Flegg is a district of two hundreds, consisting of a total of 22 parishes, set in Broadland, in the east of the East Anglian county of Norfolk. It is thought that with the higher sea levels of the Roman period, that it would have effectively have formed an island bordered by reed beds, marshes, river valleys on the west and south, and the North Sea in the east. As sea levels decreased slightly during the Anglo-Saxon period, and drainage systems advanced, so Flegg became better connected to the "mainland".
Roman East Norfolk showing Flegg as an island:
The name "Flegg" is Anglo-Danish in origin, as are many of it's parish names such as Ormesby, Rollesby, Hemsby, Stokesby, Filby, Scratby, Mautby, Thrigby, Billockby etc. No other district in East Anglia, a region that formed a part of the 10th Century Dane-Law has such a concentration of Scandinavian place-names.
In this post I want to record some transcriptions taken from some studies in my book collection, that relate to Flegg, or to the wider area of Broadland (East Norfolk), during the earlier Medieval period.
The Origins of Norfolk. Tom Williamson 1993. Manchester University Press. ISBN 0 7190 3928
Topography and environment.
"But there are also districts of deep, extremely fertile and easily worked loams, especially on the former island of Flegg. The whole area is dissected by the wide lush valleys of the Wensum, Bure, Ant, and their tributaries. The medieval settlement pattern was dispersed, with common-edge hamlets and many isolated churches."
The Norfolk Broads - A landscape history. Tom Williamson. 1997. Manchester University Press ISBN 0 7190 4801.
The uplands and islands.
"The Broadland fens and marshes are nowhere so extensive that the traveller loses sight of the 'upland'. Even in the middle of the Halvergate marshes the higher ground can be seen, low on the horizon, often picked out by the lines of woodland growing on the relict 'cliffs' of the former estuary. Some of the higher land once comprised islands: Flegg covering some 78 sq km, between the Bure and the Thurne.".
The Anglo Saxon
"During Middle Saxon times - roughly the period between the mid-seventh and late ninth centuries - the local population probably increased once again, and more complex forms of social and economic organisation developed. The Broads area became a part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia, which was roughly coterminous with the modern counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. It is possible that the uplands here were more densely wooded than most parts of Norfolk at this time, in spite of the excellence of much of the local soil. Certainly, many place-names in the area seem to refer to woodland: Acle for example was the ac leah, the oak wood; Fishley, 'the wood of the fisherman'; while both East Ruston and Sco Ruston incorporated the term hris tun, 'the settlement among the brushwood'. It is possible that, remote from the main centres of power in East Anglia, and exposed to the threat of continued sea-borne raiding, the district was relatively sparsely settled, principally used for grazing. The importance of the latter in the local economy is again suggested by place-names: Horsey was 'the horse island'; Woodbastwick and Bastwick both incorporate the element wic, 'a grazing farm, ranch'; while the names of Winterton and Somerton - the winter settlement and the summer settlement respectively - suggest the practice of transhumance, the seasonal movement of livestock to distant pastures. Extensive areas of seasonal grazing must have been opening up in the form of low-lying fens and marshes as the estuaries here began to silt up. The role of Broadland as an area specialising in grazing and the exploitation of woodland - complementing the arable specialisms of other parts of the East Anglian kingdom - is also perhaps indicated by a particularly noticeable feature of the area at the end of the Saxon period. Domesday book shows that a very large proportion of the population here was classed not as bondmen - as villeins, sokemen or bordars - but as free men, liberi homines. Such individuals were very thick on the ground both in Flegg, and on the uplands bordering the south of Broadland, and the power of manorial lords in these areas was correspondingly circumscribed. There are many views on the nature, and significance of such men: but one interpretation is that they were the descendants of Middle Saxon peasants whose main role had been that of herdsmen or shepherds, and whose obligations to king and nobles were thus less servile or onerous than those of arable producers."
"Elsewhere in Norfolk and Suffolk free men were more thinly spread, although they were almost everywhere a more prominent feature than in other areas of England. Like other distinctive aspects of East Anglia's social and tenurial structure, they are often interpreted as a consequence of the settlement here, during the ninth and tenth centuries, of immigrants from Scandinavia. While in reality, the origins of Norfolk and Suffolk's medieval idiosyncrasies are much more complex than this, a Viking elite clearly did come to dominate the East Anglian kingdom around 869 when, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 'The host went from Cirencester into East Anglia, and occupy that land, and share it out.'
In restricted areas there also appears to have been large-scale peasant immigration from Scandinavia. One of these was Broadland. Viking place-names - especially those featuring the suffix -by, 'farm, settlement' - are densely clustered on the island of Flegg (a name itself derived from a Scandinavian word meaning reeds), widespread in Lothingland, and scattered more thinly along the upland margins of the Yare and Waveney."
"Whatever the nature (and extent) of Viking settlement in the area, there is no doubt that by the time of the Domesday survey in 1086 the upland parts of Broadland were no longer a sparsely-settled landscape of woodland and pasture. They were now - together with the neighbouring clayland areas to the south and west - one of the most densely settled and intensively farmed regions in the whole of England.".
The Middle Ages
"The region's dense population, and complex social structure, are manifested in another way: in the small sizes of parishes, and thus in the large number of parish churches. Indeed the upland areas of Broadland have one of the highest densities of parish churches in Britain. Many of these (although not the present structures) were already in existence by the time of Domesday: their proliferation reflects not only the comparative wealth of this fertile region, and the need to house large congregations, but also perhaps the confused tenurial structure of the locality. Families of freemen may have been keen to endow churches in order to establish their status: church-building was the mark of the lord, rather than the peasant."
"In East Anglia, in contrast [sic to the classic "great open fields" elsewhere in medieval English parishes - PB] medieval agricultural systems were much more flexible and individualistic: seldom were the strips widely scattered across two or three great 'fields' but were instead more closely clustered in the vicinity of the peasant's homestead, and individual farmers had more freedom of choice about what they grew and when. In the west of Norfolk, such freedoms were somewhat limited by the institution of the 'fold course' - the right of the manorial lord to graze sheep across the tenants' land for much of the year. In Broadland however - where the power of manorial lords was more circumscribed - fold courses were rare and tenants enjoyed almost complete freedom over how they organised their cropping, and rights of grazing over others' land were often limited to the period after the harvest."
Medieval Flegg. Two Norfolk Hundreds in the Middle Ages East and West Flegg, 1086 - 1500. Barbara Cornford. 2002. Larks Press. ISBN 0 948400 98 6
p14. "Until recently the A149 road from North Walsham crossed the river Thurne by the medieval bridge at Potter Heigham"
p 16. "Flegg farmers have always distinguished between the upland and the marsh (The upland in Flegg is all land over five feet above sea level)."
p20. "Yarmouth has always been the market town and urban centre for Flegg. In the Middle Ages corn from Flegg fed the town. For centuries Flegg farmers and small-holders have sold their livestock, vegetables and fruit at the Wednesday and Saturday markets."
p22. "The Danish settlement of East Anglia began after 880 AD, when, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Danes occupied the land and shared it out. They must have come to Flegg in considerable numbers for they gave names to thirteen out of twenty-two villages in Flegg."
p22 "The name Stokesby, which is Saxon in its first element and Danish in its second, is an interesting one. Not only does it suggest the mingling of the two groups, but it may also explain why the Danes found the Muck Fleet valley virtually empty. The Saxon word 'stoc', pronounced with a long 'o', was used to describe an 'outlying pasture near water where cattle are kept for part of the year'. If this is true of Stokesby, then the Danes may well have found only cattle-minders in the valley, with perhaps small and scattered settlements around the heath to the west."
p23. "Most of the Danish village names in Flegg incorporate a personal name, such as Orm (Ormesby), Malti (Mautby), or Hrodulfr (Rollesby). Dr Sandred believes that these are the names, not of warrior chiefs, but of free farmers, more interested in acquiring land than pillage and warfare."
p24-25. "Danish words have survived in Flegg as they have generally in Norfolk. Holme means an island and is applied to an area of dry ground in the marsh, often a gravel bank. Winterton and Somerton Holmes are sufficiently well drained to be ploughed and contain farms. Medieval field-names include 'gate' for a road, 'wong' for a furlong or collection of strips in the open fields and the 'syk', a marshy strip of land by a stream. These words are still used. Ferrygate and Damgate are roads in Martham, villagers go 'over the wongs' from the church to the hamlet of Cess, or through the 'syk' meadow, marshy ground, which was once a navigable stream, marking the boundary between Martham and Bastwick. One Danish name has vanished. The hamlet of Sco, mentioned in the Domesday survey, lay where Martham, Bastwick, and Rollesby meet around the present Grange Farm (OS TG 437 172), but Sco never became an ecclesiastical or civil parish. The word is Danish, from skogre, a wood, and is appropriate for a settlement at the bottom of Speech Oak Hill."
Chapter 2. Flegg in the Time of the Domesday Book
p29-30. "A few words of explanation are needed about the terms used in the extract. The hide was a Saxon measurement of land, which notionally contained 120 acres. In Norfolk, the Danish word carucate, also 120 acres, was used instead of hide. The carucates and acres recorded are not very accurate measurements but they give a rough idea of the size of a manor dmesne ir a freeman's farm. The demesne was the home farm of a manor and its produce went to the lord of the manor for his use. Villeins and cottars, or bordars as they are called in Norfolk, were attached to the manors and provided much of the labour force on the demesne. Serfs, possibly slaves, were present in small numbers on a few manors. Freemen and sokemen were always regarded as free tenants. The number of ploughs is always recorded on manors and on the freemen's and sokemen's holdings. The word 'plough' includes a team of eight oxen."
p31. "The two Flegg Hundreds, along with others in East and South Norfolk, were the most densely populated in the county. The freemen, villeins and other tenants were heads of households with dependant families. I was surprised to see how close the number of Domesday households were to returns from the first Census of 1801. Many readers will have some idea of what life was like in Norfolk two hundred years ago in the days of Nelson, Parson Woodeford and the Agricultural Improvers. It is important to remember that Norfolk was probably as busy a place in the late eleventh century, as it was several hundred years later."
"Over two thirds of the inhabitants of Flegg were freemen and sokemen, that is men and women of free status, but it is not always easy to define their position in society. Sokemen are almost always attached to manors and on some manors had specific services to render to their lords. On manors belonging to St Benet's Abbey they were often employed as ploughmen. In theory at least, freemen were free of all feudal control, but most had commended themselves to a powerful lord in order to gain protection. These freemen, in commendations only, as Domesday says, had minimal obligations to their lords. They could sell their land, often without even consulting the lord. They had the right to attend the Hundred Court and to take part in its deliberations.
Freemen and sokemen were numerous all over Eastern England, their numbers declining towards the west. Historians have thought that it was a Danish origin or influence which enabled the freemen to maintain their independence from feudal pressures. A more likely cause is now thought to have been the general economic prosperity of eastern England that helped the freemen to withstand the pressures of the feudal lords."
p33."Villeins and bordars account for only a third of the tenants. Whatever their exact legal status, they were certainly under close control of their manors on which they lived and where they provided most of the labour on the demesnes. They had their own farms, but the size of their holdings is nor recorded. A hundred years later the usual villain holding in Martham was about twelve acres, but there were wide variations. Bordars had smaller holdings, perhaps about five acres. Bordars are particularly numerous in west Flegg where the small manors sometimes relied entirely on them for labour. Only twelve serfs are recorded in Flegg."
p36. "Corn was not the only valuable commodity produced in Flegg. Both salt production and sheep farming brought in extra income. The spring tides up the river Bure flooded pools in the estuary with salt water that gradually evaporated in the summer sun and wind. The resulting brine was taken to earthenware pans on the marsh edge where the brine was heated until the salt crystallised. At the time of Domesday, Flegg was the centre of salt production in East Norfolk."
p53. "In the twelfth century the introduction of windmills gave the landlords other sources of income. By 1200 windmills at Herringby and Rollesby had been recorded and by 1300 windmills were common in all Flegg villages. At the same time the use of horses for ploughing meant that the lords were less dependent on the ox-drawn ploughs of their freemen and sokemen to cultivate the demesne. By 1245 ploughing was done by horses on the Abbot of St Benet's manor of Ashby and no doubt on most other manors."
p91. "At Martham, as was usual in East Norfolk, a tenant's holding was not a block of land, but a collection of strips in the open fields, usually in the fields nearest to the tenant's home, although some holdings were scattered more widely in the village."
p138. "The Black Death arrived in Norfolk in the spring of 1349 and spread up the river valleys from Yarmouth. It was particularly severe in South Norfolk, along the Yare and the Bure valleys and on the coast."
p139. "The Inquisition Post Mortem taken after the death of Thomas de Essex in 1351 for his manor of Runham states that all the tenants were dead.".
p144. "It is surprising that Flemings left the Low Countries to work in England after the Black Death. Flemings were employed in many places in East Norfolk in the 1350s. In 1355 a Fleming was hired to cut and harvest five acres of wheat in Martham for which he was paid 3s. 4d. This separate entry suggests that perhaps he worked away from the other harvesters. The next year a Fleming was employed for eleven days to thresh seven quarters of wheat at 3d. a quarter, which is considerably less than the usual rate of 5d. a quarter. I have found Flemings mentioned at Rollesby, Ashby, and Scottow. St Benet's Abbey employed twelve Flemings for the harvest of 1356. Perhaps these men went round in a gang hiring themselves wherever they were needed. It is difficult to understand why they came across the North Sea to seek farm work. It has been suggested that the Black Death did not claim so many lives in the Low Countries where the standard of living was higher and resistance to the disease greater than in most of Europe."
I'm stopping there. I could take it through the Peasant's Rebellion and the Late Medieval. I highly recommend Barbara Cornford's little book. She in particular, has dissected the manorial records of Martham, Norfolk. She successfully brings the Medieval in that manor to life. Not so alien. People were still clearly very much people as we know them.
On a personal, genealogical level, I have many, many Broadland ancestors on my mother's side recorded over the past 400 years or so. However, their main cluster area was immediately to the south of Flegg, along the Yare valley in Broadland. But tracing back - some of the lines there had moved down from the general region of Flegg - Moulton St Mary, Acle, South Walsham, Stokesby, Repps-with-Bastwick, Herringby, Rollesby, Ormesby, etc. Therefore on a personal level, I've enjoyed researching this history, as I most likely had many ancestors on Flegg a few centuries earlier, during the Later Medieval at least.
I don't have very many photographs taken on Flegg. Once I've completed the Wherryman's Way long distance trail, I need to explore the churches and landscape of Flegg.
On a Population Genetics Level - 3 points.
The 1348 Black Death. It killed a lot of families. At least one third of the population died, in addition to a famine and hard times that preceded the disease for several years before the outbreak.
Once again, I find evidence of admixture in East Anglia, from the Low Countries. The long term link across the North Sea to the Lower Rhine Valley.
Movement during the 15th Century. As Feudalism gradually collapsed over the 150 years following the Black Death, more and more people started to move around England - away from their ancient manors and parishes. Cornfield noted three brothers from Martham during the 15th Century. One ended up in Ely, Cambridgeshire, another in Halesworth, Suffolk, and the third in London. Should any of the brothers had returned to the manor they would have owed money to their lord. They didn't, people were moving around by then.
Flegg doesn't yet have a great landscape history of the Late Prehistoric. It does have an importance during the Romano-British, with the Fort of Caister etc. The current story picks up during the Middle Saxon, where we currently get the impression that this last wild landscape of East Anglia was picked up - vulnerable to sea raiders. It's natural resources at first exploited for woodland materials, then more so as grazing land and pasture. It's almost bizarre concentration of Danish place-names and words from the Late Saxon period. I cannot think other than that an Old Danish-speaking people - at the very least, a significant immigration, settled here, and finally founded villages and farmsteads with names. It's not the traditional story of raiding, marauding Vikings, but of the immigration of farmers.
By Domesday it's full of people and production. A centre, an agrarian hub. The imposition of feudal pressure by Norman lords being resisted for centuries by local freemen farmers. They say that Norfolk does different. Flegg certainly did, with it's proto-capitalism and relatively (to the West Midlands for example) free labour markets.
July 2018 - I recently completed a BERT (Basic Excavation and Recording Techniques) Course in Archaeology at the SHARP Project in Sedgeford, Norfolk. I've been interested in archaeology for decades. My interested probably kicked off during the early 1970's when as a kid, I witnessed a number of excavations around my father's shop in Norwich. Around 16 - 21 years ago, I was a keen amateur archaeologist. I studied part-time for two years with the UEA, and gained a certificate in "Field Archaeology & Landscape History". I contributed as a volunteer field-walker, or as I liked to call it, surface-collection surveyor. I carried out a one man survey of over thirty compartments with disturbed soils in Thetford Forest. Here is a link to the web archive of my old project website Thetford Forest Archaeology.
My main interest was in survey methodology, late prehistory, and in British lithics. However, Life moved on as it does for me. Years later, I look at the SHARP (Sedgeford Archaeological & Historical Research Project) website, and spot their course, BERT (Basic Excavation & Recording Techniques). I remembered field-walking for a day at Sedgeford, with the UEA group, around 19 years ago. The Sedgeford Project was still up and running after all of these years! I'd never excavated before. I liked field-walking as it gave me independence to carry out all aspects of the project. But even though I had a long term interest in archaeology - I'd never myself, as much as lifted a trowel at a dig. Time is moving on - I decided to add it to the bucket list of life, and to execute it. I signed up for a BART Course to commence and run for six days in July 2018. This is what I experienced.
SHARP (Sedgford Archaeological & Historical Research Project) is a project both to a) deep research over a long term period, one English village parish, set in the North West Norfolk landscape - using multiple archaeological and historical research methods, and b) in democratic archaeology, where locals, members of the public, amateurs, students, enthusiasts, and volunteers can contribute to and become involved in a high quality research project. Archaeology is demystified, as volunteers often gain enough experience to become supervisors and trainers at the Project themselves.
I'd say that they have achieved both of those goals, and over an incredible 23 year period - and still going strong, with plenty of excavations and other research possibilities to keep them busy in that one small Norfolk parish, for many years to come. Indeed one very important lesson of SHARP - is that Sedgeford is just one rural East Anglian village parish. Not particularly special. Out of some 1,200 or more East Anglian parishes. Yet it has proven to provide decades of research and opportunities. For those that believe that Archaeology is all done and dusted, think again.
The setting. Sedgeford, a parish in the north west corner of the East Anglian county of Norfolk. A few miles from the coast of the Wash and the North Sea. July 2018. A small stream passes through the village. In past times, it was a navigable stretch of Heacham River.
The UK has been in a drought for several weeks, and are in what the media refer to as a "heatwave", the hottest and driest for over forty years.
I purchased a place on the BERT course at the off-site rate (GBP £290). Full Rate On-Site (GBP £430 - there is also a concession rate) would have entitled me to a pitch in their camp, as well as to evening meal, evening community activities (some of which may require a further fee), and to breakfast. I know that I was missing out on that aspect of the SHARP experience. During the week, evening activities included a quiz, a game of cricket, a lecture, and at the end, a storytelling evening followed by a punk rock act! However, as my interest was in the archaeology, I couldn't justify the extra cost when I could drive home to sleep and rest each evening.
There were a number of things that I was notified of that I needed: a few basic tools, including an archaeology trowel, a leaf trowel, a plumb bob, line level, pencils, 5 metre steel tape, a broad rimmed hat, sun lotion, etc. Of those, the most essential were the archaeology trowel, pencils, the hat, and sun lotion. In addition, had I known, I would have brought a pen, a drink mug, food dish / bowl, and knife and fork.
Day 1. Sunday
I arrived around 07:15 on Sunday morning. I had missed out on an induction held for the campers the previous evening. I could have got there a bit later, maybe 08:15. The SHARP community schedules the morning meeting in their central marquee tent for 08:20 Sunday - Friday. I would reiterate, that this is a democratic project, and that there is a strong communal feel to the camp. I met some of the supervisors, and a few other BERT students, one that kindly lent me some cutlery for the day (do take your own).
First session - Health & Safety on site induction. There is no mobile plant on site, the main hazard being the hot weather.
Second session - straight into it! To the current excavation, Trench 23, and first instructions on excavation trowel work. This was a bit of a pleasant surprise. SHARP pride themselves in this sort of approach. Whereas many commercial digs are renown for exploiting volunteers to do the dirty work, this project straight away starts to involve the novices. If I had actually made a significant find during that first session, I feel sure that with supervision, I would have been allowed to fully excavate and explore that find myself. This project demystifies the techniques, and enables volunteers.
Above image - my brand new trowel broken in.
A bit now about the Trench 23 Excavation that we were training on. Sub soil features were initially indicated by magnetometer survey. Top soils were removed a few seasons ago, and the trench (as pictured in some of the above images) had been worked down to a Middle Saxon layer. Almost all of the pottery recovered in this level was Ipswich Ware, the typical ceramic of the Middle Saxon (or Middle Anglo-Saxon period if you prefer) in Eastern England. This heavy, gritty, wheel-turned grey-ware was fired in kilns located in Ipswich, Suffolk, between around 625 AD and 800 AD. This site was securely dated to this period, which marks the return of Christianity to Lowland Britain, as it was finally embraced by the growing Anglo Saxon kingdoms of East Anglia, and Mercia.
The main features that excited the geophysics surveyor turned out to be the foundations of two kilns or ovens, dating to the Middle Saxon period. The working hypothesis was that these ovens, along with the other features that included working floors, post holes, and at least one cistern feature, as well as a midden, and burnt charred grain from barley and rye, could represent a malt-house complex. If this is the case, then it could be the first ever malt-house yet recorded from Anglo-Saxon Britain.
Third session. In a mobile classroom for basic recording and context technique training. Excavation, stratigraphy, colluvium, turbulation, Harris matrix, and other subjects were also introduced, as well as the "context form".
Fourth session. The World Cup Final was scheduled, and a lot of the community including some BERT students were excused to watch the Final between France and Croatia on a screen. I wasn't particularly interested, but keener to have more time in Trench 23 on the trowel work. Out in the baking sun.
Day ended 17:00. It felt good. Time to drive home.
Day 2. Monday.
Back on site for the 08:20 morning meeting. Coffee.
Recap and we are issued with our BAJR (British Archaeology Jobs Resource) Archaeology Skills Passport. A booklet in which you can collect signatures from supervisors, as you accumulate skills and experience. A well signed passport is key to gaining placements on more excavations that welcome experienced volunteers.
Then we were back onto Trench 23, this time for training in the survey and recording of a trench section. Got to play with plumb bob and line level. Similar to my training with the UEA years ago in surveying an earthwork - only inverted into a trench section. We were also tasked to actually start identifying changes in soil colours, textures, inclusions - to distinguish an actual soil stain. We recorded our section on a scale of 1:20.
We were introduced to the safe use of a mattock to clean an area of trench.
Day 3. Tuesday.
On Day 3 we had training on the identification, context, and recording of small finds in an excavation. We each had to complete the session by filling out a small find record, complete with description, context, dimensions, description, and a drawing of a metal artefact.
Next session was Bulk Finds - cleaning and treatment of different materials such as daub, bone, shell, ceramics, etc. We were taught to systematically keep bulk find trays with context tabs.
Some more trowel work in Trench 23. Practical assessment of the ability to plot a plan of a trench and features.
Day 4. Wednesday
Training with a Dumpy Level - in order to record height of excavation features and small finds.
Training in site photography. How to clean and prepare a feature such as post holes, take photographic records, fill in the photography register, use metre sticks, context boards, etc.
More general trench trowelling and other work.
Day 5. Thursday
Environmental Archaeology. Trained to strain soil samples in a flotation tank, in order to separate light organic material, heavier bulk finds such as daub, from soil. We also sorted through the bulk finds from a flotation sample - separating finds such as daub and bone.
I and another student, Anna, were asked to excavate a sondage on the edge of Trench 23, in order to test if a Saxon dated drainage ditch continued in that direction. I particularly took great joy in that work - but so hot in the heat-wave.
Day 6. Friday - Goodbyes.
We had a recap on excavation recording.
An introduction to geophysics and non-intrusive archaeological methods. As I studied non-invasive archaeology with the UEA for two years in the past, this was like a recap and update for myself. However - we got to play with a magnetometer (flux gradiometer) out in the field, which was certainly a new experience.
We also had an introduction to reporting. Each week, the new crop of BERT students have to complete a new section of a report for the Trench 23 excavation.
I was allowed to complete my beloved sondage trench, and yes - it revealed the soil stain of the Middle Saxon ditch:
We were presented our BERT certificates. With another student, I was tasked to guide some members of the public visiting the excavation. We got the thumbs up from a supervisor. At close of the week some of us made a presentation to the SHARP team about what we had been learning.
It wasn't just trowel work, site photography, dumpy levels, or even flotation that I learned about and experienced over the week. What I also discovered were human stories and community. I saw a sort of collectivism in action, in the form of People's Archaeology - individuals helping each other up. I enjoyed the work. I enjoyed meeting like minded people on their own journeys. So much so that I'm looking forward to returning next summer as a volunteer at Sedgeford. Last day was actually emotional.
The above image illustrates of some of my ancestral locations, as according to documented genealogy. As can be seen. I have quite a lot of East Anglian ancestry. What might also be observed, is the location of East Anglia, and of South East England, in relation to Belgium, the Netherlands, and North East France.
I'm an East Anglian. Much of my family tree is East Anglian. Before documented genealogy picks up my family trail, who were the East Anglians, what were their origins? The traditional answer would be that they were the descendants of the Angles. An early 5th Century AD tribe, that relocated from Angeln, now in Schleswig Holstein, on the North Germany, South Denmark border. Them, and maybe a few Saxons, Jutes, Suevvi, etc. All pretty much from what is now North Germany and Denmark. See the map below:
Archaeology sort of backs this up ... but also offers some slight alternatives. At first, British Archaeology supported the Historians - that there was a near genocidal event during the 5th and 6th centuries, where the Anglo Saxon tribes arrived and displaced the Romano-Britons that had until then, lived in South East Britannia. There certainly is plenty, even, overwhelming evidence, of Anglo-Saxon culture if not settlement in East Anglia at this time. Below are the locations of a few of the many Anglo-Saxon cemeteries found in East Anglia - and their closest artifact correlations on the Continent - in Northern Germany:
It's all adding up. However, then, a new trend appears in British Archaeology that plays down the Anglo-Saxon invasion hypothesis. From the 1980's onward, some British archaeologists started to argue that they saw patterns of land use continuity between the Romano-British and Pagan Saxon periods. They argued there was no archaeology of genocide. No battle sites. No mass graves. Instead they proposed that only limited numbers of Anglo Saxons arrived - and that their culture was largely adopted by the Romano-Britons that already lived here. Some even suggested that no Anglo Saxons came here - it was merely a cultural import.
Then Genetics stepped in. Most notably with POBI (Peopling of the British Isles) 2015, but also with a number of other studies, often comparing the DNA from excavated remains to modern populations. They proposed a new middle house consensus. No there was no genocide. The modern English have more old British ancestry than Anglo-Saxon. However, there was a significant Anglo Saxon immigration event. But they mixed, intermarried. Anglo-Saxon culture was adopted, but Anglo Saxons had not displaced the Britons. They had married them. The modern English it seems have around 10% to 40% Anglo Saxon ancestry, and 60% to 90% British. Sort of watered down Celts.
The assumption that we have made, is that rural populations on the front-line immigration - such as East Anglians, were the most watered down, with highest percentages of Anglo-Saxon ancestry. Why not. The archaeology would support that. The East Anglian landscape is littered with Anglo-Saxon, and Anglo-Danish place-names. It is the most Anglo-Saxon landscape, and later, was firmly within the Dane-Law.
It's all over this blog. However, in summary, I am an East Anglian. Born at Norwich, with all four grandparents of Norfolk birth. I have been researching my family tree using genealogy, for thirty years, on and off. I have accumulated the recorded names of 490 direct ancestors. Around 80% or more of this ancestry lived here in East Anglia. At Generation 6 (3rd great grandparent), my ancestry was 97% South East English, and 3% Swiss. This is demonstrated in this fan chart of my recorded ancestry:
If that's not East Anglian enough - look at the right hand side of that fan chart, my mother's side. My mother has 225 of her direct ancestors recorded, and everyone lived firmly in East Anglia.
I have documents, likenesses in family photos, and family stories to back my narrative ancestry; but I am also gradually building biological evidence through the use of DNA matches to other testers, that share a common ancestry with me, that correlates well with the shared DNA:
That the vast majority of our ancestry is very rural, and poor agricultural working class, would suggest that we have had ancestry here in East Anglia for a very, very, long time. I have traced some lines back to early parish records in the 16th Century. I would expect that many of our ancestors belonged to peasant families in Medieval Norfolk and Suffolk. These, I'd expect were the descendants of Anglo Saxons, Romano-Britons, and Danes.
Here comes the paradox.
Population Genetics and the DNA
Documentary evidence confirms that I'm an East Anglian, and English. But when I tested with the commercial DNA-for-ancestry vendors, such as 23andme or FT-DNA, my results, although seeing me as pretty firmly, a North West European, doesn't really see me as particularly British. 23andme suggested only 32% British. They instead suggest that my ancestry is rather Continental. High levels of "West European" or "French & German". I at first assumed that this was ancient or early medieval ancestry, my Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Danish East Anglian roots showing through.
But is that the case? Analysis using some of the latest calculators challenge that. Here are the PCA locations of myself and my mother, on one such calculator. This one (By David Wesolowski) includes many modern references grouped on language family, but also includes some references from actual ancient DNA in Northern Europe, including some extracted from Anglo Saxon remains in Cambridgeshire, close to East Anglia:
You see the red squares represent the Anglo Saxons in Cambridgeshire? Mine and even my very rural East Anglian mother's place well to the right of them, closer to modern day Irish speakers, overlapping with modern day French speakers. More Celtic it seems than Anglo Saxon.
Here's another PCA showing our positions (red myself, orange, my mother), this one by Lukasz, but based on the Eurogenes K36 calculator:
It puts me closer to Flemish then Walloon, followed by SE English. Finally a third PCA, from Eurogenes K15:
We consistently position between SE England and North France, Belgium, and the Netherlands; rather than between SE England and Northern Germany and Denmark. It appears that we relate closer to Normans, Belgians, Walloons, Flemish, and Dutch - than we do to modern day North Germans or Danes. Here is our K36 Oracle maps by Lukasz:
My mother has a slight more pull from Denmark and Schleswig Holstein. Perhaps this is from early medieval Angle/Danish settler in East Anglia? However, we both pull strongest outside of England, from the Low Countries. Flemish, Dutch, and Walloon come up as closest Continental matches. I'm not surprised. I've noticed for some time, that the big vendors appear to give some testers of Normandy, Hauts-de-France, Belgium, and the Netherlands ancestry, very similar results to my own.
If our results were at all representative of East Anglians of local ancestry, then the modern East Anglian is perhaps as much, or more of a Belgian than he or she is a Dane or Angle. So I've added a secondary circle to the map that I used above, to illustrate what are popularly beleved to be the origins of the East Anglians. The new blue circle, represents not what history or archaeology suggests, but what my family's DNA currently suggests:
Note that I have included South East Britain in there - because clearly, there was no displacement. The Romano-Britons were among our ancestors.
The Language Connection.
It has long been noted, that the very closest dialect or language to English, is West Frisian. Old Frisian and Old English (or Anglo Saxon) were close. Linguists group them together as "Anglo-Frisian". Why is this? If we all descend from Angles and Danes?
When did our "Belgian" ancestors arrive in Britain?
By Belgian, I'm referring to ancestors that we share not only with Belgians of local ancestry, but also the North French, and the Dutch. Answer. I don't know. All that I am pointing out, is that the DNA of my East Anglian family appears to be more like that of people that today live in that part of the Continent, than in Denmark, Norway, or even North Germany. However, here are a few ideas:
The Bell Beaker. During the Late Neolithic. We believe that the British Bell Beaker people largely crossed over from the Lower Rhine Valley.
The Belgae. I'm not quite so sure about this one, but let's just go with it. Roman historians recorded a late Iron Age migration from the Belgium area, into South East Britain. They described them as using a Celtic language and culture, but being closer related to Germanic tribes to the east.
An unrecorded migration from Northern France to Southern Britain during Late Prehistory. This one was suggested by POBI 2015, that claimed to detect a relationship between the Southern British and Northern France, that they claimed was most likely Late Prehistoric.
Roman Britain. Britannia was often administered along with Gaul.
Saxo Frisia. Saxons didn't only Southern Britain, they also settled the Low Countries, where they took the name of the earlier tribe there - the Frisians. Did many Anglo-Saxon settlers actually crossed over from Frisia?
Norman. 1066 and all that. A whole new elite arrived, often bringing artisans and supporters with them.
Angevin and Medieval French. For a time, large regions of France were ruled along with England. French artisans, merchants, monks, priests, etc.
The Elizabethan Strangers. Protestant refugees were invited from the Low Countries, both Dutch and Walloons. They particularly settled towns in South East England such as Norwich, and Colchester during the 16th and 17th centuries.
The Huguenots. French Protestant refugees that arrived during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Background migration. My favourite. In addition to all of the aforementioned proposed migration events, the slow, gradual contact between South East England and the Low Countries / Northern France, that has always been there. The drip-drip in the background. That the North sea and Dover Strait separating the two areas is so narrow. Merchants, refugees, masons, artisans, weavers - the Dutchmen and Frenchmen recorded as Aliens in many post medieval surveys. The fishermen from Haut-de-France that frequently beached on the Norfolk coast. The dutch herring fishermen that traded herring at Yarmouth market.
All of this hinges on the DNA test results of just one Norfolk family. I'm just making observations here, and I would so love to see more East Anglians test, and to use these calculators, to explore their ancient ancestry as well. I have seen only one other East Anglian of a local family test, and their test results were similar to my own:
My 23andme "speculative Ancestry Composition results:
The other East Anglian local tester:
I'm NOT claiming that modern East Anglians or South East English, of local ancestry, do not have Anglo-Saxon, or perhaps Old Danish ancestry. My mother's K36 radiates slightly around Denmark and Schleswig Holstein. I'm NOT claiming that all East Anglians with local family trees would have the same results as my family. However, if they did turn out to do so... then it would appear that we have so far under-rated our close relationship to the Low Countries.
We need more ancient DNA from Anglo Saxons, Angles in Schleswig Holstein, Frisians, Iron Age South-East British, South-East Romano-British, Franks, Old Danes, and others if we are ever to sort this out. And we need more South east English of local recorded ancestry to DNA test, and to take an interest in population genetics.
Until then, I will postulate that on top of that red circle (Denmark, Northern Germany) - we South East English have more ancestry from that blue circle (Netherlands, Belgium, and North East France), than is popularly assumed.
As I've recently walked the Boudicca Way, the Late Iron Age people that inhabited Northern East Anglia during the 1st century BC have been on my mind. Subsequently, I've made a little personal investigation, which included studying from several books on the matter.
The Boudican Revolt
This article is principally about the Iceni people of the Later Iron Age. However, I feel that first of all mention needs to be given of the event that brought the tribal name Iceni into the public sphere. The Boadican Revolt.
Boudica, Boudicca or Boadicea, was the queen of the Iceni, when they led a rebellion against Roman rule across early Roman Britannia. According to Roman historians, the Iceni were among a number of British tribes that surrendered to Rome, following the Claudian Invasion of AD 43. In exchange for peaceful surrender, the royal family of the Iceni were rewarded with client-king status. The Romans then went on to found a Colonia at Colchester, in the former Trinovante lands south of the Iceni. Tribute and taxation raised among local tribes to fund the new Roman town, and a massive new temple dedicated to the now deified Claudius, may have increased anti-Roman sentiment.
The ruler of the Iceni, Pasutagus, died circa AD 60. Properties of the family then became designated as property and loan repayment of Rome. His widow, Boudica, protested. The Romans responded by flogging her and raping her daughters. Boudicca then raised an army of rebellion among the Iceni. They marched south towards Colchester - the Trinovante joined. They sacked Colchester.
Above. Molten artefacts from the burning of Roman Colchester.
Boudica's rebel army enlargened as it moved. They then marched onto the Roman towns of London, and St Albans, with an estimated army now of 100,000. They killed an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 Romans and Britons in those three towns.
The remaining Roman forces in Britannia finally rerouted, and defeated the Boudican Revolt Army somewhere near to Watling Street. Boudica is rumoured by Roman historians to have subsequently committed suicide. The Roman occupation recovered, and over 320 years of the Romanisation of South-east Britain resumed. Now onto the main theme of this article - who were the Iceni?
The Iceni is the name that Roman writers gave a tribe, or maybe tribal federation, that inhabited Norfolk, and at times, north west Suffolk, and north east Cambridgeshire. I say the Romans gave it to them, Caesar, writing in 54 BC, may have described them, when he referred to a tribe north of the Thames as the Cenimagni. Then their own coins started to use the name ECE or ECEN. During following centuries, Roman historians were addressing them, and the Roman civitas where they lived, as the Iceni.
Who were they? These Late Iron Age people of Norfolk? Where did they come from? Economically they were agrarian farmers, cultivating small fields of wheat and barley. Sheep may have been important to their economy as well. The Later Iron Age peoples of Eastern England, and certainly those that became known as the Iceni, appear from the archaeology to have lived in small unenclosed farmsteads, with no ring ditches, or archaeologically visible defenses. This marks the Later Iron Age peoples of this regions as being different from other British regions, that featured more rigorously defended farmsteads, villages, or classic hill fort settlements.
Where the South Eastern farmsteads do correlate with a wider British picture, is that the farmsteads consisted of a small number of large round-houses. These round-houses were well built for British weather. A strong, high thatched roof that smoke could vent through. Posts around the circumference supporting dried mud and dung plastered wicker walls. Then quite often, a small porch over the door, which usually faced south-east. So often, that it is thought that it must have been a strong religious taboo for a round-house door to face anything but the rising Sun.
Small numbers of round-houses in a farmstead could suggest that they lived in small, but extended family groups. It is possible that the Eastern style Later Iron Age farmsteads did have defenses, that do not leave an archaeological trace, however, otherwise, they looked like small 'open' settlements. An additional feature that turns up on Norfolk sites are strange four-post features. It has been suggested that they could represent raised granary houses.
Horse symbols appear almost universally on the reverse of Iceni coins, and a large number of terrets, bits, and horse harness fittings associated with the Late iron Age, have been found by metal detectorists across Norfolk. Horses, horsemanship, and charioteering, appear to have been important to the Iceni. The harness fittings, as with a minority of local brooches, were sometimes artistically styled in the La Tène tradition.
Where did they live? An early focus, and a continued power base may have been Western Norfolk, close to the Fen Edge, from the Brecks of north west Suffolk, and south west Norfolk, up along the Fen edge to north west Norfolk. There are five rounded earthworks in Norfolk, dated to the Iron Age. Four are in north west Norfolk, near to the Wash and north Norfolk coast. the other one is located at Thetford in the Brecks. Another, Stonea Camp, is located further to the west, on an area of dryland in the Fens itself. These six large, prominent rounded bank and ditch defensive systems are often referred to as "Iron Age hill forts", although they differ to the classic hillforts of Southern England in style, artefact deposit, and certainly in terrain - they are not on hills. There may have been further enclosures of this class in Norfolk, that have been lost.
The ramparts of Thetford Castle Hill - refortified during the Medieval.
Warham Camp, in north Norfolk.
The soils of West Norfolk and the Brecks are light - the Brecks excessively drained, but these light soils may have suited the needs of Earlier Iron Age farmers, more so than the heavy soils to the east, on the East Anglian boulder-clay plateau. However, both coin evidence, and other metal detector finds, suggest a possible major expansion during the Late Iron Age, onto all soils and facets of Norfolk, even onto those heavy clay soils of the interior. None-the-less, we continue to see some sort of importance held in West Norfolk, and north-west Suffolk. Late Iron Age hoards concentrate there, particularly the spetacular Snettisham hoards in north-west Norfolk.
I described the local "lowland" hill forts as rounded enclosures, making the assumption that they were defensive structures. During the Mid Iron Age onwards, a new style of enclosure emerged in the region. Shallower dug, and square or rectanglar series of ditches. The classic was discovered by aerial reconnaisance, then excavated at Fison Way, Thetford, where the 1970s media named it "Boadicea's Palace". A square multiple ditch enclusure, with buildings at it's centre, one with posts so grand that it has been suggested that it could have been multi-level. Radio carbon dating suggests that the buildings were burnt down, and ditches filled in, shortly after the historical Boadiccan Rebellion. However, aerial reconnaisance has suggested a number of these square or rectangular enclosures scattered across the region. Including one at Barnham, Suffolk, on the opposing side of the Little Ouse valley to Fison Way. Test digs suggest a Mid Iron Age date. Perhaps it was replaced by Fison Way? The Iceni square enclosures have been compared to a number in France and Germany, often called Viereckshanzen, where it is assumed that they had a cult, or ritual purpose.
I mentioned 'tribal federation'. A number of local archaeologists during the 1980s to 1990s, that particularly saw the Iceni as a sedentary people, with a culture that adapted locally - argued that there was evidence that Cenimagni (Greater Iceni), and another Roman reference, infered that the Iceni may have pulled together from smaller groups in the area, in response to Roman, and Romo-Gallic contact.
As for who were the Iceni, my personal feeling, is that they were largely the local population, that had descended from earlier Iron Age, and Later Bronze Age peoples of Northern East Anglia, and south east Britain. Recent population genetic studies such as The Beaker Phenomenon And The Genomic Transformation Of Northwest Europe by Olde, Haak, Reich etal, propose an almost complete replacement of the British Neolithic population during the Later Neolithic, by a people that we identify archaeologically with the Bell Beaker Culture. There is support both genetically, and archaeologically, that the practioners of the British form of Bell Beaker Culture, migrated there from the Lower Rhineland area of the Continent. No genetic survey yet, has found significant later migration into late prehistoric Britain, nor in the Romano-British period, following this population replacement event. The majority of Irish and British Y-DNA haplogroups, particularly in areas of Britain, further away from later Anglo-Saxon, and Danish immigration, appear to have originated in Britain with Bell Beaker.
However, do I think that there was any Iron Age "Celtic" migration to south east Britain? Yes, my suspicions is that there would have continued to have been some migrations and exchanges with the nearby European Continent during the Later Bronze Age and the Iron Age. There may well have been some migration of groups for example, from what we now call north-east France, to some areas of Britain, that admixed with locals. If you wish, call it La Tène. Howabout the "Belgic migration as described by Caesar. No, the Iceni was outside of the direct influence of Rome, Gaul and the Belgae. Their artefacts were native, their pottery not Belgic. There is nothing Belgic about the Iceni.
This brings me to the Schiffels, Haak, etal study 2016:
The Hinxton Rings Iron Age cemetery is unusual. It doesn't really follow funerary conventions in Eastern England, so it is possible, that it's DNA isn't completely representative of all Iron Age populations in SE England. It's an unusual site. Delineated inhumations from the 1st century BC, surrounded by an large ring ditch. The Iron Age samples from Hinxton (including one from nearby Linton) consisted of four females, and two males. Male 1. Y-DNA was was R1b1a2a1a2c1 with CTS241/DF13/S521+ according to Jean Manco's excellent Ancient DNA reference web pages, while Male 2 was R1b1a2a1a2c with L21/M529/S145+, S461/Z290+. That's all that we have for Iron Age Y-DNA in England.
The POBI (Peopling of the British Isles) Study 2015, mentioned something else on Page 5. "A subsequent migration, best captured by FRA17 (France), contributed a substantial amount of ancestry to the UK outside Wales. Although we cannot formally exclude this being part of the Saxon migration, this seems unlikely (see Methods) and instead it might represent movement of people taking place between the early migrations and those known from historical records.". Garrett Hellenthal, on the Youtube presentation said that there was a pattern found both in England, and Scotland, that relates to France, but appears to predate the Anglo-Saxon:
36 minutes 20 seconds.
What else can I conclude from my venture into Iceni lands?
References and quotes
East Anglia: R. Rainbird Clarke. 1960. S.R Publishers Ltd. "Rainbird" was a local Norfolk "old school" archaeologist, and his theories followed the older invasion hypotheses that are now coming back into fashion in population genetics circles. Chapter VI "The Iron Age" starts like this: "In the last chapter we have noted that raiders, based in Belgium, harassed the East Coast during the sixth century B.C. About 500 B.C., peasant farmers, driven by the mounting pressure of migrating tribes, came to East Anglia from southern Holland, and central and eastern Belgium. These displaced persons brought with them a knowledge of iron, the use of which had been general in central Europe for three centuries. The arrival in England of these new Iron Age A people opened the first phase of the Iron Age, which lasted till c. 300 B.C.".
"the presence of Iron Age A immigrants is chiefly indicated by their domestic pottery, mainly jars and bowls of both coarse and fine fabric, which are found on the earliest sites.".
"Variations in pottery form and decoration establish that this invasion was a gradual infiltration of family groups or small clans. Sometimes they settled down peaceably alongside Bronze Age farmers, as at Snettisham, Norfolk; other settlers selected sites some distances from any known Late Bronze Age farms, as at West Harling, where the plan of the round-houses indicates the peaceful absorption of native architectural ideas.
"The invaders from the Low Countries who settled in Breckland are clearly related to communities round the Fenland basin in Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, though the Fenland itself was uninhabitable owing to a minor rise in sea level. The settlers in the Ipswich region, related to those in the Colchester Loam area and in the Lower Thames area, came from other parts of the Low Countries.
I think that it's fair to compare Rainbird's idea of an "Iron Age A" people, with Continental Hallstatt Celtic Culture.
"The peaceful development of this pleasant society of the Iron Age A culture, engaged in tilling small plots, pasturing sheep, oxen, and horses, was rudely shattered in the middle of the third century B.C. by the arrival of aristocratic warriors and their retainers, hailing from the Marne region of France, who introduced to eastern Britain the first of our Iron Age B cultures. These people, known to archaeologists as Marnians, raided East Anglia probably along rivers leading inland from the Wash, or overland from the Thames estuary.".
Substitute Rainbird's "Iron Age B" for La Tène Celtic Culture. He goes on to suggest, or rather, to state: "The success of the Marnians was due to their military prowess and to the superiority of their equipment, for they introduced chariot warfare to Britain, as devastating an innovation as that of the tank in modern times.".
Rainbird then sees a third "invasion". "The Belgae were a powerful confederation of tribes of Germanic origin, though their language was Celtic; they came from eastern France and Belgium, chiefly south of the Ardennes. Alone among the tribes of Gaul they were able to repel the assaults of the Cimbri and Teutones in 110 B.C., but the insecurity of this invasion may have influenced many of them to cross the Channel about ten years later and settle in south-east England, thus introducing our Iron Age C culture..".
"We have noted, during Phase II, the arrival of the Marnian warriors who established themselves as a ruling class over the Iron Age A peasantry and minor chiefs of the Cambridge region, Breckland, and west Norfolk, while the inhabitants of south-east Suffolk remained immune from their influence. The cultural distinctions between these two areas, separated by the afforested belt of High Suffolk, are reflected by Caesar. In 54 B.C. he mentions the Trinovantes whose tribal area probably included the Ipswich and Colchester regions, while the 'Cenimagni' who sent envoys to Caesar with their submission, are probably identified with the Iceni, whose sway extended over Norfolk and north -west Suffolk. The beginning of this tribal system is uncertain and may go back to the initial Iron Age A occupation, reflecting the diverse origins of the settlers in the two regions. The independant cultural development of the Breckland and Ipswich regions has been shown in earlier chapters to be a distinctive feature of East Anglian pre-history - it survives today as two county councils for Suffolk. Though the Trinovantes were one of the most powerful tribes in the south-east of England during the mid-first century B.C., they were obviously being harassed by their Belgic neighbours of Hertfordshire, since Caesar records the arrival of a Trinovantian king as a refugee from the attacks of Cassivellaunus, king of the Catuvallauni.".
So there you have it. Plain as A, B, C. Such a different interpretation of the archaeology to the views of archaeologists from the 1970s on. Later archaeologists avoid all mention of invasion or occupation. They only see continuity. They avoid comparing finds in East Anglia, with those found on the Continent, under the "pots are not people" warning. Rainbird saw it very different. Warrior elites from Marne. A lot of romantic assumptions and even certainty, although read between the lines, he does see admixture, and some continuity for the "peasants".
Iron Age Communities in Britain. Barry Cunliffe. 1975. Book Club Associates. I'll go straight to Chapter 11: "The Settlement Pattern and Economy of the South and East".
"To the Roman military mind the south-east was clearly the part to become a province, for grain was an immensely valuable commodity, and arable farmers, because of their dependence upon the seasons, were sedentary and thus easier to control.". Cunliffe goes on to describe the types of Iron Age settlement found in South-East Britain. There is a general agreement that the archaeology of Iron age Britain is very regionalised in style. The South-East for example, being very different in it's nature to that of the North or West. Generally speaking, Iron Age settlements in what is now East Anglia, typically consisted of a farmstead or small village - a cluster of round houses, that is not surrounded by any earthwork or defensive system. They were open. No souterrain or other features. This is in contrast to settlements elsewhere in Iron Age Britain. However Cunliffe does illustrate the plan of one site at West Harling in Norfolk, that contradicts this pattern, a single domestic round house, surrounded by a circular ditch with two wide causeways and an internal bank.
The Norfolk Landscape. David Dymond. 1985. Alastair Press. A local landscape history. Doesn't really focus much on the Iron Age in Norfolk, except to discuss Iron Age agricultural evidence. Pollen analysis suggests significant deforestation in Norfolk during the Early Iron Age. He discusses the evidence of surviving coaxial field boundaries in parts of Norfolk, that appear to underlay known Roman road systems that cut across the pattern. "By the early first century AD., all the various ethnic and cultural groups which existed in northern East Anglia had fused to form a tribe and kingdom known as the Iceni. Derek Allen attempted to reconstruct their fluctuating boundaries and internal organisation: for example, he suggested that the political centre of the kingdom was originally the Breckland of Norfolk and Suffolk. However, shortly before the Roman conquest of A.D. 43, Belgic immigrants from the south may have pushed the boundary back to the line of the Little Ouse-Waveney valley. The Iron Age fort, which Rainbird Clarke confirmed under the Norman castle at Thetford, deliberately commanded the Icknield Way as it crossed the Little Ouse, and it's secondary refurbishing may be connected with this phase of political contraction. The southern boundary of what later became Norfolk (or a part of it) may therefore go back to the political and military frontier of the late Iron Age.".
The Origins of Norfolk. Tom Williamson. 1993. Manchester University Press. Professor Tom Williamson is a leading landscape historian, based from the local University of East Anglia. His approach focuses on landscape history methods.
I'll start with the Iron age chapters. Evidence of unprecedented deforestation during the Iron Age. A number of coaxial "Celtic field", boundaries dated to late prehistory, have been proposed across parts of Norfolk, cut through by known Roman roads. Williamson goes on to describe the Iron Age "hill forts" of Norfolk - Narborough, South Creake, Holkham, Warham, Thetford, and possibly Tasburgh. Four of which are clustered up in North West Norfolk, by the North Sea coast, the Wash, and the Fens. He suggests place-name evidence of other lost hillforts in Norfolk.
Then he discusses Iceni coinage: "Coinage came rather late to the Iceni, first appearing in their area around 10 BC. The first coins were of gold, copies of Trinovantian and Catuvallaunian types; but silver soon became universal.All the coins carry a horse on the reverse, but the obverse takes three distinct forms: a wild beast (a boar?); a badly drawn head; and a design based on two conjoined, mirror-image crescents.".
After coinage, he goes on to describe the federal hypothesis, popular among local archaeologists: "But, we must be careful not to exaggerate the territorial cohesion, the political centralisation, of the 'Iceni'. They may, in fact, have been a loose group of tribes, rather than a centralised polity. When the Cenomagni surrendered to Caesar in 54 BC, they did so with a number of other tribes, the Segontiaci, the Ancalites, the Bibracti, and the Cassi. These groups are never mentioned by name again in classical sources; but subsequent references to the Iceni show them, once again, acting in association with unnamed allies or neighbours. Thus according to Tacitus, when the Iceni revolted in AD 47 they carried a number of neighbouring tribes with them, while their revolt in AD 60 was supported by the Trinovantes and other unnamed neighbouring tribes. Moreover, the suffix magni, 'greater', appended by Caesar to his rendering of the word 'Iceni' suggests the existence of more than one group bearing this tribal name.".
This is interesting. "This kind of loose political structure seems to have been a feature of other areas of late Iron Age Britain. Caesar himself made a distinction between those regions nearest the Channel - comparatively civilised and settled (he believed) by recent immigrants from the Continent; and the more socially and economically primitive areas of the interior. In archaeological terms, a similar distinction is apparent, between the south-east of the country - which was actively involved in contact and exchange with Gaul and the Roman Empire - and the areas further to the north and west, which were marginal to or excluded from such contacts (Darvill 1987: 166-80; Haselgrove 1982). It was in the former region, in the Home Counties, northern Northamptonshire, and Essex that coinage was first used, and that the so-called oppida were developing in the late first century BC: large, sprawling, semi-urban agglomerations of settlement, usually defended by long stretches of linear earthwork. It is in this area too, that foreign imports, especially amphorae which once contained wine, are most frequently discovered in graves or in settlements of late Iron Age date. Here the tribal groups who are named by Roman writers, or who gave their names to the administrative subdivisions of the Roman province of Britannia, were comparatively small and centralised polities. Their elites had grown wealthy and powerful through contacts with, and control of the exchange of luxury items with, the Roman world. Outside this core zone were less civilised, less centralised tribal federations. The line between these two broad zones runs through the middle of East Anglia. The Trinovantes belonged firmly to the 'core zone' of the south-east; they were a comparatively centralised polity with a great oppida, Camulodunum, at Colchester (Dunnett 1975: 18-27). The Iceni, in contrast, lay outside the main sphere of economic exchange; they had no true oppida, and no imported amphorae or other foreign luxuries.".
Williamson goes on to explain, that the Iceni were not however poor, with an abundance of precious metals, including an abundant use of torcs. He then goes on, as in repeated above in "The Land of Boudica. Prehistoric and Roman Norfolk. John Davies 2009", to mention a paper in 1970, that suggested that the three common obverses of Iceni coins, reflected three sub-tribes. The boar-obverse being most common in the Norwich area, the face obverse in North West Norfolk, and the pattern obverse most common in South West Norfolk / North West Suffolk.
The Boudican Revolt against Rome. Paul R Sealey. 1997 Shire Publications. This small book focuses on the Iceni revolt against Rome of AD 60. Once again, the author emphasises how different that the Iceni were in comparison to their more Belgic and Romanised neighbours, the Trinovantes, to the south. "One major area of difference in the archaeology of the two nations was their pottery. The Trinovantes used wheel-thrown pottery called Belgic; among the Iceni more traditional hand-made wares remained in use right up to the time of the Boudican revolt. In both regions the forms of the vessels are also distinct, although on some Icenian settlements there is a gradual adoption of Belgic pottery in the fifty years or so before AD 60. These developments are illustrated by the pottery from the Icenian farmstead at West Stow, Suffolk. The Trinovantes and Catuvellauni had important trade links with the Roman world in the century before AD 43. Icenian participation in this exchange was negligible. The tribe apparently denied access to Roman merchants in the late iron age, a policy also followed by some tribes in Gaul and Germany who believed that wine and other imports with the Roman world undermined traditional values.
The author discusses the hypothesis that the three obverses on Iceni coins represented three sub-tribes, but dismisses it "but no geographical clusters that would support this are now apparent. Sealey then discusses the first Iceni revolt, of AD 47, believed to be at Stonea Camp, the furthest west "hill fort" (I've been there, it's in the Fens and other than the earthworks, the area is flat as a pancake) credited to the Iceni. I remember on my visit there, information boards explained that there was archaeological evidence of the Roman attack on the hill fort, in the form of human remains and Roman artillery missiles.
Land of the Iceni. The Iron Age in Northern East Anglia. Edited by John Davies and Tom Williamson (eds), etal. Centre of East Anglian Studies. 1999.
John Davies was curator for Norfolk Museum Services. I'd say that he has spent many years as a local professional archaeologist. Tom Williamson is a UEA (University of East Anglia) lecturer in Landscape Archaeology. Different background and perspective, but still local based.
The book starts out by discussing and accrediting the work of field walkers. This might seem a strange methodology to forum members. I was a field-walker with several years experience, before I decided to start living more. I prefer the description "surface collection survey". It involves simply walking ploughed or otherwise disturbed top soils, and recording / plotting any archaeological evidence (artifacts) that you spot looking down at the ground. It's far less evasive and more quantitative than excavation. It complements other landscape history methods such as old map study, place name study, or metal detection survey. Did I find much Iron Age? No. I found some sherds of pottery that appear most likely Iron Age here and there, but most prehistoric ceramic is very frail in top soils. I found lots of very roughly knapped flint, and burnt flints - some of which could be Iron Age, or alternatively, a little earlier. The idea of Bell Beaker folk arriving some 1,600 years earlier, and totally replacing all stone tools with beautiful bronze is absolutely incorrect. Sorry R1 guys. " (sic) ... by classical writers like Caesar, Tacitus, Cassius Dio and Strabo. Our view of Iron Age society is still considerably coloured by these writers, who presenta picture of a Britain populated by warlike tribal states dominated by warrior nobilities. Popular images of Boudica, Queen of the Iceni, leading her army against the Roman invaders, have done much to fuel this conventional view.".
"Archaeology is currently showing that the communities living in the various regions of Iron Age Britain had, in fact, limited contacts beyond their immediate localities. It is becoming clear that communities living in the various regions of Britain were neither unified nor uniform". "Of the tribes named by Caesar at the time of his British expeditions of 55 and 54 BC, only the Trinovantes and Atrebates are referred to just a century later.".
Davies goes on to explain that a lot of archaeology has been discovered since Rainbird Clarke's time, through a range of methods from excavation, through field walking, to metal detection. He points out that for territorial limits, we've looked too much at those suggested by Roman writers, and by coinage, that largely reflect the early Roman period. He suggests earlier territorial boundaries could have been wider, before Roman influence or campaigns. He then goes on to attack the traditional neat packaging of late Iron Age Britain into centralised tribal kingdoms as presented by Roman writers.
"Torcs are a form of hoop shaped jewelry associated with Late Iron Age people, apparently used as neck ornaments. The name, which derives from Latin, actually describes one of the more common varieties, which is formed from twisted strands of metal. These rings were visually impressive: the Classical writer Dio describes Queen Boudica wearing 'a large golden torc and a voluminous patterned cloak with a thick plaid fastened over it'. Torcs are frequently found on the Continent but they are seldom recovered from such contexts in Britain.".
Davies goes on to map the distribution of recovered torcs in Norfolk. They are concentrated in the west of the county, in the north west near to the Wash, and alongside the Fen edge. He then goes on to describe a more common metal find - chariot and horse fittings. These are more widespread across Norfolk. There appeared to be an importance on horses, horsemanship, and chariot driving among the late Iron Age Iceni.
"More sites are known from the Middle Iron Age. Settlement still appears to appears to have been dense across west Norfolk, but sites now appear further to the east, away from the Fen-edge, although still avoiding the heavier soils. Indeed, the only certain example of a clayland site of this period is that recently excavated at Park Farm, Wymondham, and this seems to date to rather late in the middle Iron Age (Ashwin 1996)."
"The Late Iron Age saw increased population growth and this is reflected in the greater number of known settlements. Some of the earlier sites remained in use, while many new ones appeared. Sites now spread onto the heavier boulder-clay soils of central and southern Norfolk, and onto the high interfluves, resulting in a more even spread of settlement across the county."
"The model proposed is one of settlement expansion over time, with people moving across the landscape, from west to east, and eventually into the more remote and less hospitable interior regions. It appears that the Early Iron Age landscape was a fairly empty one: people preferred to live on the lighter and better drained soils. The Middle Iron Age saw an expansion of settlement. People were moving onto, and exploiting the resources, of the claylands, but there is of yet no evidence for occupation here. During the Late Iron Age, however, settlements began to appear right across the claylands, and eventually covered the whole county (Davies 1996). The overall picture is one of a predominantly agrarian society whose members lived in open settlements, engaging in a successful farming regime able to produce a significant surplus.".
Next, the book looks at artifact evidence, starting with metal objects. The local government archaeology unit, has had a long history of working alongside metal detector enthusiasts, in order to encourage the voluntary submission of finds to be examined and added to the public record. Finds of torcs are considered. "In Norfolk they have been found at twelve locations, their distribution displaying a western, and essentially north-western, bias. Snettisham appears to have had a focal role in their distribution: a number of hoards were discovered in this parish between 1948 and 1990 (stead 1991).".
"Some of the most common Late Iron Age artefacts are various forms of chariot and horse harness fittings. In particular, D-shaped bronze rein-rings, called terrets, have been discovered at a number of locations in Norfolk. Each chariot was fitted with a set of five terrets. Four, of similar size, were strapped to the yoke and a fifth, the largest of the set, was fixed to the central pole."
"They have been recovered from locations scattered right across Norfolk, with a major concentration - comprising around a third of the total number known - coming from Saham Toney and its immediate vicinity in central Norfolk.
Davies then goes on to look at the evidence of Iceni coins. The evidence of coin obverses representing different sub tribes is reassessed in light of so many more Iceni coins on the record, from submissions made by metal detectorists. 65 Icenni types are now recognised. Some 500 "stray" (not in a hoard) coins so far recorded at time of publication. The earliest date to circa 65 BC.
There are patterns to where the different coin obverses are scattered, but it's complex. Gold coins were slightly concentrated in the north west but almost not at all in the South west (Breckland). Silver coins, 'Bury' types found in the south, 'Boar-horses' in the south, Face-horses all over except the north west. That gold coins tend to be a little earlier, made up to 40 BC, and silver later, could indicate that the power base was moving out of NW Norfolk, across the region. What does Davies have to say about it?
"The evidence outlined above appears to indicate diverse behaviour by some groups occupying different regions of Norfolk for the whole of the Iron Age. Yet more order and coherence emerges when a tighter chronological framework is applied. In the Early Iron Age, occupation seems to have been concentrated in the Breckland and Fen-edge of south-west Norfolk. By the 1st century BC, Snettisham in the north west, had become a focus of artefact deposition: the Snettisham torcs have been dated to the first half of the 1st century BC (Stead 1991). The gold coin hoards from north-west Norfolk, in contrast, date from the middle of the 1st century BC. The absence of gold coins, and the presence of later silver coin hoards and artefacts, at the Breckland sites of Thetford and Saham Toney/Ashill suggest that this area became prominent some what later, perhaps replacing Snettisham as a major tribal centre during the later 1st century BC. The prominence of 'Pattern-Horse' coins at Caister St Edmund, and the lower percentages of 'Face-Horse' and 'Boar-Horse' varieties recovered from here, suggests that this site came to prominence later still, during the 1st century AD.".
The book also explores the Iron Age enclosures of Norfolk. Tasburgh has been dismissed as Iron Age, dating much later to Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Danish. That leaves the four "hill forts" of North west and Western Norfolk, close to the Wash, and Thetford, down in south-west Norfolk (Breckland). However, there is another type of enclosure in Norfolk, dated to the Iron Age. These usually only survive as crop or soil marks. The "hill forts" are rounded or oval. These field marks are square or rectangular! The suggestion is that these shallower rectangular enclosures had very different purposes to the hill fort type enclosures, and may have had ritual uses. They are found in North, West, and South west Norfolk, and north west Suffolk (Breckland). Davies makes a rare association with a Continental class of Iron Age earthwork, known as Viereckshanzen. Possibly belonging to this group is the Fison Way site at Gallows Hill, Thetford. This was a very late, magnificant, multiple ditched square enclosure with central buildings, one of which could have had more than one level. There is evidence that it was purposely destroyed after the Boudican Revolt during the second half of the 1st century AD. Square enclosures on the Continent in the Cologne Basin, Moselle, and in the Champagne regions, were used as burial enclosures. Fison Way could also relate to a rectangular enclosure, found on the opposite ridge of the Little Ouse valley, at Barnham in Suffolk. This has been dated to Middle Iron Age.
Now Oppida Those sprawling Late Iron Age settlement and activity sites most famously represented by the oppida in Essex, close to Colchester. My other, earlier text books have stated that no oppida have been found associated with the Iceni lands. However, largely through coin and artifact survey - several have now been proposed, including at Saham Toney, Thetford, and finally, Caister St Edmund, where the Roman authorities laid down the foundations of the town of Venta Icenorum.
In later chapters by other authors. More settlement has been detected from the Iron Age in Norfolk. Rescue archaeological digs of two Early Bronze Age round barrows that were going to be destroyed by the Norwich Bypass road development, revealed SE facing Iron Age round houses in between them, apparently respecting the earlier mounds in their boundaries. A number of four poster features have been discovered at numerous sites, of unknown use. A favoured suggestion is raised granary buildings. At a rescue dig at the Wymondham bypass road development, a site already recorded through field-walking (Iron Age pottery and burnt flint scatter), revealed a multiple industry site, with pits accredited to softening bones, antler, and horn for processing as raw material, and a lot of flint knapping. The site serves to remind us that flint tools and use did not end with the discovery of metal-working. Something that I was always aware of when I use to survey worked flint scatters in Thetford Forest. In another essay, two parishes were fieldwalked for Iron Age potsherds. The parish in west Norfolk, between the North-West Norfolk and Breckland Iron Age hot spots produced far more clusters indicating settlement, than did the parish, further to the east on the clay soils.
A Gallo-Roman dated shipwreck off the coast of Armorica, France, produced 271 lead ingots. Most were stamped with BRIGANTES, but five were stamped with ICENES or similar. They appeared to be on their way from those Roman civitas in Eastern Britain. That suggests that they were being marketed in Northern East Anglia perhaps for roof tile manufacture, but as the region doesn't have local lead, it suggests middle man trading. "Whatever the case, this may have been a well-established trade route with antecedents in the Iron Age - perhaps some of the silver in Icenian coins came from similar ingots from the Continent or Britain.". Chapter 7. Tasking the Iron Age: the Iceni and Minting. Amanda Chadburn.
The Land of Boudica. Prehistoric and Roman Norfolk. John Davies 2009. Oxbow Books in association with Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service. "A complex social structure had become established during the Bronze Age. Power had grown through the control of long-distance trade networks which had ensured the provision of the raw materials used to make bronze. Then, as ironworking was adopted, this system fragmented. As the supply and production of metalwork became easier, the basis for the organisation of society changed.
"As the Iron Age progressed, society became organised into chiefdoms and tribes. These groupings fluctuated in size and composition over time and were associated with territories. At the same time we can also detect an increase in warfare, which was to play a significant role in social relations. Fighting seemed to have been common practice within and between tribal societies.".
"Then around 400 BC, the previously close relations with the Continent appear to have lapsed and European artifacts were no longer being brought to Britain. It was at this stage that developed hillforts dominated the landscape in parts of the country. There was also an appreciable growth in the number of settlements and population pressure began to develop on the better agricultural land.
"By the 2nd century BC, increased economic specialisation can clearly be seen in the archaeological record once again. Special items such as glass and beads were made at some places and not others. Salt was produced at coastal sites. Some chalkland sites specialised in different types of cereals. A system of weights was developed and artifacts were produced for exchange. It is at this stage that we have evidence for increasing conflict within society."
Later in the chapter: "A number of brooches of Middle Iron Age date have been found in Norfolk. Although not common, the La Tène -style forms have been found at Caistor St Edmund, Wicklewood, Gayton, Beachamwell, Hockering, and at Narborough."
The book reports that only 14 Iron Age human remains have been recovered in Norfolk, and suggests that funerary rights such as excarnation must have been employed. Of the 14 remains, 5 are only skulls. This could suggest that these remains that have been found are not typical. The book goes on to describe Norfolk's linear earthworks (usually on a North-South alignment, dividing East and West, with suggestions of a series in alignment dividing West Norfolk from the Fens.) that have been proposed as Iron Age in date, then moves onto Norfolk's six peculiar "lowland" Iron Age hillforts, concentrated on the North West coast of Norfolk near to the Wash, facing what is now the Fens and Lincolnshire.
This is a theme that constantly rises in Norfolk - that the archaeology of Norfolk, East Cambridgeshire, and North Suffolk (the area that roughly correlates to the spread of Iceni coins), is different. There is a saying that "Norfolk do different", and it appears to have been the case during the Iron Age. Different coinage, the highest density of torc finds (even my late father once found one), small roundhouse farmsteads that were unenclosed, open, and this array of river valley "hillforts". The reluctance to use wheel thrown Belgic pottery - clinging onto hand moulded ceramics. I've more than once pointed this out to posters - that it wasn't a blanket Celtic Culture across the British Isles.
"More torcs have been found in East Anglia than in the rest of Britain".
The book then turns to another popular trend in norfolk Archaeology over the past thirty years. That the Late Iron Age area of northern East Anglia, that was to become associated with Iceni coinage, was fragmented, into at least three smaller groupings, each with their own tribal centre of influence marked in archaeology. The suggestion is that the Iceni were a federation of smaller local societies with a common interest. Caesar had referred to a group north of the Thames that he called the Cenimagni. "The name used by Caesar may have been a version of the name, meaning Eceni Magni or the Great Iceni.". "It may be that Caesar's Cenimagni were one of the smaller social groups. These groupings would have come together under a single senior leader at times of stress, coalescing into larger regional entities whose organisation was based on kingship and associated client networks.
"With the external threat from Rome, the loose decentralised communities within northern East Anglia came together as a single larger unit, under a senior chieftain or king. It was at that stage the grouping recognised as the Iceni became identified by Roman writers.".
Gold Iceni coin found and recorded by my late father at Morley St Botolph, Norfolk.
The die is cast. Investigating Icenian coinage. Current Archaeology Issue 341. August 2018. p32. "Aside from Boudica and her ill-fated rebellion of AD 60/61, the Iceni of northern East Anglia are particularly well known for their gold and silver work (see CA 217). In fact, this industry provides one of the main archaeological indications of their existence. This is particularly true in terms of their coinage, which most likely started around 50 BC and continued until the Boudican Revolt. Likely the Iceni themselves, it was tightly focused around Norfolk, north Suffolk, and the Cambridgeshire fens.
It is often suggested that Iron Age coinage is not money in the modern sense of the word, being rather more analogous to prestige objects - used by socieies in various forms of gift exchange - but there was little evidence known to support this theory. To address this question and hopefully learn more about the Iceni in the process, over the course of ten years I studied dies relating to over 10,000 coins.".
p33. "Over the course of the project it became clear that the coinage did in fact have a monetary role similar to contemporary ones, but with more intrinsic value.".
p35. "What is also clear from the die-study is that there was no coinage production after the Boudican Revolt, and there are no reliable finds which link Icenian coinage to Roman coinage thereafter. While the evidence is not definitive, this study strongly suggests that while the Iceni were allowed by Rome to continue minting coinage after their conquest and up until the Boudican Revolt, afterwards it was halted and circulation ceased. This may be tied to the Icenian fate in general, which seems to have led to the loss of their autonomy and full incorporation into Roman authority.".
p35. "Generally heads are shown in profile, stylised, and do not seem to depict any specific individual. They are not abstracted as they are on the gold coinage from this period, and most show no facial hair, although there are some exceptions. Emphasising the importance of the head to the Iceni, you can see many hidden faces on the coins - just one of the ways in which the coinage links to other Iron Age art.".
p38. "The Iceni were not a barbaric tribe, as the Romans would have us believe, but were instead a sophisticated and advanced society with a seemingly thriving economy.".
In the previous post (The First Anglians Part I), I referred to excavation reports from Caistor St Edmund, as published in 1973. Here, I mainly refer to a book that was recommended to the landscape history, The Origins of Norfolk by Tom Williamson, MUP 1993.
Williamson refers to local Pagan Saxon cemeteries, that largely date to the 5th to 7th centuries AD. He tells us that a large number of these cemeteries have been found in Norfolk, with many of the earlier cemeteries containing decorated urns of the cremated dead.
I recently visited one of these cemeteries, the infamous Spong Hill, near to North Elmham, Norfolk:
The book reports that:
Catherine Hills, moreover, has shown that the burial practices employed at the largest Norfolk cemetery yet excavated, at Spong Hill near North Elmham, are so close to those practised in parts of northern Europe that they surely must represent the graves of people of Continental origin or descent. More than this, she has demonstrated that the cemetery's closest parallels are with the Anglian, rather than with the Saxon, areas of the Continent. Hills compared the burials at Spong Hill with those at Suderbrarup and Bordesholm in Schleswig-Holstein, and at Westerwanna in Lower Saxony. The range of grave-goods found at all the sites was similar, but the closest similarities were consistently between Spong and the Schleswig sites. Thus for example 'The most characteristic late fourth to fifth century burials at Suderbrarup seem to be those which contain sets of miniatures with combs, in pots which either have no decoration or a horizontal/vertical bossed and grooved design. Very similar burials occur at Spong Hill' (Hills, forthcoming).
The Anglian affinities were not entirely clear-cut. In particular, the Spong pottery urns, with their use of stamped ornament, showed closest affinities with those from the Westerwanna cemetery.
It's not clear cut is it? I think that what we see in East Anglia, is a general migration from the area of northern Germany and Jutland. Perhaps even further afield, from Frisia, and from tribes further to the south - a Norfolk inhumation suggests Allemani, a place name (Swaffham) suggests Suevvi. However, culturally, that area of what is now Northern Germany, including Schleswig-Holstein, appears to have given lead in identity.
I currently feel that late 5th / early 6th century AD East Anglia, although with this Anglian bias, was a pretty multicultural area, with many people the descendants of Angles, but also from other tribes scattered from Frisia to Jutland - and also often sharing local Romano-British ancestry. During the 6th Century, as new elites emerged, they claimed heroic ancestry from the Angles of Schleswig-Holstein. It may, or may not have been true. The East Anglian Royal family actually claimed dual ancestry - to be descended both from Woden, and from Julius Caesar! (That might suggest some lingering Romano-British identity in the emerging kingdom). However, it was 7th century cool to be associated with Beowulf adventurers of the North Sea.
A recent purchase in a Norwich shop, was a used book: The Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries of Caistor-by-Norwich and Markshall Norfolk by J.N.L Myres and Barbara Green. The Society of Antiquities. 1973. Caistor-by-Norwich, or as it is also known, Caistor-St Edmund, is located close to the confluence of the River Tas with the River Yare, in East Norfolk. The Anglo-Saxon cremation urn cemetery there, was built outside of the walls of Venta Icenorum, a Romano-British town. The book's authors suggest that the cemetery belonged to Anglo-Saxon mercenary soldiers, that were employed to defend the town, and their families that they brought over. This fits the context of the Anglo-Saxon invasion, as proposed by traditionalist historians that support the accounts made in later centuries by Gildas and by Bede. In this context, these finds could be suggested to have belonged to the very first East Anglians
I could wax on about it's extensive finds catalogue, and illustrations:
But instead, I'm going to copy here, a passage from the above book that I read this morning, after recieving an email from Stephen Arbon, concerning the Anglo-Saxon settlement of East Anglia.
"The suggested reorganization of the town defences in the third century implies a community still sufficiently large and viable to warrant such an expense. The enclosure of some 35 acres must indicate that this area was thought worth defending. Until the whole system is securely dated uncertainty must remain. But the existence of external bastions does indicate that the defences were probably improved in the later part of the fourth century. Further evidence for the existence of an adequate defensive system at the time comes from the forum and Building 4. Five pieces of military equipment of the type associated with barbarian troops of this period have been found on these two sites, while a sixth was included in a nineteenth century collection. All are late fourth - or early fifth century types and indicate the presence of a military force stationed in or near the town at this time. A bone sword guard was picked up after ploughing in 1969 in the area of the Baths. This too can perhaps be associated with the users of the metal objects. By this time also, if the dating here suggested for the earliest barbarian burials in the Anglo-Saxon cemetery is correct, Germanic folk were already cremating their dead only some 400 yards outside the east gate of Venta.
It may also be significant in this context to note that a number of pieces of so-called 'Romano-Saxon' pottery have been recorded from the Roman town. One such, unstratified, has already been published; three others are here illustrated on fig. 70. Pottery of this kind has been held to indicate the impact of Germanic decorative taste on ceramic fashions in the later days of Roman Britain. It certainly displays motifs that were popular beyond the Roman frontiers at this time; where datable, it occurs mostly in late fourth-century contexts, and its distribution lies mainly in those eastern parts of Britain where the barbarian influence was likely to be felt at the earliest date. The presence of this hybrid pottery is another piece of evidence for the cultural conditions prevailing at Venta in its final phase.
Caistor is in fact one of the few Roman towns in Britain where Romano-Saxon pottery, late Roman military equipment, and early Germanic cremation cemeteries have all been found in close association. The relationship between the soldiery to whom the military equipment found in the town belonged and the folk whose cremated remains were buried outside the walls is difficult to determine. It is most natural to suppose that these finds represent two aspects of the same phenomenon, a body of Germanic mercenaries who in life defended the walls in their final form and in death were buried, in accordance with continuing Roman practice, outside. If as is suggested by the presence of beads in some of the earliest urns, they had their families with them, they too would have been settled somewhere close at hand. It may be objected that barbarian irregulars in Roman, or sub-Roman employment would be unlikely to cremate their dead with such persistence as the earliest users of the cemetery appear to have done. It is true that most cemeteries of Germanic troops that have been recognized in Roman frontier areas on the Continent consist of inhumations, and the well known Dorchester burials are a similar instance in this country. But it has to be remembered that most of the continental laeti in northern Gaul came of Frankish stock or from related German tribes beyond the Rhine who had long been familiar with Roman ways, while the Angles and Saxons who first settled at Caistor came from regions much further afield in north Germany and southern Scandinavia on which Roman civilization had made little cultural impact. And, while it is true that no objects of Roman uniform equipment have been recognized in our cremation urns, such instances have been recorded in north German cremation cemeteries, indicating no doubt that individual Saxons who had served in Roman irregular units did sometimes return home to die and be cremated in accordance with their own ancestral customs. At Caistor and elsewhere in eastern England such folk had fewer opportunities to return home to the Continent: they had come here to stay, and they continued to cremate their dead in their new homeland, unaffected by Romano-British habits, for which, in any case, they probably had some contempt.
The Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries of Caistor-by-Norwich and Markshall Norfolk by J.N.L Myres and Barbara Green. The Society of Antiquities. 1973.
A surviving stretch of Venta's wall at Caistor St Edmund.
An information board at the site of the old Roman town.
Drawing of Romano-British potsherds from a site that I recorded in Thetford Forest many years ago. The bottom left sherd is of the type known as Romano-Saxon pottery.
In conclusion, I'm not prepared to take sides on this one. we know that some very early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries surround the old Roman town of Venta Icenorum in Norfolk. We still don't know with any degree of certainty what was the relationship between the town and these cemeteries. Another Anglo-Saxon cemetery has been found close to the walls of the Roman shore fort nearby at Burgh Castle. Did they arrive as Gildas indicated, as invited guests and mercenaries?
Nearly twenty ago I was a keen amateur archaeologist, submitting finds from a large number of field-walk or surface collection surveys in East Anglia (Thetford Forest Archaeology). I studied Field Archaeology and Landscape History for two years on a part time course organised by the UEA. I also spent one week with Suffolk Archaeology, as a volunteer, helping to record sites from aerial reconnaissance photos.
A few years later, I was regularly running and cycling through the forest with my dogs. Studying maps for my running areas, I spotted crop marks in a field in the forest. I was concerned that being located in an area that was mainly forest, that it might have been missed by aerial reconnaissance surveys for archaeology. However, I never got around to reporting it.
So I finally, years later, just did.
Two ring ditches, one around 63 metres in diameter, and another nearby around 31 metres in diameter. The larger was only partially visible as a semi circle in the form of a soil mark on the 2006 September image. The smaller one, close by to the east, has been much more regularly visible, as both a soil mark, and a crop mark, in 1999, 2006, 2007, and June 2017 images.
My interpretation? Probably ploughed out Bronze Age round barrows. There a mound not far away in the forest that I have my suspicions about as well.
So, let's see if Heritage@Norfolk.gov.uk replies or not.