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Traditions and Transitions: Later and Roman Iron Age Communities in the North-East of England

ANDERSON, ARTHUR,WILLIAM (2012) Traditions and Transitions: Later and Roman Iron Age Communities in the North-East of England. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis aims to reintegrate the communities of later Iron Age north-east of England (from roughly 300 BC) into wider narratives of later Iron Age and Roman-era Europe. Despite the significant contributions of George Jobey, Colin Haselgrove and others, the north-eastern Iron Age has been widely considered underpopulated and materially and culturally impoverished since such a view was put forward by Mortimer Wheeler and Stuart Piggott in the 1950’s. In light of this impression of the later Iron Age, the region has been seen as a ‘blank slate’ for the establishment of a Roman military zone which has then been interpreted without fully considering an indigenous, civilian population.
Recent work on later Iron Age settlements and non-military Roman era settlements in the region has called these older views more directly into question by building on the work of Jobey and Haselgrove and demonstrating that a substantial Roman and pre-Roman civilian population must have been present across the region throughout the period in question. Thus, this study has sought to bring together the available artefactual, depositional and architectural evidence for later Iron Age communities as well as those Roman-era communities who maintained connections with indigenous traditions. Though there can be no clear separation of ‘indigenous’ and ‘Roman’ settlements from the mid first century onwards, this study has focused on those settlements which continue to make use of roundhouse architecture.
Given the variable state of the evidence from the long tradition of investigation in the region, only well contextualized excavated evidence is considered in order to best shed light on the practice of daily life. Alongside considering the range of material culture in use, contextual analysis of this evidence demonstrates that the noted lack of recovered material culture, particularly ceramics, can be shown to be the result of deliberate choices in acquisition, use and deposition of material culture which reflect the priorities of this decentralized society rather than the result of an inability to produce or trade. Despite this however, it is clear that northeastern communities do appear to engage in similar depositional activities to other British and European Iron Age societies, albeit on a smaller scale which reflects the smaller scale of the communities involved, and a deep connectedness to wider traditions can be shown. Considered alongside this sometimes difficult dataset is the history of Iron Age studies in the region and how this has shaped research strategies. This is an illustrative example of the mechanisms through which older, broad brush understandings can continue to dominate regional archaeologies despite newer, more nuanced evidence.
As well as a case study in the relevance of the history of archaeology to contemporary study, the narrative thus constructed provides a basis for understanding the north-eastern Iron Age within the expanding web of regionalization and connections which was Iron Age Europe. Additionally it provides a narrative of indigenous communities’ interactions with and reactions to the dramatic changes related to the expansion of the Roman empire the early first millennium AD. This is ultimately key in order to better interpret the increasing evidence for non-military Roman era communities in the region and beyond.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 Sep 2012 11:37

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