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 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.".
Two men threshing sheaf - Luttrell Psalter (c.1325-1335), f.74v See page for author [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons. Originally published/produced in England [East Anglia].
My last post on the Norfolk 16th century surname study has made me look at my medieval East Anglian roots a little differently. It suggests that there may have been a fair amount of mobility and migration in East Anglia, and from outside, from both Northern England, and from the nearby Continent. Although current commercial autosomal DNA tests for ancestry are clearly contradictory, behind them lays a common pattern. My auDNA is little bit more similar to people living on the Continent, in places like France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and also further to the south - than it is for most British testers. This is despite my known English family history and recorded ancestry. These commercial DNA tests usually claim to investigate your family ancestry over the past 250 - 500 years only. I'm convinced that is untrue. I can't help but see population background, and shared patterns from testers that have no known, or little known migration or admixture in places such as England, and Northern France. These appear to represent older migration and population admixture events that are shared across local genomes.
However, maybe there is something that these tests are telling me - but only after taking into account to the results of other British testers. I now believe that I may have underestimated mobility around East Anglia and England between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries - that precedes any of my recorded ancestry. I also feel the need to reassess Continental migration to East Anglia. It appears it was not all urban or bourgeois. The Anglo-Saxon fifth century AD may have marked the most significant migration event to south east Britain, but I know believe that I have underestimated how much migration and exchange has occurred across the North Sea ever since.
"Considerable personal mobility existed from the later Middle Ages. From the mid fourteenth century the loosening of seigneurial bonds allowed English people to become even more mobile. Landlords complained that tenants were deserting their holdings for better land elsewhere and that servants and labourers were seeking higher wages from other employers.".
"From the sixteenth century, migration and personal mobility becomes better documented. A study of tax records for Towcester in Northamptonshire showed a considerable turnover of the population between consecutive years. In 1525 47 of the 278 men taxed in the previous year had left. This unusually full source shows that six of the 47 had died and 41 had migrated. This represents a turnover rate of 16.9 per cent a year - higher than any other communities in pre-industrial England.".
The continuity (and discontinuity) of surnames over a period of time indicates the movement of individuals and families with the same surname in and out of the community. The small 'close' village of Glynde (population 216 in the 1801 census) lies three miles from the East Sussex county town of Lewes. Between 1558 and 1812 out of 444 different surnames that appeared in the parish register (excluding people whose only connection with the village was to marry in its church) 261 surnames (58.8 per cent) occurred only once and 71 per cent were found only during a period of 25 years or less.".
Source: The English Rural Community: Image and Analysis. Brian short. 1992.
So, maybe I need to discard ideas of my mother's tight cluster of recorded ancestry as having been so localised for so long. Although, the density of the cluster does suggest that she probably have some direct ancestry in the Reedham area of East Norfolk for a very long time, perhaps back to the early medieval, there is also a good probability that her medieval ancestry stretched much further across the region, England, and to the Continent. Indeed, her known ancestral proximity to the coast and a tidal navigable river makes that Continental ancestry more likely. For my father's ancestry - the majority recorded East Anglian, but with known ancestry going back to Oxfordshire, Berkshire, London, and the East Midlands, this might be even more the case.
Image above taken yesterday of St Michael's Church, South Elmham Saints villages, Suffolk.
The Barber Family of St Michael, South Elmham, Suffolk
I recently found evidence that my ancestor, 3xgreat grandfather Robert Barber of St Michael, may have been the Robert Barber of Suffolk that was transported in 1844.
I also made contact via GEDmatch, with the owner of a sample that shares 56 centiMorgans of DNA with my sample, including a 27 centiMorgan segment. It is all on my late father's side. This is by far the most significant DNA match that I have yet encountered on GEDmatch. Email correspondence with the owner (Margaret), revealed that we share a paper trail, with the Barber Family of St Michael.
The trail follows my father's maternal side. His mother's mother, was born Emily Barber, at Hedenham, Norfolk in 1859. Her father was George Barber, born at St Michael in 1830. George was a son of Robert and Mary Ann Barber. I thought that Robert was baptised nearby at Alburgh, Norfolk, the son of George and Hannah Barber (nee Blaxhall). I thought that Mary Ann was baptised Maria Page, daughter of John and Mary Page (nee Brooks), and that she married Robert at All Saints, South Elmham, in 1828.
However, making contact with a DNA relative challenges an insecure tree. Margaret pointed out a nearby Robert and Maria Barber family. I started seeing more Robert Barbers, more Marys, More Marias. Online digital records for Suffolk are not as good as they are for Norfolk. Confusion! This is an example where Online Genealogy falls down.
So I checked with the Archive branch of the Suffolk Record Office had the original St Michael records - should no microfilms or fische be available. They were over at Lowestoft. Yesterday I drove over, to strike the iron while it was still hot. I was quite pleased with the resources in the office. I did not have an excuse to request the original registers - although digital is lacking, they have good copies on fische and film. In addition, the Saints Villages of South Elmham had all been indexed and typed up by volunteers. So what did I find?
The baptism font in St Michael's, South Elmham, Suffolk, yesterday. This would have been used in the below baptisms of ancestors.
There were a LOT of Barber families in the area, since the parish registers start in 1559. The very earliest reference is to a baptism at St Michael's, of a Robert, son of Robert and Brigett Barber xxxi Auguste 1589. A lot of sons born in St Michael alone during the following century - this was going to be difficult. Indeed, in the St Michael registers, Barber entries continue on a regular basis until 1713. Then a break! No doubt there were a lot of Barber families living in the surrounding parishes and district, but the next St Michael Barber entries start with our family in 1818:
Baptisms St Michael's, South Elmham
Lydia, daughter of Robert & Mary Barber (born Dec 11) Husbandman. Bap. 19 Dec 1818.
Emma, daughter of Robert & Mary Barber, husbandman. Bap. 28 Apr 1821.
Isaac, son of Robert & Mary Barber, husbandman. Bap. 14 Jan 1823.
Maria, daughter of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer. Bap. 3 Jun 1827.
Charlotte, daughter of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer. Bap. 25 Nov 1827.
George, son of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer. Bap. 11 Apr 1830.
Eliza, daughter of Robert & Marianne Barber, labourer. Bap. 7 Apr 1833
Jacob, son of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer. Bap. 6 Nov 1836
Jacob, son of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer. Bap. 18 Sep 1843
Emily, daughter of Robert & Mary Barber, labourer. Bap. 18 Sep 1843
Maria is Margaret's ancestor, George is my ancestor. I am a little confused as to why there might be two Jacob's, perhaps the first died, but I'm not sure. I did find a later burial of a Jacob Barber age 23, who died after falling from a moving horse pulled wagon. However, the clumsy genealogist in me didn't record the date! Note also that the last two baptisms were joint.
I could not locate the marriage of Robert Barber to Mary (Ann). This was a disappointment. I did look through the other Saints Villages of South Elmham. Neither did I find or confirm Robert's birth. I had previously online found a baptism at Alburgh, Norfolk - a close by parish, just over the river. however, as Robert claimed that he was born in Suffolk on the 1841 census, I have deleted that link from my tree. Another case, where I lost more ancestors from the tree, than I gained from this research. however, the point of genealogy is to improve and refine, based on evidence.
I do believe however, that I have located Robert's death. I have also eliminated him as the transported Robert Barber of Suffolk. I found the below burials:
Burials St Michael's, South Elmham
Robert Barber, aged 8 days. Bur. 19 Aug 1840
Robert Barber, aged 50 years. Bur. 22 Feb 1846
George Barber, aged 20 weeks of St Peter's. bur. 30 Dec 1860
Eliza Barber, aged 6 days. Bur. 22 Jun 1862.
The baby Robert, could have been Robert and Mary's. The fifty year old Robert Barber, does look like my 3xgreat grandfather. Indeed, it explains where he went between the 1841 and 1851 census. He was not transported. Checking Suffolk criminal records at the Record Office, I found that the 1844 sentence of a Robert Barber was over in West Suffolk, at Bury St Edmunds Assize.
I had jumped the gun again - based on the very partial online record. I keep learning this lesson, but it should also serve as a lesson to genealogists abroad, that rely only on digitalised or transcribed records of English ancestors online. What you are seeing is a partial record. There can be so many John Smiths, or even Robert Barbers, in a small area. A visit to the County Archive (Record Office) revealed so many more records of Barbers in the South Elmham area, that cannot be seen online at Ancestry.com, FindMyPast.com, nor on FamilySearch.org. Beware! I see awful, incorrect family trees (not just my own ha ha), whenever I view personal online trees at Ancestry.com.
The Tovell Family of Wrentham, Suffolk
While I was at Lowestoft, I thought that I would take a quick look at another ancestral family of mine, local to this Archive. The Tovell Family that lived at Wrentham, Suffolk, during the late 18th Century, and fall on to my mother's side of my family tree. Although members of a local Congregationalist chapel, for some services, they referred to the local parish church. It was in a transcript of those parish registers, that I found a number of burials of the children of my 4xgreat grandparents Tovell:
Wrentham, Suffolk Burials
Thomas Tovell, an infant. Bur. 29 Jan 1773
Elizabeth Tovel, an infant. Bur. 29.Mar 1778
Sarah Tovel, infant. Bur. 13 Jan 1780
Thomas Tovell, an infant. Bur. 31 Dec 1782.
They went on to have a third son baptised Thomas Tovell in 1785, who was my ancestor. Sometimes though, the infant mortality of those times can get to you.
St Mary's, Long Wittenham, Oxfordshire. By John Salmon, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12512201
I'm ready to accept the connection. I've talked to people with more expertise than me concerning the confusion over the ages of my couple on the census. I've found the baptism on a transcription CD for Long Wittenham from Oxfordshire FHS. It's perfect. The cream on the cake though, is that I found someone else with a tree on Ancestry.com, that had already come to the exactly same conclusion. Okay, I don't normally take much notice of trees on Ancestry.com, but this one appeared well researched, and I've both checked and added to the details on that tree. Third time lucky.
G.G.G.G.G.G. Grandparent Generation
I can now go back to an ancestor named John Brooker, there's a few of them, so let's call him John Brooker I. He might have been born somewhere in the Thames Valley, during the early 1720's. He married a Mary, my G.G.G.G.G.G Grandmother Brooker. They settled (if they didn't originate there) at Long Wittenham in Berkshire, near to the River Thames. She gave him at least six children between 1749 and 1763: Mary, Anne, John, Edward, Martha, and Sarah.
G.G.G.G.G Grandparent Generation
Their son, Edward Brooker (or Brucker), was our ancestor. He was baptised at Long Wittenham on the 16th January 1757. When Edward was 29 years old, he married local girl Elisabeth Gregory, on 24th October 1786, at Long Wittenham. So you see, that photo above of the church of St Mary's there, is a part of the story. Our 18th Century Brooker ancestors were baptised, and sometimes married there. Some of them are also buried in that church yard. Indeed, that was where Edward himself later ended up, when he was buried there 23rd September 1832, having died at the age of 75 years.
His wife Elisabeth had also been born at Long Wittenham, the daughter of a William and Anne Gregory. She had been baptised at the above church on 15th November 1761.
Edward and Elisabeth Brooker appear to have lived in Long Wittenham all of their life. They had five children baptised at St Mary's between 1789 and 1796: John, Dinah, James, Richard, and Joseph.
G.G.G.G Grandparent Generation
Our ancestor John Brooker II was baptised on 18th January 1789. At the age of 25 on 31st October 1814, John married Elisabeth Seymore at the nearby market-town of Abingdon-on-Thames, in Berkshire. Elisabeth was born circa 1797 at a village north of the Thames in Oxfordshire, that in later life on a census, she referred to as Drayton. Most likely, this is the village of Drayton St Leonard. It's only a mile or two across the river from Long Wittenham.
I should at this point explain why I sometimes refer to long Wittenham as in Berkshire, and at other times a in Oxfordshire. Historically, it is a Berkshire parish, and is on the south side of the Thames. However, in 1974, it was transferred to Oxfordshire County Council.
The couple moved, and they moved around twelve miles. That chucked my attempts to trace them for a long time. They moved to Rotherfield Peppard in South Oxfordshire, down river. They turned up there on the 1841 census. They must have moved soon after marriage, as their children were born in Oxfordshire. John was employed as a labourer, most likely a farm worker. Between 1815 and 1836, they had seven children: Frederick, Phoebe, John, Elizabeth,Mattew,Emma, and William Brooker. Later in life, they moved to the next village of Rotherfield Greys. It was there on the 1861 census, that I finally picked up their origins. John died in 1867.
G.G.G Grandparent Generation
Our ancestor, John Brooker III was baptised at Rotherfield Peppard on 23rd April 1820. In the 1841 census, he turns up in a house of multiple adults on Hamstead Farm in the next parish of Sonning Common. Although technically north of the Thames, and in Oxfordshire, it actually belonged to a parish south of the river in Berkshire. John was an agricultural labourer.
On the 1st February 1845, at nearby Shiplake in Oxfordshire, John married Mary Ann Edney. They lived at times in both the South Oxfordshire parishes of Shiplake, and of Harpsden, both close to the town of Henley-on-Thames. Between 1847 and 1870, Mary gave birth to at least ten children: Hannah, Charles, Arbina, Phoebe, Emma, Thomas, William, Henry, Alice, and Ellen Brooker.
Mary Ann Brooker herself, was the daughter of Thomas Edney, a thatcher at Shiplake, and his wife Hannah (nee Hedges).
John lived to a good age. During the 1901 census, he was living with his eldest daughter, Hannah Belcher and her husband. He was 81 years old, and working as a shepherd. John finally passed away in 1912, at the age of 91 years.
G.G Grandparent Generation
Our ancestor Henry Brooker was baptised at Harpsden on 5th December 1863. An early appearance as a young man on the 1881 census, lists him as a farm worker, at Harpsden Bottom Cottages.
Henry had itchy feet though. He wanted to move right down the river, into London. A few years later, on the 29th September 1883, Henry married Elizabeth Rosina Shawers, at Fulham, London. Elisabeth was born at Haggerstone, London on 11th September 1858. her father, Henry Shawers was a harrow weaver, but her mother Elisabeth (nee Durran) also hailed from Oxfordshire. I've traced her ancestors to the area around Woodstock and Deddington.From Fulham, the couple next moved to Bethnal Green, and then to Deptford. I only know of two children, born between 1884 and 1887. Perhaps something prevented Elisabeth from carrying again. Their children were: John Henry Brooker, and Elisabeth Rosina Brooker.
They later moved down river yet again, to Lewisham. Henry worked mainly as a carter, driving a horse and cart in the East End of Victorian London. I've long suspected that he may have worked on the docks. However, by 1908, he was recorded as a store keeper.
The above photograph is of our great grandfather's sister, Elisabeth Rosina Brooker.
I don't yet know when or where Henry passed away. However, I do know that Elisabeth spent her last days living with her son at Sidcup, Kent. She was buried there on 2nd May 1939.
Great Grandparent Generation
Our Ancestor John Henry Brooker was born 25th June 1884 at Deptford, London. However, the rest of the story - still needs to be written, or has already been written in other posts.
John Henry Brooker and his partner Mabel Tanner in 1933.
The Y chromosome.
I have so far been tested to have the Y haplogroup L-M317, or L1b if you prefer. It means nothing, except that is incredibly rare and enigmatic sub clade, particularly in NW Europe. It may mean that at some point, my paternal line lived in Eastern Anatolia, south of the Causacus, or near to the Black Sea. I'm waiting for further testing, but it looks quite possible, that it is linked to the Pontic-Greek ethnicity that lived in that area. I have no autosomal evidence of anything from that part of the world, so it is likely to have been in England or NW Europe for quite some time. It might for example, have arrived here via the Roman Empire.
Why mention that now? Because until it meets an NPE (non parental event), it should follow the surname line. If I ever met another Y chromosome descendent of my Thames Valley Brookers - another person that has descended directly through a strictly father-to-son paternal line, I'd love to know if they've had their Y haplogroup predicted.
We want to understand the past, our past, but how we interpret that past always depends on our own personal bias. Our culture, our class, our political and religious stance. Doing history is about writing a story, and you do it from a perspective, rarely as an objective.
My perspective is that of a 21st Century rural working class guy in his fifties. My bias is that I am an atheist and a liberal that grew up in a Post Fordist society, during the Arms Race, followed by 911, and the War on Terror. That sounds ridiculous, but the truth is that how we see the distant past, is tempered by our life time experiences.
During the early parts of the 20th Century, British antiquarians and archaeologists would proudly raise different shaped skulls, bronze axe heads, and pottery shards at conferences, announcing that they represented the "collared urn people", or the "pond barrow culture" the "La Tene" or what not. These time travellers had grown up and experienced times of imperialism, colonisation, international upheaval, world war, and genocide. They were as often as not, politically conservative, middle class, men, and yeah, if it matters, white. They saw every trench level of artefact changes as evidence of population displacement, invasion, genocide.
Then following years of relative world peace, anti-war protests, and social reforms, the universities and colleges started to churn out a new breed of professional archaeologist - from a variety of backgrounds. They argued that "pots were not people", they argued for "continuity, admixture, and cultural exchange". As they saw it, a change in artefacts, cultures, even perhaps of languages, did not always prove displacement. They grew up in a time of peace. They saw peace.
That age recently ended. The past six or seven years has seen a resurrection of ideas of invasion, displacement, Indo-European expansion, and maybe even of ancient genocides. It is as though we have returned to those antiquarian conferences, only the actors are no longer middle class historians, but online enthusiasts, and it is no longer bronze weapons or pots that they hold up as their artefacts, but haplogroups, DNA, and PIE (proto Indo-European language). A popular revolution with a conservative theme. Pots might not always be people, but SNPs (snips) may well be, they jeer.
So in this post 911 World, here I am acknowledging my prejudice, my bias. I am not opposed to the new popularist wave of displacement hypothesis. Some of it does sound dangerously nationalist, even xenophobic. A struggle for survival, as one Y chromosome replaces a less fit haplogroup, almost as if proposed by a perverted social take on Darwinism. The online bulletin boards on the front line of this debate are full of posts by banned members. I actually welcome the new ideas, the revival, the challenge of acceptance. That so many online enthusiasts are involved, rather than the merely elitist professionalised academics has to be a good, more democratic thing. However, I also tend to look for a concession. I think yes, the revisionist archaeologists out of the post-war universities went too far. But as do many of the new genetic warriors today.
With that in mind, I'm going to share my own prejudiced view of the origins of Anglo-Saxon England with this post.
The humble Dutch immigrant
People have been building boats and travelling out of sight of the coast, for a very long time. More than 8,000 years ago, Neolithic farmers were doing it, to colonise places like Cyprus and Crete. Britain had long been an island, when the first Neolithic farmers arrived here.
Britain has two main spheres of influence. 1) The West (or if you prefer "Celtic West", looks to the Irish and Atlantic seaboards that connect the West of Britain to Ireland, Brittany, the Highlands and perhaps even Northern Iberia. 2) The East (or if you prefer the English south-east), that is a part of the "the North Sea World", looks to the low countries, the north German coast, and even to Scandinavia for trade, influence, and exchange. How far back do these two spheres go? I'd say all of the way back. People didn't simply wait until AD 410 to hop onto a boat, I cannot accept that.
My first confession of bias, is that I do not believe that Anglo-Saxon England was born in AD 410. I think that it had a North Sea influence much earlier than that. Perhaps that is what the POBI 2015 study (people of the British Isles) found when they assessed the English to be a very homogeneous population, but with a mystery shared ancestry with the French, that appeared to date back long before AD 410. Perhaps we should take more notice of Caesar's assertion, that the British Isles had recently been colonised by the Belgae. Perhaps we shouldn't dismiss all of the suggestions by Stephen Oppenheimer, that there was an ancient Saxon presence in south-east Britain, and that the Belgae were a part of their story.
That is my first confession. I think that the English have been around Britain longer than from AD 410.
My second confession. I don't see an Anglo Saxon invasion, simply followed a few centuries later by a Viking army. I see instead, immigrant farmers from what is now Belgium, the Netherlands, Northern Germany, and Denmark, arriving in South-east Britain in drips and waves between perhaps late prehistory, and the 12th century. Immigrants more than invaders. Fitting in where they could. Grabbing what was available. Perhaps they were fleeing fealties and bonds in their own countries. Late Roman Britain suffered from uprisings, disputes, insecurity, and political weaknesses. The economy collapsed, administration collapsed, society was in tatters. It was easy to row past immigration control in the forms of the deserted Roman shore fort at Burgh, evade paying a tax, and to land at Reedham.
I can imagine that when they landed, they would have been met by others, already familiar with their dialects, eager to trade, and to sell services. Guide them to the best cut of new land, or land that could be drained. The economy was in collapse, local elites would have been ready to break with tradition, make deals with hard working immigrants. Allocate land to work. Who cares if it had bypassed the Imperial authorities, it was cheap and flexible.
So what I am suggesting is that the Anglo-Saxon invasion in places like the coastline and river valleys of East Anglia may not have been such a big hitter. Instead of helmeted Angles and Saxons roaring up the beaches waving their swords, that the change could have been a little gentler, less confrontational. Gildas and Bede, with their stories of Hengist and Horsa, could have been the outraged Daily Mail Editorial of their day "invading immigrants, raping our women, nicking our land!!". Recent studies of cemeteries in the Cambridge area, have supported this hypothesis, with evidence that a) locals mimicked the culture of the immigrants, b) they inter-married, and c) the poorest were actually recent immigrants. Source.
I'm not saying that it happened this way, it's just an alternative perspective. Poor Dutch and German farmers looking for a better life in Britannia. That might have been the scene in 5th Century East Anglia. Of course, the good times couldn't roll forever. New elites emerged, and started to exploit the fealties again. Once again, the poor got poorer. Feudalism established....
The trickle of immigrants probably continued. The trade and contact across the North Sea didn't just go away. Perhaps there was a secondary wave during the 9th Century AD, that which we associate with the Dane-Law. Perhaps they were from the area of Denmark, but were they raging horned helmeted Vikings? Sea levels had recently dropped ever so slightly, making new land at Flegg in Norfolk, actually of use, with just a little bit of drainage - as other new land would have been. No wonder places like that are dotted with Anglo-Danish place-names.
Was this period though, just a continuation of what had preceded? We could extend this in a way. Norwich and Great Yarmouth became host to a number of Dutch protestants during the early 15th Century. Later it was the Huguenots. There always was a Dutch influence in East Norfolk. During the early 20th Century, Anglo-Dutch sugar beet consortiums even carved up the landscape of the area. Was this nothing new?
This is a follow on from my last post, concerning the mapping of my paper ancestry over the past three centuries. A noticeable cluster of ancestry (on my mother's side) appeared on the maps from three generations ago, in Broadland or East Norfolk, including the villages of Reedham, Limpenhoe, Cantley, Freethorpe, Stokesby, Beighton, Postwick, Hassingham, Buckenham St Nicholas, Halvergate, Tunstall, South Burlingham, Moulton, and Acle.
That this cluster is so firmly entrenched, suggests that I have had ancestry in that locality for a long time. I have already postulated that this area would have acted as a prime settlement district for immigrants from between the fourth and eleventh centuries, from across the North Sea. I thought that I would play on this idea a little more.
The map below shows East Norfolk as it would have appeared during the Fourth Century, with slightly higher sea levels than we enjoy today, and previous to any substantial engineered drainage:
The red dappling, outlines the main cluster of my mother's paper ancestry, that provenances there during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Such a strong cluster would suggest deep roots in that zone.
Very different to the present day Norfolk Broads and Coast. Great Yarmouth and Breydon Water are replaced by a Great Estuary. Reedham literally faced the North Sea at the head end of the estuary. Indeed, 20th Century works in the parish church of Reedham, revealed hidden herringbone decorations made from Roman bricks. it has been hypothesised, that these bricks may have come from a nearby Romano-British lighthouse.
Revisionist historians and archaeologists have for many years, argued that the Roman forts of the Saxon Shore, were in fact not defensive, defending the province from attack by marauding Anglo-Saxon pirates, but were instead used to control and tax North Sea trade with the province. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that areas like this were already being culturally influenced by the North Sea Anglo-Saxon world.
The collapse of Roman administration, and the disintegration of much of Roman society, and the Roman way of life, made it easy for Continental adventurers to cross the North Sea from outside of the old Empire, and to settle in Eastern England. Some of them may have been escaping exploitation from the elites that were gathering power in their homelands. They knew how to live with a rural barter-economy, without the niceties that the Empire had offered the British. A recent study of human remains in the Cambridge area, noted that within a very short time, even the local British were adapting the customs and artifacts of Anglo-Saxon culture. Not only that, but those remains that were genetically profiled as of being of local British origin not only aped the new immigrants, but their burials were higher status and richer. The poorer graves mainly profiled as newly arrived immigrants from the Low Countries or Denmark. The researchers suggested that in the case of immigration (rather than invasion), this is what we should expect to see. The immigrants had to settle for whatever they could get, which would often be poorer land.
I'm going to restate my view. I support a number of recent genetic surveys, also backed up by many archaeologists, that the 5th Century AD Anglo-Saxon Invasion of Britain was exaggerated in it's ferocity by Gildas and Bede, rather like the Daily Mail exaggerates present day immigration and it's "damaging effect". It was certainly a very major migration, but it appears to have left the lowland British genome with no more than 20% to 40% of it's DNA share. It seems from recent genetic studies, that the present day ethnic English, inherit more DNA from prehistoric British populations, than they do from Continental Anglo-Saxons. Not only that, but the immigrants seem to have married into British society, rather than slaughter it. It was during the later Sixth Century, that emerging elites of the lowland British kingdoms started to claim ethnic identification, and descent from heroic Angles and Saxons.
In this post, I'm not going to particularly distinguish between the Anglo-Saxon settlement of the 5th/6th Century AD, from the hypothesised Danish settlement of the 9th/10th century. Perhaps we should see them as waves of North Sea immigration, but perhaps not so entirely divorced from each other. The earlier may have originated more from Frisia and Angeln, and the latter from a little bit further north in Denmark, but the cultures don't seem to have been that much different. When I was a boy, travelling through the loam soils of Broadland to see my relatives in Cantley, I was always struck by the big Dutch barns on the landscape. I was told that the Dutch had long had connections to the area. Maybe my parents underestimated how far back these links across the North Sea went.
This 20% to 40% Anglo-Saxon DNA spreads across all of England. Even the Welsh and Cornish have a percentage of it. However, I was intrigued by a comment in Stephen Oppenheimer in his book Origins of the British 2007, when he did just remark that the highest marker was from an East Norfolk sample!
When I look at the above maps, and in relationship to Frisia, Saxony, Angeln, and Denmark, it appears to me that the Great Estuary must have seemed like a magnet to the boat loads of new settlers. Rivers opening up from the North Sea, to rich arable soils and lowlands. A recently closed shore fort - tax, customs, and immigration control free! I can't help but imagine the first boats beaching or mooring at Reedham, Cantley, Halvergate (-gate, another Norse place-name) etc.
Not only that, but during the 6th and 7th centuries, the sea levels dropped. Desperate settlers could easily create new land with simple drainage methods. This appears to be particularly relevant to the East Norfolk district of Flegg. An island surrounded by new marshes, with the sea waters draining away. Almost every parish on Flegg, finishes with the classic place-name suffix of Danish settlement - Fil-by, Stokes-by, Rolles-by, Ormes-by, Hems-byetc. That the later settlers left so many place-names must reflect a great land grab by immigrant families. The settlers had to fit in where they could. their ability to exploit a drop in sea levels, and to perhaps make use of their engineering skills at draining land, must have been an advantage at settling in this area. The drained salt-marshes proved top quality grazing land. The marsh grasses of the Halvergate Triangle were used to fatten sheep, cattle and other livestock for centuries after. The marshes are dotted by small medieval man-made islands known as holmes (from the Old Norse holmr).
I've basically been making claims here, of direct descent from the North Sea Settlers that arrived in the eastern extremes of East Anglia between the 4th and 11th centuries. I'm daring to suggest that my mother's established deep links with that area, may indicate that she has a heightened percentage of their DNA. Of course, I could be wrong. Perhaps there was more shuffling of genes across Britain into and out of that district during the medieval. Perhaps the POBA 2015 survey was correct in dismissing any Danish settlement.
Why does it matter to me anyway? I am equally proud of my Romano-British ancestry as I am of my Anglo-Saxon (or perhaps Anglo-Danish) ancestry. The Romano-Britons seem to have largely descended from late prehistoric Britons - the people that erected all of those round barrows across Britain, that went on to build wonderful hill forts, the people that rebelled against Rome during the 1st Century AD. However, I'm also proud of having North Sea settler ancestry. They were the go-getters of their day, that uprooted to look for adventure. Hard working migrants and pioneers. Perhaps similar in some respects, to the Europeans that uprooted to settle the Americas, or dare I suggest, to the present day EU immigrants of Britain.
Years ago, I read a fascinating landscape history on this area, called The Norfolk Broads, a landscape history. By Tom Williamson, 1997. Unfortunately, I lent the book out. I really would like to read this again now.
I took the above photograph on Rollei Retro 400S film, loaded in a Pentax Spotmatic camera. Anita holding my Chinese made Countryman F-style mandolin in the village church yard. Developed in rodinal.
Why do I like mandolins?
I don't really know, but I absolutely love mandolins.
The mandolin descends from a long line of small oud or lute-type instruments that had been circulating Africa and Europe for many centuries or perhaps even more. However, They really took form as the mandolino in the Naples area. Between the late seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries the Neapolitanmandolino (meaning almond-shaped) evolved to have as a default, a bowl shaped back made of glued strips of wood, a bent sound table, decorated beading around the sound board, a tortoise shell pick guard, a narrow neck, , four pairs of metal strings, tuned in pairs the same as a violin - GDAE, and good quality tuners. It had evolved from being a small oud, into the classic Neapolitan bowl-backed mandolin.
The Neapolitan bowl backed, is still the mandolin of choice for many mandolinists performing for tourists in Italy, for fans of traditional Italian folk music, and for some classical mandolinists. However, as the mandolin craze spread across Europe during the nineteenth century, so it took local turns and twists. The bowl was sometimes replaced with a flat or curved back for example. In Greece, they already had their own versions - the bouzoukis. In Portugal, it took the form of the bandolim - which also made it across the Atlantic to Brazil. Meanwhile, both Brazilian bandolinists, and Italian mandolinists were wowing the thriving palour music scene in the USA.
It was in the USA, that new forms of mandolin were produced and popularised, particularly by the Gibson guitar company, with their A and F style American mandolins. Mandolins started to fall into the hands of Blues musicians. Jazz musicians picked them up. When Bluegrass launched, Bill Munroe picked a Gibson F5-style. Today, it seems as though the USA has replaced Italy, as the stronghold of the mandolin.
Here in the UK, when many people first see a modern mandolin, they often mistake it for a ukulele or even a banjo. They don't really know what it is, or what it sounds like. The mandolin rarely makes it into popular music - although it has starred in songs by Led Zeppelin (the Battle of Evermore), R.E.M (Losing my Religion), and Rod Stewart (Maggie May).
So why do I love mandolins?
I have no musical background. I had never really tried to play a musical instrument outside of a stylophone during the 1970s. I sucked in music class. I could not read noted music at all. That was my musical experience up to the age of fifty two.
Then I walked into the local music shop. He had the Countryman F5 style on the wall, at the end of a long row of guitars. It was just so pretty, I didn't think about it. I just handed over the plastic. Nothing to do with liking any style of music, any musician, or the sound of the mandolin. It was just the looks of it. Ironically the owner of that shop was born in Italy - so that I can still say that I bought my first mandolin from an Italian.
The Countryman label is used sometimes by a Chinese distributor to the UK. I have tracked the same mandolin under different labels in Europe and in the USA. Like so many Chinese stringed instruments - perhaps not the best wood - it is quiet, and not the richest tone, but for the price it was incredible value, with all of the goodies that you'd expect on a much more expensive American-made bluegrass mandolin. A simple change of the strings improved the tone noticeably. It plays well. A good mandolin to learn on.
I took classes with a very good mandolin teacher for a while. Good, in the sense that he was a mature music teacher of the old school, and a genuine mandolinist himself, but not so good in that he was so strict, that I eventually felt too nervous to play, and after around six months, regrettably canceled my classes.
Since then I have tried to self-train, but instead have perhaps more simply taken the route of playing for fun. I would like more spare time, and more self discipline in order to study more efficiently. I have plenty of great books, and a host of great teaching videos on Youtube and elsewhere. I'm attracted to traditional Italian, and to Irish or Scottish folk, but I'd like to have a crack at some blues. So much music to learn, so many techniques.
Ever since my initial attraction to that instrument in the music shop, I have found other reasons to love mandolins. Okay, they don't have the warm big sound of an acoustic guitar. But they are so small, so portable. I absolutely love practicing on my mandolin. I can't really explain why. It's not a guitar. It is more personal.
I have to admit that I have wasted money buying a couple of cheap mandolins on Ebay. An old Neapolitan bowl back, and a Romanian curve back, distributed by a Scottish company as the Celtic Petit. Although both are louder, neither play as easily as my Chinese Countryman.
As I said in my last post, I have commissioned a hand-crafted mandolin from a local luthier, Gary Nava. I'm so looking forward to it later this year.
The below Youtube video stars Charlie Pig's World of Pluck. He is playing one of Gary Nava's hand-made mandolins. He's such a good player, and my playing sucks so bad. I just hope Gary doesn't expect me to play it when I pick it up. I really like Charlie's performance here, so I'm embedding it in this blog for inspiration. This is why I now love the mandolin: