in the Iron Age. It was also noted that all the Roman and later finds were from the tops of features or from the overlying ploughsoil (A. Hunt pers. comm.), in which case even the largest features had been infilled in the Iron Age, seemingly signifying, in line with the pottery evidence, that the site was abandoned before the beginning of the Roman period and a regularised Roman presence in the area was achieved. One complication might be that the enclosure bank could still have usefully demarcated the settlement site even with the ditches being infilled, but this has no bearing on the dating of abandonment, except it might be taken to mark a prolonged rather than sudden decline in the fortunes of the settlement. All the evidence, therefore, points to the end of the site being a purely Iron Age event quite as startling as the sudden appearance of the site in the landscape in the first place.


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