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URBANlSATlON IN ATLANTlC EUROPE IN THE lRON AGE

by John COLLlS
Professor, Departament of Archaeology and Prehistory.
University, Sheff ield, England

In this paper I shall primarily be considering central and northern France and
Britain in the two centuries before the Roman conquest. In France this is essentially
the second and beginning of the first century BC, ending with Caesar's conquest of
Gaul in 58-51 BC; in Britain it will concern the first century BC and the first half of the
first century AD -the south of Englandwas invaded in 42-43 AD, but the north was
only conquered about a generation later.
I shall also use the term <.urbanisation)>in a loose way. Though many would
accept that some of the oppida mentioned by Caesar had many characteristics we
associate with urban sities, -centres of trade, industry and administration- in the
late lron Age there are many other sites and settlement systerns which were almost
as complex as urbanised societies, and perhaps on the threshold of urbanisation.
Though terms like <<urban)>
or :(states>are useful terms to categorise societies and
allow cross-comparison with other complex societies in time and space, and aiso
give us clues about the key features which we should be investigating, our aim
should not be to provide labels or typologies but to understand how societies
fuctioned and changed. To argue whether a certan site is urban or not is a pointless
exerciese in itself, especially as for archaeologists many key areas of information,
such as legal status of a site, are not recorded in the archaeological record.
But it is important to ask the right questions of the data, especialiy if that
information is to be looked for and collected. Too often specialists are simply asked
for reports without any proper interplay with the archaeologist (for instance in the
questions to be asked, sampling strategies, etc.), or in the execution of an overall
strategy and the pubiication of the results. As an example one can mention the study
of carbonised seeds and plant remains. Usually reports consist of a list of species
present and their relative comrnonness. Sites can be divided into producers and
consumers, and this can show up in the evidence for the different stages of crop
processing that are present on a site, the range of habitats representedby the weed
seeds, as well as the presence of exotic species. In this context one can quote the
work of Martin Jones at Danebury (Jones 1984) and Hengistbury Head (Jones
1989), or of Marijke van der Veen in the north of England (1991), but such work is
generally lacking on the continent where reports tend to be written by pure botanists
rather than botanists with an archaeological training.
At present the Late Age forrn Czechoslovakia to central France gives an
impression of great hornogeneity, with the appearance in the second century BC of
the defended oppida (Collis 1984), but this similarity is perhaps more apparent than
real. In some areas the defended sites became densely occupied, in others they

were quickly abandoned; there are many gaps in the distribution with areas where
there are no oppida, and where we have no idea what was happening. Perhaps the
Late lron Age was not typified by the large oppida because many areas did not have
thern. Also we have big oppida and small oppida. Could this be a hierarchy of sites
with one big main oppidum and several subsidiary sites; or are there areas which
were dominated by just one large oppidurn, while other areas has several small
oppida competing with one another? We have only just begun to touch on the
complexity of this seemingly uniform period. Certain areas of western France seem
to be very different, perhaps more comparable with Britain where are can identify
a confusing range of different types os fites and settlement systems.
CENTRAL AND NORTHERN FRANCE
These are areas which ostensibly follow the major trends of central Europe,
culminating in the appearance of the oppida during La Tene D I . However, generally
we know little about settlement patterns in the preceding periods, And much of this
area is devoid of the cernetery evidence we have for some areas of central Europe,
e.g. the La Tene A burials of the Hunsrck Eifel or the La Tene B-C flat inhumation
cemeteries of Hungary and Czecholovakia. Champagne and the Aisne valley are
the exceptions, as here there is an almost continuous tradition for burial. However,
archeologicalobsession with these cemeteries has elevated the Champagne to an
importance wich it probably did not possess in the lron Age, and only now is
settlement evidence emerging from sites such as Bourges which will provide a more
balanced view. Settlement archaeology in France is still in its infancy, so I shall
concentrate on three regional studies which have been under way since the 1970s1980s, in the Auvergne, in the Berry, and in the Aisne valley.

THE AUVERGNE
Great importance was accorded to the Arverni, with their kings Luernios (((the
richest man in al1 Gaub), his son Bituitos, or the first French national hero,
Vercingetorix, by classical sources such as Posidonius, Caesar and Livy. This has
neves been matched by the archaeology. Until recently burials were virtually
unknown, and none fall into the rich class (Loison et al. 1992). Details of the
chronology too are only just being clarified. However, we perhaps now know more
about the settlement pattern and its development in the late lron Age than anywhere
else in France. Two major settlement excavations have taken place, Aulnat and
Gerzat, wiht many other chance finds or small scale excavations, and a continuing
tradition for intensive field walking and survey.
The systematic surveys by Mills (1986), while producing important evidence
form most periods, revealed little La Tene material. In part this may be due to
sampling problems -the sites rnany not be evenly distributed across the
landscape- but also because many of the sites lie in the plains, the <<Lirnagnes,

and are covered by later alluvium. Systematic studies during drain digging or
motorway construction are beginning to rectify this. Work has concentrated
immediately around the areaof Clermont Ferrand, but survey is now being extended
to the adjacent areas around Lezoux (Alain Ferdiere), the valley of the Morge north
of Riom (Christine Jouannet), and the lssoire Basin (Claire Watson), as well as more
intensive work around Clermont Ferrand (Vicent Guichard). Generally this work is
confirming the previous results.

Settlements belonging to La Tene A (fifth century BC) are at present poorly


represented, but are generally in low-lying situations. From La Tene B a period of
intensive occupation begins on the clays and gravels of the river terraces, and
especially on the terre noire of the limagnes. The settlement pattern gradually
intensifies with more and more settlements appearing in the plain up to La Tene DI
at the end of the second century BC. Generally the sites seem to be small in size,
around 300 m in diameter. The sites are especially dense in the area to the east of
Clermont Ferrand around the modern villages of Aulnat and Gerzat, and are often
only a few hundred metres apart.
Many of these settlements have produced evidence for industrial activity. The
excavation of Aulnat-La Grande Borne has produced traces of a wide range of
industries from the end of La Tene B until La Tene DI, in fact virtually al1 the
industries later found on the oppida though not al1 were present at one time (Collis
1980). Bone buttons and bone dice were manufactured especially in the later
phases, glas was probably worked, and some bone tools and haematite crayons
may be from pottery manufacture. lron slag is especially common in the earlier
phases, and is mainly from smithing. lron was imported in the form of paddle shaped
currency bars, and the site has produced a wide range of iron objects -spears,
scabbard fragments, a cauldron hook- but the only items certainly manufactured
were brooches. Several hundred fragments of crucibles were found, mainly
containing traces of copper and tin, and in a later phases some contained gold and
silver (Smith and Collins i982), but in none of these cases is it clear what was being
made except for one pit which produced moulds for making flans for gold and silver
coins (Tournaire et al. 1982). Textiles were also produced, and awide range of bone
points are perhaps for net making or a sort of one needle knitting.
The settlement at Gerzat presents a considerable contrast, though the evidence
relates mainly La Tene D I . Glass was worked -there is a fragment of a cake of raw
purple glass, and one or two bone points are present, but are rare in comparison to
Aulnat. The only other industry present is blacksmithing, in the form of bun-shaped
lumps os slag, and is much more commonthan in thecontemporary phase at Aulnat.
Several other sites have produced evidence for bone working or iron working, and
at three sites, Lezux (Mennesier-Jouannet1991), Chamalieresand Randan (Miallier
1984), pottery kilns have been excavated. The range and variety of local pottery
developed enormously during La Tene C, such as the highly original painted wares.

The development of contacts with the Mediterranean world can also be


documented at Aulnat. In the earliest phase, La Tene 82, only coral was definitely
being imported. In La Tene C fine black slipped table wares form ltaly appeared
along with painted white wares form the Marseilles region and mortaria of unknown
origin. In thefinal phases in addition to these imports large quantities of Campanian
amphorae (Dressel la) are found on al1 sites, while Aulanat produced a carnelian
intaglio (Henig and Collins 1987).
The pattern that is emerging is of a number of dispersed sites which are engaged
in trade and industrial production.Around Clermont Ferrand there is a cluster of sites
which collectively seem to function as an urban settlement, but lacking the density
of population found on the later oppida.

Some time during LaTene DI, most, if not al1of these sites were abandoned.The
latest brooches are typical Nauheim fibulae. The latest coins form both Gerzat and
(Malacher and Collins 1992). These are also
Aulnat are potin Nash 594 ((along cou>>
found on the plateau site of Corent, and it also has some Nauheim brooches. But
Corent has also produced some coin types which are not found on the lowland sites
-the (cau renard>)type La Tour XII 3966-3669 of which nearly 200 exemples are
recorded from Corent. A handful is known from another plateau site the C6tes de
Clermont, but is otherwise confined to one or two other finds from other sites. Other
coin types show a similar, though not so exclusive pattern- the inscribed
MOTVDIACA and EPOS types and the ADCANAVNOS series for which dies have
been found on Corent. Though some finds may have been wrongly assigned to
Corent, the pattern which emerges is of a shift of the concentration of population to
Corent during La Tene D I , with subsequent occupation, or a least coin using,
confined to the site in the period around the Roman conquest.
No large scale excavation has yet taken place on Corent. It is a naturally
defended plateau of some 75ha, of which some 40 ha have a dense scatter of
amphorae, mainly Dressel lb, and other finds. The site has been heavily pillaged by
treasure hunters and collectors. Some 2000 coins are recorded, mainly in private
collections. Our intensive surface collection is defining areas of densest occupation,
but sondages suggest the lron Age occupation level is very thin, and has largely
been destroyed in ploughing. Other than coin manufacture, there is at present only
limited evidence for metal working among the finds.
Corent survived as a major settlement only for about a generation, perhaps less.
No traces of defences survive, but the slopes are generally so precipitous that they
were perhaps unnecessary. Its probably successor is at Gondole, a low-lying site
of about 35 ha on a grave1 terrace between the river Allier and a stream, the Oison.
The spur is cut off by a massive bank and wide ditch typical of the Fcamp series,
though these ofter cover a murus gallicus. Field walking has produced a small
amount of Dressel lb amphora, a Jezerine brooch, al1 typical of La Tene D2, and a

d~zen
coins typical of the final phase at Corent. there is however, also a scatter of
occupation, as yet unmapped, outside the defences. Sondages in the interior have
produced Gallo-Romaine Prcoce finds, just post-datin the Roman conquest.
The next site in the sequence is the hill-top site of Gergovie, which started around
30-20 BC. Its coin list is dominated by the latest inscribed Gallic coins -late EPAD
and VERCA coins- as well as the early Augustan coins from colonies such as
Nimes. The defences are of Roman date. Though this site fits Caesar's description
of Gergovia, there are no finds dating that early, and the name Gergovie was only
given to the plateau in the 19th century. The excavations of the 1930s and 1940s
revealed an industrial area with ron working, and stone built houses. Except for a
temple, this site too was deserted within a generation during the reign of Augustus,
and a new town laid out in the valley, Augustonemetum, on the site of modern day
Clermont Ferrand.
The problem presented by these three settlements of Corent, Gondole, and
Gergovie is the lack of contemorary settlements. Though the site os Aulnat -La
Grande Borne and Corent could in part be contemporary- both nave Nauheim
brooches and potin coins -it is more likely that the abandonment of Aulnat and the
establishment of Corent happened at approximately the same time while the
brooches and coins were current. Some pottery types typical of the latest phase of
Aulnat, such as the Jatte dlAulnat, are so far absent from Corent. There is a
possibility that occupation continued at or near Gerzat, and there is a recent find of
a MOTVDIACA coin from the site, but the present lack of the relevant brooch and
coin types, or of late Campanian or early Arretine imports, suggets a break. Later
Arretine wares are present in the cemetery which overlies the La Tene settlement.
From the csattered finds elsewhere in the Grande Limagne, it would seem the
pattern presented by Aulnat and Gerzat -abandonment during La Tene DI,reoccupation in the late augustan period- is fairly typical, though it must be stressed,
for instance, that potin coins are only known from Gerzat and Aulnat, the only two
sites which have been extensively excavated. Future excavations, especiatly of villa
sites, could change this picture.
This model of total abandonment of openn sites and nucleation into defended
sites does present problems. Firstly the 40 ha site of Corent hardly accounts for the
massive population formerly located in the Grande Limagne. Though there may
have been a drop in population with the defeat of Bituitos by the Romans in 123 BC,
the Arverni were still a major power at the time of Caesar. The ravaging of the
countryside by Brutus following Caesar's defeat at Gergovia in 52 BC it too late to
account for the phenomenon. These problems are even greater in areas such as
Riom and Issoire, where there are no defended sites at all, though we know little
about what was happening in this perod on the highergrounds of the Massif Central.
The Auvergne is discussed in detail because it has a fairly complete settlement
sequence, and provides a model for other parts of France; firstly the abandonment
of dispersed open settlements and the foundation of the defended oppida during La
Tene DI ; and secondly in the fluid nature of the oppida -short-lived sites which
were densely occupied but quickly abandoned, until finally in the Roman period

permanent undefended administrative towns were established, either on the sites


of existin oppida (Paris, Besan~on),
or on new accessible sites (Clermont Ferrand,
Autun).

THE BERRY
On the western side of the Massif Central, the most comparable work to that in
the Auvergne is that carried out by Olivier Buchsenschutz and Nigel Mills in and
around Levroux (Buchsenschutzet al. 1988). Little is known about the Early LaTene
period in the Berry except old finds of burials with imported Mediterranean vessels,
and more recent finds of settlements with imported pottery around Bouges (Rouffier
et al. 1985))supporting the importante placed on the Bituriges by Livy and their
involvement in the Gallic migrations to northern ltaly in the early 4th century BC. In
the Late LaTene,the pattern of oppida in the Berry is unusual, with a number of small
or medium size sites, but no massive enclosures.
The picture at Lezoux parallels, but is slightly different from, the Auvergne. Only
one open settlement is known, Les Arenes at Levroux (Buchsenschutz et al. 1992),
but this was already nucleated and could be described as a small urban settlement.
It was certainly involved in industrial production, including coin manufacture
(Tournaire et al. 1982). The settlement starts in La Tene C, and was abandoned in
La Tene DI.
The succeeding oppidum on an adjacent hill top has largely been destroyed by
later medieval activity. It was about the same size as the open settlement, and was
defended by a murus gallicus, later replaced by a Fecamp type rampart. It was
abandoned in the Augustan period, when a Roman town was established at the foot
of the hill, partly overlying the previous lron Age open settlement. Nigel Mill's field
survey around Lezoux has proved largely negative for the lron Age, with Roman
farms and villas first appearing in the first century AD.
THE AlSNE VALLEY

Early an Middle La Tene settlement patterns are known mainly form cemeteries
such as Pernant, but some settlements have also been excavated in recent years
(Royrnans 1990). Occupatin was largely confinedto the grave1terraces of the river,
and despite extensive survey, both field walking and aerial photography, the
surrounding hills seem to have been largely devoid of settlement in the lron Age,
except perhaps in the final stages when there are some coin finds (Demoule and lett
1985).
Most of the work on the oppida has concentrated on the middle reaches of the
river, especially the large scale excavations at Guignicourt and at Villeneuve St.
Germain. Both are low-lying sites adjacent to the river, with bankand ditch defences,
and in both cases a dense but highly organised pattern of streets, including palisade
enclosures containing large timber buildings, as well as various other small houses

and workshops. lndustries such as iron working, coin manufacture, etc, are
represented. Both are relatively short-lived, as in the Auvergne, with occupation
lasting perhaps a generation or so.
In the area of Soissons, the sequence of events parallels that in the Auvergne,
with an early phase of open settlements such as Berry-au-Bac, or the newly
discovered site at Damaray (Haselgrove pers. comm.) which form initial sondages
may well parallel Aulnat in its industrial activity. Settlernent was then concentrated
on the low lying settlement of Villeneuve St. Germain (Audouzeand Buchsenschutz
1989), but thas was abandoned for the hill-top oppidum of Pommiers which lies on
the opposite side of the river, and is defended by a Fcamp rampart. The coin series
at Villeneuve is dominated by uninscribed and potin coins, Pommiers by the later
types, such as the inscribed CRlClRV series. One pecufiarity shared by both these
defended sites is the division of the site into four sectors by ditches which run at right
angles to each other across the site. In the case of Villeneuve, Debord et al. (1988)
have suggested this may be sorne sort of subterranean structure with a roof
supported on massive timber posts. Pommiers was abandoned in the Augustan
period, for the Roman town beneath modern Soissons.

From these three different areas of France we see a roughly parallel sequence
from open settlements to nucleated oppida which often have a short life-span, even
when densely occupied. This change happens over much of central and northern
France, southern Germany and Switzerland at a time when the Nauheim fibula was
in fashion. At Besan~onand Yverdon (Orcel et al. 1992) the earliest buldings are
dated by dendrochronology to around 120 BC, and this would seem a reasonable
datefor the shift elsewhere-several of thesesites were well established by the time
Caesar arrived in 58 BC. In other parts of France generally only part of the sequence
is known, for instance the shift from Bibracte / Mont Beuvray to Autun. However, n
certain areas the situation is much more stable, especially in the valley of the Saone,
and it is these stable sites about which we know much less, largely because they
underlie modern towns and so are inaccessible- Chalons-swr-Saone, Besancon,
Reims, Bourges, Pars. For some we only have documentary evidence, but some,
like Roanne, may well start relatively early, and were continuously occupied
throughout the Late La Tene and on into the Rornan period (Guilhot et al. 1992).
However, this pattern of uniformity may well be misleading. In parts of France
there are few or no oppida, and we know virtually nothing of the settlement patterns.
In Champagne the cemetery evidence suggests considerable continuity on the
small farms and settlements thoughout the later lron Age and early Roman period,
with no major shift to nucleatedsettlements. Brittany presents yet another case, with
a longer tradition for hill-forts,but little extensive excavation has taken place until the
last decade. Recent excavations of minor farming settlements, and the excavation
of the multi-phasedefended site of Paulewill revolutioniseour knowledge (Arramond

and le Potier 1990), but generally it would appear that Brittany shares more in
common with southern England than it does with the rest of France, and it is to
southern England that we now turn.

THE BRlTlSH lSLES


The pattern of hill-fort and related structures in Britain is extremely complex, both
chronologically and geographically, the earliest defended hill top sites date to the
Neolithic (e.g. Crickley Hill and Carn Brea - for a general recent summary of Brithis
prehistory see Darvill1987). They appear in increasing numbers in the late Bronze
Age from about 1000 BC. Some hill-fort sites, especially in western England were
reoccupied in the Late Roman period, especially in the fourth and fifth centuries, and
a very small number where turned into burhs in the tenth century as centres of
defence against Viking attack. The vast majority of sites however belong to the lron
Age, 600 BC to 100 AD (Cunliffe 1991).
There is a general geographical trend from east to west. In the east hill-forts are
rare if not unknown, and tend to be abandoned early in the Iron Age, perhaps around
500-400 BC. This process of gradual abandonment of a hill-fort style of life gradually
shifts further to the west during the later phases of the lron Age. In a north-south strip
through central England, parts of Wales, and into Scotland, hill-forts tend to be
relatively large, generally around 5 to 20 ha. In the extreme west and north the
landscape is dominated by small fortified homesteads of 0.5 -1 ha, with many
regional variations such as the ((rounds>)of Cornwall, and the (<brochs>)
and ((duns))
of western and northern Scotland. But there are many exceptions to this general
pattern, and larger hill-forts occur even in areas where small sites are the norm.
lt is thus clear that the range of roles and functions performed by hill-forts will be
very varied -defended farms, temporary refuges, centres of storage or exchange.
In some cases even the role of a defended cite can be doubted, as sites may only
have impressiveentrances, or not be placed in the best tactical position, and in these
cases at least display may be the major factor. Occupation may be permanent or
seasonal; in some areas the whole population seems to be nucleated inside
defended sites, in others such as Wessex a major part of the population inhabited
small enclosed farms and hamlets. The hill-fort of Danebury, one of the most
extensively excavated sites, has provoked an extensive literature about its possible
role as a centre of power, of production, exchange and administration, in the
geographer's concept of the central place), (Cunliffe 1984, Cunliffe and Poole
1991). The general consensus however is that it did not have such a role, and it may
have even been peripheral to the main functioning of the society (Collis 1981;
Haseigrove 1986; Stopford 1988; Marchant 1989; Hill forthcoming). Other than
noting the literature, this is a question which lies outisde the scope of the present
paper, as these hill-forts do not seem to represent urbanism, or even proto-ubanism.
However, in the south of England, there are two major groups of site which deserve
consideration in discussions of urbanism, evenif in the final account they are lacking
in certain key factors.

PORTS OF TRADE
The term (~port
of trade,) is a term used by economic historians for sites at which
exchange took place (Polanyi 1963), usually on the boundaries between tribes or
states, but where the control of the site was independent of the adjacent states the free port of Danzig is a modern exarnple. Many punic or Greek sites such as
Massilia or Naucratis fall into the category. Sites need not necesarily be ports, they
can be inland on boundaries. They may be temporary, seasonal, or major urban
centres engaged in industrial production.
One site which may fall into this category on the south coast of Britain is
Hengistbury Head (Cunliffe 1987). It controls river routes on the Stour and Avoh
which run into the heartland of Wessex, and also lies at one end of one of the main
short cross-channel routes, leadingto the Channel Islands, Normandy and Brittany.
It lies just behind the lsle of Wight, the ancient Vectis, which could be the lctis
referred to in connection with the tin trade, and it is also likely to be 4he emporion),
referred to by Strabo. This area is on a cultural boundary between the hill-fort zone
of Dorset, and an area of Hampshire typified by open settlements in thefirst century
BC. By the time of the Roman conquest, these are different tribal areas, in Dorset
the Durotriges, in Hampshire the Atrebates.
It is situated on a peninsula cutting off Christchurch Harbour form the sea, and
is defended by an undated double bank and ditch. The site was occupied around
500-400 BC, so the defences could be earlier, but are more likely to belong to the
end of the Middle lron Age around 100 BC. In this period part of the enclosed area
was occupied by typical round houses. This period, up to around 50 BC was the
major period of trade contacts, especially with Brittany, and imported pottery from
northern Armorica is not uncommon. Mediterranean goods include Dressel la
amphorae and figs. The range of pottery from other parts of southern Britain is
extensive, including material from Cornwall and Devon, the tin producing areas.
Industrial production encompassed the working of iron, bronze, silver, gold, and
glass, though some of this activity is poorly dated. Occupation continued into the
Late lron Age, when palisade enclosures replaced the former free layout, but trade
fell away, and later amphorae such as Dressel lb from ltaly and Pascual I from Spain
are rare.
The hinterland seems to extend from Cornwall to central Hampshire. Amphorae
turn up sporadically on hill-forts such as Maiden Castle, but in areas like central
Hampshire it is especially the small farming settlements which produce them. For
instance, the extensively excavated farrn at Owslebury (Collis 1970) produced
fragments of at least five or six amphorae, suggesting they were being imported for
special occasions every 10-15 years (Williams 1981). The distribution of silver
Armorican coins in southern Britain may be another indicator of this trade.
Two other port sites are known. One, Mount Batten at Plymouth, has largely been
destroyed (Cunliffe 1988), but has produced an interesting range of bronze
ornaments both from Britain and elsewhere along the Atlantic coast, and its main
period of importante may pre-date Hengistbury. It has however producedone or two
sherds of Breton pottery. It lay at the mouth of one of the main tin producing rivers,

the Plym, and one piece of tin ore, cassiterite, is recorded. Given the rarity of Breton
pottery, it may have played a subsidiary role to Hengistbury Head in the Middle lron
Age.
The final site is Poole Harbour, which seems to have replaced Hengistbury Head
in the second haIf of the first century BC. Excavations have been lirnited (Woodward
1987), but several sites around the harbour, or on islands within the harbour itself,
have produced fine wares from central Gaul and Pascual 1 amphorae.
All these sites lie in areas which at the time of the Roman conquest, seem to have
tacked any centralised political organisation other than a loose tribal federation.
They are thus unlikely to have been centrally controlled.
BRlTlSH OPPIDA
The use of this term in England is different from the continental usage. It is used
to denote large enclosures of several hundreds if not thousands of hectares, defined
by massive linear dykes, and dating to the end of the first century BC and continuing
into the first century AD. They are largely confined to southeast England,though one
example, Stanwick, is known in the north. Sorne, Colchester, Silchester, and St.
Albans, developed into major Roman towns, and Colchester (Camulodunum) was
consideredto be the British capital at the time of the conquest, and Claudius himself
travelled to Britain to supervise its capture.
In the century between Caesar's brief invasions of 55 and 54 BC and the
Claudian invasion, British society underwent a major evolution, demonstrable from
the written, numismatic,and archeologicalsources. At the time of Caesar we are told
of tribal groupings and local kings, and a larger organisation of tribes which
collaborated to select an overall leader, Cassivellaunus, to conduct the campaign
mentioned are refuges surrounded by
against the Romans. The only <<oppida)>
forests and marshland. By the end of the century tribal dynasties had appeared,
individualswho nametheirfamily connections on their coins, and refer to themselves
with the Latin title of Rex (van Arsdell1989). Sorne of them are mentioned in Roman
sources, and Suetonius describes one, Cunobelin, as <(rexBritonurn,>.
The burial evidence tells the same story, with wealthy burials appering form
around 30 BC, containing large nurnbers of local finds, imported wine arnphoraeand
bronze and silver vessels from Italy, fire dogs, defensive weapons (shields, coasts
of mail), and in one case, Welwyn Garden City, the dead man was cremated wearin
a bear skin (Stead 1967). These burials seem to relate to a <<noble,>
class, but two
c<royal,>burials are known, the tumulus at lexden within the oppidum of Colchester,
and a cremation within a Viereckschanze at St Albans (Niblett 1992). In both cases
the gravegoods had been srnashed before burial, but included wine amphorae and
imported pottery and bronze table ware, and coats of mail. The lexden burial also
had imported bronze figurines, an intaglio of Augustus, and silver fittings from a
cloak in the form of ears of wheat (Foster 1986).
class directly with
These burials and the documentary evidence link the <<royal>,
the oppida, and this is further confirmed by the coinage. Many coin types, especially

the gold and silver, also bear name of the oppidum -CAM / Camulodunum
(Colchester); VER / Verulamium (St. Albans) and CALLEV / Calleva Atrebatum
(Silchester).
Though their importance as centres of power and administration is clear, the
other functions of these oppida are not so obvious. Despitethe massive dimensions
of the <<defences)),
the dykes do nos seem to be primarily for defence. In the case
of Stanwick, the ditch is 16 m wide and 5 m deep, and the banks still stand 3 m high.
But as Wheeler pointed out long ago (1954) the banks do nos follow the obvious
strategic lines, e.g. running around the foot of a hill, rather than running over the top
of it, or completely enclosing it, either of which would have been as simple or simpler
than the strategy adopted. Recent works show these dykes in some cases overlie
earlire banks, probably field boundaries (Haselgrove et al. 1990; Welfare et al.
1990). For the region the site is rich in imports and fine metalwork. The site is
interpreted as an estate perhaps that of the royal house of Cartimandua, queen of
the Brigantes. The earthworks are interpretedmore as symbols of power and status
than for defence.
Stanwick is also fairly typical in that only small areas of the interior seem to have
been occupied. Within Colchester, at Gosbecks Farm, there is a complex of sites
including a subrectangular enclosure of a type which elsewhere have been shown
to be high status farmsteads, for instance Gorhambury at St. Albans (Neal et al.
1990). Adjacent is a square enclosure or Viereckschanze. In the Roman period a
small fort was constructed nearby, and a Roman temple within the Viereckschanze
and a theatre nearby. The whole complex is surrounded by trackways and fields
more typical of a rural estate, and this has been interpreted as the royal residence.
Some sites also seem to have attracted more commercial activities. Colchester
was a major port controlling trade across the North Sea to the mouth of the Rhine,
and so to the potentially lucrative market of the Roman army which had been
stationed there since the invasion of Germany in 15-14 BC. Colchester is rich in
imported finewares from the Rhineland,as well as southern France, ltaly and Spain,
and monopoly control of this trade may well have been a major basis of royal power.
It may well have been some form of <<administered
trade>)based on treaties made
with Rome, initially at the time of Caesar - he mentions that the British tribes were
paying tribute to Rome, but how long this continued is unknown.
Industrial activity on these sites has been more assumed than demostrated. We
know coins were manufactured, and coin moulds are recorded from several sites.
Pottery was probably manufactured at Colchester, but here, as elsewhere, definite
signs of industrial activity, such as pottery kilns and rnetalworking, date to just after
the Rornan conquest, and pureiy preconquest deposits are elusive.
The earliest of these oppida are inland. Neither Silchester (Fulford 1985, 1987)
nor Braughing (Partridge 1981) lie on natural trade routes, and dykes at Braughing,
perhaps the capital of Tasciovanus, father of Cunobeiin, did not achieve the
ostentation of later sites. But both these sites stand out in the wealth of imported
objects, and there seems to be a deliberate aping of continental fashions, not only
in aspects of dress (e.g. continental fibulae) and table ware (Arretine and South
Gaulish samian, Gallo-Belgic fine wares), but also in cuisine. A pit in Braughing

contained Spanish amphorae and bones to Spanish mackerel, presumably the


remains of the garum or fish sauce imported in the amphorae. Like sites in central
and northern GauI, pig was easlythe dominant species eaten at Braughing, unusual
in a British context.
The oppida were at the top of a hierarchy of sites which we are only just beginning
to clarify. Some of the subsidiary sites seem mainly to have an industrial or trading
significance; others, like Baldock, are an agglomeration of ritual and settlement
areas, in the case of Baldock associated with relatively wealthy burials containing
fragments of chain mail, buckets, etc. Other sites, especially in the hill-fort area of
Wessex seem to be small-scale versions of oppida, a cluster of normal settlement
sites linked by small-scale dyke systems, ando with one or two moderately rich
burials, as at HurstbourneTarrant or Gussage AIl Saints (Corney 1989). The pattern
of British oppida and related settlernents seem to have several regionalvariants, but
even so, there are areas such as East Anglia, well known for its rich hoards of
goldwork atthis period, where such sites might be expected, but at present still seem
to be absent. There are areas with settlement histories which we can still only dimly
percebe.

ln the last thirty years there has been a general shift from migration models as
a rneans of explaining the lron Age, to socio-economic models. One of the most
favoured class of these new models is the World Economy or Centre (Core) Periphery models (e-g. Brun 1987, Rowlands et al. 1987). Within this general
geographical framework in the Late Iron Age, Spain, France, and Britain can be
viewed in terms of threeconcentricarcs.The inner arc isformed by the Mediterranean
iittoral, consisting of Phoenician, Greek and Roman colonies or their successors,
and small native urban agglomerations with an urban character. Beyond this is a
second zone in which large urban agglomerations appear, though their size may be
more an indication of a primitve settlement system. In includes the oppida of France
and England which form the subject of this article. Beyond this is a further zone of
hillforts and defended homesteads, more typical of the highland areas of the Atlantic
Iittoral.
Attractive and useful though this Romano-centric model is as a framework for
analysis, it providesonly a partialpicture, and it is perhaps time for us to recall a more
Atlantic perspective, such as we already have for studying the Neolithic. The simple
trajectory -Megalithic tornbs, Bronze Age hoards, lron Age hill-forts- is certainly
an oversimplification,but it does emphasise a unity along the Atlantic coast. Had we
continued our arc around the Mediterranean, and extended the outer circle into
central Europe, we would have found the hill-fort absent, even in areas where it had
existed in earlier times (e.g. eastern Germany, Poland), so there is sornething
special about the Atlantic that deserves treating it as something of an entity.
The to-ing and fro-ing along the coast, the trading and piracy, the intermarriage
and local warfare that went on throughout Prehistory did not produce an absolute

unity, but it did mean that ideas spread quickly, and paralleldevelopments occurred.
The problem is that especially in the lron Age, when in these areas there is only a
limited material culture surviving in the archaeological record, these contacts are
only rarely demostrable in truly tangible terms -the Spanish- southwestern
French style brooches form Cornwall, the Armorican pottery and coins from
~ western
S
France (Boudet 1992), or the Navan
southern England, rare British C O ~ in
ape. Less tangible are similarities between pottery styles or hill-fort rampart
constructions.
However, perhaps the most stimulating approach is to assume the similarities
(e.g. in the appearance hill-fort sacieties), and instead look at the differences in
these hill-fort and early urbanised societies. As I have tried to emphasise in this
paper, even though many of the processes going on in these societies rnay be
similar-the developmentof trade with the Mediterranean, the increasingcomplexity
of industrial production, etc- the reactions of individual societies may be very
different, and a comparative approach will help highlight these differences, and
hopefully the reasons for them. Simply laberlling cites by typological definition as
hill-forts* or q<oppida*may mask very considerable differences, and this can only
be explored by not starting with falce assumptions, like there being a <<Geltic
society,>or that hill-forts are of necessity ((centralplaces.. A model for a settiement
system devised for one area may or may not be applicable for another area.
Assuming tath al1 oppida are the same is to falsify the archaeological data even
before it ahs been excavated.
Contact along the Atlantic coast was necessary for Iron Age societies to survive;
it also necessary for modern archaeologists. Only by comparing and contrasting
different regional systems, by discovering and highlighting regional differences, can
we start to understand these societies for which we have few or no modern
ethnographical parallels. We should be looking at means for developoing our
acadernic contacts if we are to truly realise the potential of lron Age studies along
the Atlantic facade.

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