This guide is really aimed at distant cousins with ancestry from the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. It's the perspective of a present day East Anglian from the ground. My ancestors were the ones that usually stayed in East Anglia.
First - definitions of what constitutes East Anglia. One modern governmental definition: "the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire". Estate Agents, trying to sell properties in idyllic East Anglia, often go even further, also including Huntingdonshire, Rutland, parts of Lincolnshire, and Essex. The ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia (see above image), didn't really include these add-ons. I go with that, but include parts of northern-most Essex. Why? Because on the ground, those areas still feel (and sound) East Anglian. Norfolk, Suffolk, eastern Cambridgeshire, and northern most Essex. That feels East Anglian. But it's heart remains the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.
East Anglia is situated on the North Sea coast of South-East England. It is lowland. A chalk bed lazily slopes down from west to east, with a layer of boulder clay on top running through mid Norfolk and high Suffolk. I say high, nowhere in East Anglia is high. This is Low Country. Our hills are in the main, very gradual, slight affairs. To the west of the chalk bed, lays even lower country - the ultra-flat landscape of the East Anglian Fens. Wetlands that have been drained for agriculture in rich peat and silt soils.
East Anglia is rural. It is agricultural. Largely arable, with favoured crops of wheat, barley, sugar beet, and oil seed rape. Medium size agri-business fields of crops across a very gently rolling lowland landscape, with parish church towers around every corner, and a buzzard in every copse of trees. Ancient narrow roads with bordering hedgerows, twist around long forgotten open fields and farmsteads. Mixed farming enters the river valleys, where cattle are fattened on rich grasses. Intensive pig and poultry broiler units also dot the landscape.
What about the East Anglians? That is one of the subjects of this post.
East Anglia isn't on the road to anywhere, but East Anglia. You don't pass through East Anglia on the way to the Industrial North, Scotland, Cardiff, Manchester, Birmingham, or London. It's far out on the periphery of Hub.co.uk. It's main urban centres are the small City of Norwich, and the towns of Ipswich, Kings Lynn and Bury St Edmunds. They are all, 'small'. Norwich comes in at a lowly 48th in English town by population size. You see, small. Far more medieval towers than modern high rise towers.
After the urban centres, most modern East Anglians probably live in or near the market-towns. These are really tiny "towns" some little more than villages. Some are lovely, ancient, with unspoiled centres and market places. Places such as Wymondham, Holt, Diss, Woodbridge, Swaffham, Beccles, Pulham Market, Laxfield, Long Melford, etc. There must be dozens scattered across East Anglia.
Wymondham market-town centre.
The rest of the East Anglians live in the countryside, outside of the market-towns. Trying to explain this to American genealogists where the old Roman ideal of planned city prevails, is difficult. We have villages. We have lots of them. Most are early Medieval in origin. They are set in ancient divisions known as parishes. Many East Anglians now live in suburbs on the edges of towns - but until a century or two ago, most of them lived further out in the countryside, in these villages.
How many villages have we got in East Anglia? Would you believe, somewhere around 1,300, with over 700 in the county of Norfolk alone. They absolutely dot the East Anglian countryside. Living in the countryside, in farmsteads and villages - that really is the Anglo-Saxon way of Life. Look at the below snip of a part of south Norfolk. See all of those red circles. Villages. The Blue circle is a market town on the old Roman road (A140).
Until a few centuries ago, most East Anglians lived in the countryside. Most of these villages will have a medieval church. There are more than 600 of them in Norfolk. They'll also often have a later non-conformist chapel as well. Over 600 medieval religious buildings in Norfolk! Possibly the highest density of medieval churches anywhere in the World. This is because Medieval Norfolk was central. It wasn't so peripheral before the Industrial Revolution. The medieval City of Norwich was the second or third largest city in England after London. All of those empty medieval churches. Where did the populace go? Some of them may have been your ancestors.
How about the origins of the East Anglians themselves? Who are they?
There are very few "Celtic" place-names in East Anglia, other than the Ouse river system. Most of the villages and place-names in East Anglia are of Anglo-Saxon origin, dating to between the 6th and 10th centuries AD, around 1,200 years ago. In addition there are a number of place-names that are Anglo-Danish in origin, dating to the 9th - 11th centuries AD, with a cluster of them in eastern Norfolk. See the map below, of the area called Flegg, an Anglo-Danish place-name in itself. All of those -by place-names - they were most likely settled by "Viking" Danish immigrants during the 9th to 11th centuries.
Previous to the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons during the 5th century AD, the region that we know call East Anglia had for centuries, been a part of the Western Roman Empire. Even further back than that, at the turn of prehistory to written history, the northern parts of the region were the home of the Iceni tribal federation, and the southern part to the Trinovante. These Late Iron Age peoples were descended from an immigration event from the Continent into the British Isles that took place some 2,000 years earlier. Call their ancestors Bell Beaker, Celt, British Celt, or Ancient Briton - their DNA is still the most dominant aspect of the modern British, and even English gene pool. The Roman occupation appears to have had little impact on their genetic make up.
Then the Anglo-Saxons arrived. They came from what is now Northern Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Early Anglo-Saxon artifacts found in East Anglia, have their closest correlation on the Continent with artifacts in Northern Germany, south of the Danish border. This was the origin of the Angles - which the early kings of East Anglia clearly identified with. Saxo-Frisians in what is now the Netherlands were well placed to migrate to the region, and contributed to this migrant community.
The most recent genetic studies suggest that rather than displace the Britons in the lowlands, that the Anglo-Saxons admixed with them in marriage. Indeed, as I said, genetically, the DNA of the earlier Britons is still the majority component, even in England. There was no genocide. However, an Anglo Saxon identity, culture, and language was adopted by all during following centuries.
West Stow reconstructed Anglo-Saxon village in Suffolk. The birth of the East Anglian village.
Not all of the Continental DNA in East Anglia arrived here during the 5th or 6th centuries AD. Some may have already been here from the Empire, or earlier. Some arrived during the 9th to 11th century settlement of Danes in the region. Then the Normans. The Medieval saw Angevins from Aquitaine, and other French arrive. Then during the 16th century, there was a significant settlement of Elizabethan Strangers (protestant refugees) from what is now the Netherlands. Huguenots followed. Asides from these noteable immigration events, there would have been a drip-drip feed of foreigners into the region. Dutch herring fishermen and engineers, Lithuanian timber and fur traders. Drovers from the Midlands. Indeed surname studies suggest that during the late medieval and following Tudor periods, there were a number of people moving into the Norfolk countryside - from the Continent, but also from other parts of England such as for example, Yorkshire. East Anglia isn't on the way to any where, but neither is it totally isolated from ingress of new settlers.
The consequence of the location of East Anglia in the North Sea World, is that Genetic Genealogists looking at their DNA "Ethnicity Estimates" or "Ancestry Composition" results might see high levels of DNA matching the panels for the Continent, rather than for the British Isles.
How did the East Anglians live?
Many genealogists proudly brag of documented descent from early medieval kings and emperors (usually Charlemagne). The lines that they trace in order to claim this must be those of the minority of the medieval European population - the titled and landed nobles, with their heraldic records. This elite weren't really representative of the entire population.
East Anglians were mainly rural, untitled, and really didn't have a lot of wealth. During the feudal Medieval, most East Anglians would have been within the ranks of the common peasantry, owing a range of fealties to their lords, in return for protection. Not all were particularly free, although there were high percentages of freemen peasants in eastern Norfolk. Others were tied in levels of servitude to their manors. They tilled their strips in the communal open field systems. They grazed their meagre livestock on the commons. They also worked the lord's land, supplied him with sheep fencing, ale, fuel, and grains. When called on, the men would have served the lord in wars against the Scottish, French or other houses. Life was hard, brutal, and often too short. However, the abundance of medieval churches across the region testify to the wealth that their labour actually created. It testifies to the success of their medieval economy here in East Anglia.
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].
Most peasant families didn't even adopt hereditary surnames until around the 13th to 15th centuries AD. Except for brief mentions in manorial records, tithes, and polls, most don't even enter the records until 1538, when parish registers were introduced with the English Reformation. So unless you tie into an aristocratic line - you are not going to trace your East Anglian ancestry much further back than 1550. Indeed, many parish registers are damaged, lost, or destroyed. Many records are illegible. There is no guarantee of making it back that far. I find it difficult to trace back rural East Anglian roots with a high degree of certainty much earlier than 1720, for the lack of correlative evidence from censuses, transcripts, etc.
Hoard of 12th century (Henry III) hammered silver coins recovered in Norfolk, and recorded by my late father.
Not all East Anglians worked the soil. There were skilled crafts people such as the cordwainers, potters, smiths, and weavers. Some based in villages, others in the towns. Protestant beliefs and practices spread across Eastern England following the Reformation, particularly in urban areas. This was re-enforced during the late 16th century AD, when protestant refugees from the Roman-Catholic crown, in the Netherlands, were invited to settle in Norwich, Ipswich, and elsewhere across East Anglia and south east England. One poll of Norwich at this time suggested that as much as one third of the City population consisted of these Dutch and French protestants. They were invited not only as allies against Roman Catholic Europe, but to bring their valuable crafts and skills to East Anglia.
Their protestant vigour was infectious. East Anglia became a hot bed of Protestantism. As the Crown and Establishment turned down the Reformation, opting for keeping Conservative values in their Anglican Church, so the Protestants ... protested. Some hopped back over the North Sea to the Netherlands, which had for the time being, repelled the Catholic powers. However, some of these most puritan protestants then asked the English king for permission to set up their own colonies in New England. Permission was readily granted. The Puritans left Eastern England en mass. The point though is that this particular chapter of East Anglians migrating away, was centred in main, on urban classes, skilled workers, and those that could actually afford the voyage.
Norfolk saw little bloodshed during the 17th century English Civil War, as it was safely Parliamentarian. Except for a riot and explosion in Norwich when the Puritans tried banning Christmas.
Back to the countryside...
Between the 16th and 19th centuries AD, the descendants of the old East Anglian peasantry had to adapt to a number of economic changes that were not in their interest. The great land owning families were enclosing and renting out their lands to free tenant farmers, breaking up the old manorial estates. Some fields were enclosed, and the peasants found themselves replaced by more profitable sheep. Even the commons were enclosed and privatised. While the more entrepreneurial freemen rented out land to farm themselves, as tenant farmers, many others found themselves surplus to requirement, and alienated from the soils that had fed their ancestors for generations. They became farm hands, the great army of "ag labs" (agricultural labourers) of the 19th century censuses. Not all labourers were equal. The more fortunate, loyal, and skilled might find themselves almost in full employment, with a regular wage and a tied cottage. The less fortunate were the paupers. Seasonal workers that had to constantly look for work, or beg for parish relief. The rural poor didn't always accept these changes without resistance. In 1381, Norfolk and Suffolk peasants joined in a rebellion that threatened London. In 1549, Norfolk peasants rose into an army that captured the City of Norwich. In 1830, East Anglia was a centre of the Swing Riots.
Many agricultural labourers and their families still married and baptised as Anglican at the Church of England, but although much of the puritanical fervour had by now swept away from East Anglia, many were increasingly turning to non-conformist chapels of the Baptists, Congregationalists, and Methodists. The Primitive Methodists were particularly successful in East Anglia during the 19th Century.
If you had rural working class East Anglian ancestors during the 16th to 19th centuries, imagine them very poor. Following the Agricultural Revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries, new machines and technologies replaced much seasonal and manual labour on the fields. The commons, where the poor had grazed their animals had been taken away. Poor relief was ceased, and the desperate were forced to enter prison-like workhouses, in order to be fed - families split into separate dormitories, the poor harshly penalised, and discouraged from asking for relief.
How the land owners, farmers, and parsons saw it - the East Anglian countryside simply had a large surplus of unwanted labour. They were encouraged to leave. Some to far away colonies - Australia and Canada. Others to feed the factories and mills of the Industrial Revolution in places like Newcastle, Yorkshire, or London. For many - the railways arrived just in time to escort them away.
Example of East Anglian Accent.
Researching rural East Anglian ancestry
Most East Anglians were not titled, nor recorded in heraldic records.
Parish registers online are incomplete. Not all parishes or registers have even been digitally photographed.
Some parish registers have been lost, destroyed, or are badly damaged.
The transcriptions of the registers on some online genealogical services are sometimes incorrect. Always if you can, try to see scans of the original registers online. Because of these frequent errors, the databases often fail on searches.
If your ancestor was rural, use OpenStreetMap.org and magnify down to get to really know the area that they lived in. Appreciate distances by foot. People did sometimes move more than several miles - but very often in East Anglia, didn't! It's not unusual to see one family in the same small parish for several generations. Sometimes marrying cousins. It was the arrival of the railways, that sometimes allowed families to finally escape the rural poverty.
You find Harry X marries Mary Z in a village. You search the online databases for his baptism (and parentage). You find a baptism of a Harry X in the same county. You add him and his parents to your tree. Problem is ... the baptism was 23 miles away, and you don't realise it, but there were a number of Harry X at the same time, several closer to the place of marriage - you have made an error. You just saw the one on the database. More research might have uncovered a more likely candidate, with siblings named like his children, in the village next to that in which he married Mary Z. Getting to know the area really well may have made you search harder.
Illegitimacy is a surprise to some. You will see plenty of it in 18th and 19th century East Anglia. It was generated by poverty, poor housing, poor education, and desperation.
Most of your rural working class ancestors will be illiterate, and sign with an X. Education of the labourers was discouraged. However, now and then, you will find one that served as the parish clerk. Some could read.
Widows and widowers, with children in tow, would frequently remarry quickly. Support for the children was vital to keep them out of the workhouse.
Infant mortality can be very depressing or sobering. Expect some high rates.
Don't be surprised to find ancestors listed as paupers, or as inmates in workhouses, gaols, or even the asylum.
Check non-conformist church records, as well as the Anglican. The Methodists operated by "circuits".
I have new DNA cousin "matches". This is a very important avenue of DNA testing for genealogy and ancestry that I have simply missed until recently. Up to now, I've concentrated on DNA testing for general ancestry (or ethnicity as some businesses will call it). The problem was that I first tested with 23andme, and simply, using their heavy USA customer base, and user unfriendly "experiences", I couldn't find any DNA relatives that actually had paper trails that could correlate to my own.
One of the problems is I feel, is that an awful lot of Eastern English migration to the Atlantic Coast of North America, occurred very early - late 16th to early 18th centuries AD. As a result, although some generous matching systems (such as 23andme's) suggests much more recent shared ancestry, in reality, our links to our distant USA cousins are so old, that all they do is reflect that my distant cousins have Puritan, New England, and Virginian ancestry from Eastern England. Even for those that do claim to trace ancestry to those pilgrim fathers - I can't. Certainly not for the thousands of my direct ancestors for Generations 11 - 14. I don't think any of us can. Chuck in a bit of genetic folding, and all that these distant relationships is really telling us is, that we both have some ancestry from south east England between 300 and 600 years ago.
Then I tested with Ancestry.com, Ancestry.co.uk, AncestryDNA or whatever you want to call that genealogy mega-business. Their matching system is dumbed down to the frustrating level. No chromosome locations or chromosome browsers for painting. Instead however, they have the fattest database of testers and customers - some of whom, will like myself, be subscription slaves to their family tree and documentary genealogical services. Their matching systems may cut out chromosome data - but on the flip side, you can browse trees, surnames, ancestral locations, of your DNA matches. As a consequence, I've found 14 matches that share DNA, with predicted relationships - that correlate to a paper trail relationship.
In addition I am now scouring GEDmatch, 23andme, and FT-DNA Family Finder for more relative DNA matches. I'm recording everything (including chromosome locations when available) onto a spreadsheet. The image at the top of this page demonstrates my DNA matches where they share ancestry so far. The darker the shade, the stronger the verification.
I'm starting to see how this is a better tool to understanding, or verifying ancestry, than any stupid ethnicity / ancestry composition by DNA. Family isn't always biological. However, finding a genetic correlation is the ultimate evidence to strengthen a tree. It's fascinating to see actual paper research turning up as segments of inherited DNA on matches.
I took the above photo of a Roman tombstone at Colchester. It's the image of a Roman cavalry officer, ruling over a defeated Briton. It had apparently been damaged during the following Boadiccan Rebellion. No doubt the Iceni-led rebels against Roman authority would have found this image a tad humiliating. The point that I want to make here though, is that the cavalry soldier that this tombstone commemorates, may have been Roman, may have died in South-East Britain, but actually hailed from what is now Bulgaria!
The archaeological and historical evidence suggests that as a foreigner in Roman Britain, he was far from alone. There are a number of similar stories, that suggest that Roman Britain was visited by many other people from across the empire - not only people from what is now Italy and Bulgaria, but also from what is now the Netherlands, France, Greece, Syria, Lebanon, Germany, Spain, Tunisia, Algeria and Iraq. Visitors appear to have included not just military, but merchants, specialists, politicians - they all occasionally stare out at us from the archaeology and histories of Roman Britain.
We know that they were here.
Previous anthropological investigations at Trentholme Drive, in Roman York identified an unusual amount of cranial variation amongst the inhabitants, with some individuals suggested as having originated from the Middle East or North Africa. The current study investigates the validity of this assessment using modern anthropological methods to assess cranial variation in two groups: The Railway and Trentholme Drive. Strontium and oxygen isotope evidence derived from the dentition of 43 of these individuals was combined with the craniometric data to provide information on possible levels of migration and the range of homelands that may be represented. The results of the craniometric analysis indicated that the majority of the York population had European origins, but that 11% of the Trentholme Drive and 12% of The Railway study samples were likely of African decent. Oxygen analysis identified four incomers, three from areas warmer than the UK and one from a cooler or more continental climate. Although based on a relatively small sample of the overall population at York, this multidisciplinary approach made it possible to identify incomers, both men and women, from across the Empire. Evidence for possible second generation migrants was also suggested. The results confirm the presence of a heterogeneous population resident in York and highlight the diversity, rather than the uniformity, of the population in Roman Britain.
I could have alternatively used more historical evidence of individuals - the General from Tunisia, the Syrian in Northern Britain, with a Southern British born wife, the York woman that appears to have had mixed African ancestry, etc, the recurrent Greek names, the Syrians, Algerians and Iraqis that patrolled Hadrians Wall. As Charlotte Higgens stated in Under Another Sky, Journeys in Roman Britain 2013:
"In Roman Britain, you do not have to look far to find traces of people sprung from every corner of the empire. Because of the Roman's insatiable desire to memoralise their lives and deaths, they left their mark. Some fell in love, had children, stayed. Many no doubt to, were brief visitors, posted to Britannia and then off to the next job, in Tunisia, perhaps, or Hungary, or Spain. In the Yorkshire Museum is an inscription made by a man called Nicomedes, an imperial freedman and probably Greek, to go by the name. He placed an altar to the tutelary spirit of the provenance - 'Britanniae sanctae', sacred Britannia. Also in York, a man called Demetrius erected two inscriptions in his native Greek - one to Oceanus and Tethys, the old Titan spirits of the sea; the other to the gods that presided over the governer's headquarters. The Roman empire was multicultural in the sense that it absorbed people of multiple ethnicities, geographical origins and religions. But Roman-ness - becoming Roman, living as a Roman - also involved particular and distinctive habits, architecture, food, ways of thinking, language, things that Romans held in common whether they were living in York or in Gaza.".
South east Britain was a part of the Roman empire for no less than 370 years, and was strongly influenced by it both before and after that membership. That represents quite a few generations, maybe around 12 to 18 generations. So in AD 410, as locals in Britannia fretted about their Brexit, Germanic immigration, and were petitioning Rome to send the troops back, some of their pretty distant ancestors, had witnessed the arrival of Rome with the Claudian Invasion. That's a long time for contact and admixture to drip feed.
Did this long membership of the empire leave a genetic signature in Britain? The current consensus is no! We have not yet found anything in the British admixture, that can be ascribed to Roman Britain. Not on an autosomal DNA level. The given explanation is that the Romano-British admixture experience was so cosmopolitan, and diverse, that no one contributing population managed to leave a lasting signature. Each case was apt to be washed away by the phenomena of genetic recombination. It hasn't left a background admix in modern South-East British populations that has yet been detected and recognised.
However, enthusiasts that test their DNA haplogroups do often find results that are not easily explained by conventional British population history. Odd haplogroups turn up. My own Y-DNA, L-SK1414, with a Western Asian origin, is just one example. Perhaps some of these rogue haplogroups in Britain, are a smoking gun of Roman Imperial experience.
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.".
Davidski published a spreadsheet of his K7 Basal-rich ancient admixture calculator results. I've harvested some of those test results to compare to my own.
Sorted to three admixtures.
1. Villabruna (component of Western Hunter-Gatherer) sorted:
2. Basal-rich (component of Early Neolithic Farmer) sorted:
3. Ancient North Eurasian (component of Copper Age Steppe) sorted:
I was surprised just how much Villabruna I had in my results, but clearly, this component is found not only in Villabruna, but also in Iceman / Sardinia (Neolithic Farmer) at 53-55%, and in Steppe Yamna (Bronze Age Steppe) at 34%. Therefore I have inherited substantial Villabruna not perhaps directly, but from early admixtures via Neolithic and Bronze Age settlement of Western Europe.
On Villabruna sorted, my closest neighbours are indeed other British - English, Scottish, and also Dutch and Anglo-Saxon ancient. I'm correctly positioned.
This one is an enigma, but it repeats in other calculators. I receive more Southern European / Neolithic than do most British or indeed North West Europeans. I do have one Swiss 3 x great grandparent, but otherwise, all of my recorded genealogy is South East English. I have more Basal-rich than do other "British" results in the spreadsheet. Why is that? Could have the randomness of genetic recombination given me just a little more of that Swiss line than I should normally expect, or do I have another ancestor from the South within the past several generations, that I'm not yet aware of? Living DNA suggests Tuscan in their test.
My neighbours in Basal-rich are East French, Dutch, and Swiss.
3. Ancient north Eurasian.
This trades with my Basal-rich results. I usually have less Steppe than I would normally expect as a Brit or as a North West European. More Neolithic, less Bronze Age Steppe. It does suggest some unknown Southern European ancestry.
My ANE neighbours are East French, Swiss, and North Italian. One ancient British result not too far away is Romano-British 6DT18. He was a young male (aged 16 to 18 years at death), in a multiple grave with three other men, at Driffield Terrace, York. He carried Y haplogroup R1b1a2a1a.
In summary, for a Brit, even for an Englishman, I have just about expected percentages of Villabruna and Western Hunter-Gatherer ancestry. However, something is atypical in the other two founder mixes. I look more like French or Swiss, with more Basal-rich (Neolithic) and less ANE (Steppe) than the average British or even English.
Living DNA produced their first update. An update by a "DNA for Ancestry" business can sound like an admission of failure. To some, it could sound like a recall due to product failure. "Your previous ancestry was a mistake". This only applies if you have bought into some marketing campaigns, that autosomal DNA tests for ancestry actually work even close to 100%. Surprise, they don't! They are cutting edge, in development, and far from accurate below a Continental level. They are still somewhere in the twilight between being nothing more than a genetic lottery, and actually becoming a tool that is useful. Therefore "updates" are to be welcomed. They are a sign that the business wants to improve the test accuracy. That is to the credit of Living DNA.
My latest results? First of all, a quick recap on my actual ancestry, as supported by family history, local history, ethnicity, and by a traditionally researched record based family tree that includes over 270 direct ancestors over the past 380 years. I'm English. Indeed, all of my direct ancestors, appear to have been South East English. More precise, I'm East Anglian. On family history and recorded genealogy, I'd suggest that between 75% and 85% of my direct ancestors over the past three centuries were East Anglian, almost all from the County of Norfolk. Others on my father's side, if not in East Anglia, still in Southern England.
That I feel, makes me an interesting subject for ancestral auDNA testing. You see, my ancestry is very localised here in South East England. DNA tests such as 23andMe that claim to accurately plot ancestry over the past 300 - 500 years should get me. But they don't. This is because their algorythms, and reference data set designs fail over different ages. They also (although they sometimes deny it), fail to discriminate against older population background. We East Anglians and South East English have been heavily admixed with non-British populations on the European Continent. Not so much over the past 500 years, so much as over the past few thousand years.
The new Results.
Below are my Living DNA regional ancestry, based on Standard Mode.
Below are my Standard Mode results broken down into sub regions.
Below is a table, comparing my recorded ancestry, with my early Living DNA results in Standard, now my revised results.
Living DNA has now introduced two new modes of confidence called complete and cautious modes. First the Complete results:
Below are my Complete Mode results in regional:
Below are my Complete Mode results for sub-regional:
Now the Cautious results:
Below are my Cautious Mode results in regional:
Finally, below are my Cautious Mode results for sub-regional:
No auDNA test, by any DNA-for-ancestry company has yet come close to assigning me 100% English or even British. They don't get me. 23andMe gives me 32-37% "British & Irish". FT-DNA gives me "36% British". Therefore, to be fair, Living DNA, giving me 70% "Great Britain or Ireland", give me the best result. However, Living DNA has started out with the largest, best quality British data-set of any DNA-for-ancestry company, and is often accused of a bias towards Britain in it's results. If so, then my 70% still looks weak. They are planning on producing similar quality data sets soon for Ireland, Germany, then France. Therefore any results, will as I started out saying at the beginning of this post, be perpetually progressive. Businesses that do not improve data sets or algorithms, will not get any better. They are not progressive.
I get Southern European in other tests besides this one. Living DNA points to Tuscany. FT-DNA before a recent update gave me 32% Southern European, although they have revised this down to a little noise from South-East Europe! 23andMe gives me 2% Southern European - but this appears nothing unusual for an English tester. None-the-less, I am interested in trying to better understand, why some of these tests give me this "Southern European" admixture, for which my family history, local history, and recorded genealogy has absolutely no account. It equally reflects in ancient calculators that give me a little bit more Neolithic Farmer than for other English, which on average, already have a little more Neolithic Farmer than other British or Irish populations do.
The New Complete and Cautious Modes
How do I feel about these? At Sub-Regional level, the Complete mode starts to get silly. For the first time, Living DNA at this level, starts to even suggest some ancestry from Wales, SW Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Only small percentages - but I just don't buy them.
However, the Cautious Mode, I start to like. My British ancestry doesn't increase, but it looks more realistic, although with strange enigmatic suggestions still of Italian ancestry in the mix. At Sub-Regional level, Cautious Mode also looks a little more likely. My East Anglian remains at 37%, I however, lose Lincolnshire (which does exist in my record), but retain Cornwall. I think Cornwall unlikely - however, there is just a small hint that something could be there, in surname evidence of a brick-walled great great great grandparent. So maybe, just maybe.
I seriously doubt that my East Anglian ancestry over the past 300 years genuinely falls much below 75%. Living DNA only appears to recognise a half of it at 37% - but they claim to be easily able to identify East Anglian DNA. They call it "Distinct" because of it's high levels of Continental admixture. They have admitted that based on their early data sets, that it was hard to separate from Germanic. I don't know why it isn't stronger in my results. I honestly do believe that the test underplays it on my results, even though it is the strongest of any population in my test results. My East Anglian ancestors lived mainly in Eastern, Central, and Southern Norfolk.
Living DNA also provide a chart of the Continental "contributing regions" to East Anglian ancestry:
Finally, a chart breaking down their proposal of my British ancestry at Cautious mode:
I'm not disappointed with Living DNA. That it does identify me as 37% East Anglian is I believe, incredibly good, and far advanced over any other DNA-for-ancestry test. I'm looking forward to more updates in the future. Well done Living DNA.
A Timeline for my ancestry based on current evidences.
3,000,000 years ago.
In Africa. Eastern and / or maybe Southern Africa. Hominids. We call them Australopithecines, and in some ways, they resembled modern chimpanzees but that were adapting to walking upright bipedally, in open environments. They made stone tools. They had an omnivorous diet. They were my ancestors three million years ago. As they were for all of us. Natural Selection was the big, very slow kicker for prehistory. Things changed very, very slowly,
200,000 years ago.
The first hominids that are regarded rather loosely as Anatomically Modern Human emerging in Africa.
At this time, most of my ancestors still lived in Africa, but some of my non-anatomically modern ancestors had already migrated out of Africa, and had dispersed across Eurasia for some time. They included those archaic humans that anthropologists presently call Neanderthals and Denisovans.
50,000 years ago.
Most likely by now, most of my hunter-forager ancestors had left Africa. An early out-of-Africa base appears to have been Arabia and the Middle East. Some of my ancestors had met now, after long family separations (I have 328 Neanderthal variants in my DNA, according to 23andMe), it was the birth of the Eurasians. The last Ice Age encroached.
14,000 years ago.
People had been learning to live with the climatic fluctuations of the last Ice Age. Each hardening of climatic conditions had frozen Eurasian human populations into isolated conditions that increased genetic drift.
Where were my hunter-forager ancestors 14,000 years ago? Most likely in pockets dispersed across Western Eurasia, from South-West Europe, across to Central Asia, and from Arabia up to Siberia. My direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor at this time, most likely lived somewhere between what today is Syria, and Pakistan. He could for example, have been an ibex hunter in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. My direct maternal ancestor (mtDNA line) most likely lived in another pocket of hunter-foragers somewhere in Central Asia, such as what is now Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, the Siberian Plain, or nearby. Some of her, or other of my ancestors at this time, had shared ancestry with a Siberian tribe of mammoth hunters, that archaeologists now call the Mal'ta–Buret' culture. Other of my ancestors of this time may have most likely lived in the Caucasus, Southern Europe, Middle East, and Arabia.
5,600 years ago.
Many people in Western Eurasia were adapting to a new way of living, where farming and agriculture, with a range of domesticated species of animal and plant were spreading, often carried along in waves that are marked in our DNA. The Neolithic Revolution that had affected my ancestors had occurred a few thousand years earlier in South-West Asia, in an area that we call the Fertile Crescent - the Levant, and down the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys. Some of my ancestors may have been early pioneers of this new way of life in the Middle East.
My direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor may have lived in one of the Uruk farming settlements in Babylonia, or could have been a Neolithic farmer in a number of cultures spread across what is now Iraq, Iran, or Pakistan. He alternatively could be one of a number of specialists that early civilisation was generating - a potter, a weaver, or a miner.
My direct maternal line had drifted out of Central Asia, and onto the Eurasian Steppe Corridor. My mtDNA ancestor was most likely living now on the Pontic and Caspian Steppes - what is now Ukraine, Southern Russia, or Kazakhistan. Her people would have most likely herded domestic livestock including horses, cattle, goats and sheep. They were mastering the horse and using the first wheeled wagons. On the Steppe corridor, they had access not only to trade with the civilisations south of the Caucasus, but to other cultures, and their materials. They were experimenting with some of the earliest metallurgy including copper working.
Asides from her, I most likely had a number of other ancestors living in these pastoralist cultures on the Steppes at this time. Perhaps around 28% of my ancestors 5,500 years ago, lived there.
Other ancestors of mine at this time, were dispersed across Europe. They include the Neolithic European farmers. They had descended largely from populations that had previously lived in the Levant and Anatolia (what is now Turkey and the Middle East). Some of my Neolithic European Farmer ancestors could have even lived in Megalithic Britain, but most likely, many of my European Neolithic ancestors lived elsewhere on the Continent, in for example, the Rhine valley, Danube valley, Italy, or Iberia. Many of them had ancestry that had hopped westwards along the Mediterranean, the first farmers from Anatolia and the Levant (50% of my ancient admixture), but with a smaller admixture of hunter-gatherer ancestors that had previously lived in Europe (12% of my ancient admixture). Did this 12% admixture include the surviving DNA of any of the last Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of the British Isles? I'd like to think so, but possibly not.
4,600 years ago.
My Copper Age, horse riding Steppe ancestors had migrated westwards into Europe. There they had admixed with the earlier European Neolithic people. Their DNA appeared in a Copper Age fusion culture across Central Europe (Poland, Germany, Czech, Slovakia, Hungary, etc) that we call the Corded Ware Culture. My direct maternal ancestors (mtDNA line) were most likely of that culture for a time. Their mtDNA markers turn up associated with it.
Aside from her, some of my other ancestors would have been in the Corded Ware Culture. However, the westward movement of DNA from the Steppes didn't end there. In Western Europe, it triggered the birth of another culture, that archaeologists call Bell Beaker Culture. Much of the Y-DNA of the Steppes, was carried into the Rhineland Bell Beaker men. Some of my ancestors could have belonged to the Bell Beaker culture in Iberia, or Western France. However, what is more likely is that at least some of them belonged to the Bell Beaker culture that had settled in the Lower Rhine Valley (The Netherlands and NW Germany).
Many of my ancestors at this time may have played a part in the Corded Ware and Bell Beaker cultures of Europe. mtDNA (H6a1 and H6a1a) very close to my direct maternal line has been found in both cultures, including in a Bell Beaker context in the Netherlands.
My direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor was an exception. He most likely was living somewhere around what is now Iran, possibly as a farmer in the Bronze Age civilisations there. Ancestors in Southern Europe were less affected by the Copper Age Steppe migration event (mainly in their Y-DNA), and continued to carry mainly Neolithic European Farmer DNA in their autosomes.
3,600 years ago.
I want to just stop here, to record that some of my Bell Beaker Culture ancestors had crossed the North Sea from the Lower Rhine (Netherlands) to settle in South East Britain. Their descendants were living in Bronze Age Britain. I can't say with any degree of certainty, if my direct maternal (mtDNA line) ancestor was a part of this migration, or whether her line was still on the European Continent, and crossed later. Either are equally feasible. I would have had other ancestors, perhaps the majority at this time, scattered across the European Continent, but most likely, some in what is now Germany, France, Scandinavia, and Southern Europe.
My direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor was most likely still in the area of Iraq, or Iran. Perhaps for example, he was an Assyrian.
2,600 years ago.
I'd estimate that perhaps around 38% of my ancestors were now living in Iron Age Britain. My Iron Age British ancestors would have lived in the round houses and would have farmed the land. Some people refer to the culture of the British Isles at this time as Celtic. Some of my ancestors may well have belonged to a tribal federation, that was later known as the Iceni.
This may or may not have included my direct maternal (mtDNA line) ancestor, who could have been a Briton, but may have equally lived along with many of my other ancestors - in an Iron Age Germanic culture in the Netherlands, Northern Germany, or Denmark. Others may have lived further to the south and west in Europe in other cultures such as the Gauls. I have a great great great grandparent from Switzerland. His ancestors at this time, could have been dispersed through a number of tribes across Central and Southern Europe.
My direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor was most likely still in the area of the Middle East, or Iran. Perhaps for example, he was a subject of the Persian Empire.
1,700 years ago.
Lets stop here a moment. Roman Britain. Perhaps 40% of my ancient ancestors living here at the time. Britain had been occupied by the Western Roman Empire for some time. My ancestors in Britannia would have very much identified as Romans, although they largely descended from the Iron Age Britons. However, there were traders, soldiers, and merchants from further afield here. That might have even included my direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor, that could for example, have traveled to Southern Britannia from Assyria or Persia, or perhaps even from the Eastern Roman Empire in Anatolia and the Levant.
Meanwhile many of my ancestors were living in Germanic pagan tribes across the North Sea in what is now the Netherlands, Northern Germany, and Denmark. Others may have been living in Roman Gaul, Tuscany, or elsewhere on the Continent.
1,000 years ago.
I believe that the majority of my ancestors now lived in early medieval southern Britain, although some may have still lived further to the south in places such as Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Spain, or Italy. If he didn't arrive earlier, perhaps my direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor arrived in Wessex about now, as for example, a specialist from the Middle East, working for the Roman church. Many of my ancestors in South-East Britain had arrived from across the North Sea over the preceding centuries, with Germanic tribes such as the Angles, Frisians, Danes and Saxons. Archaeological artifacts in Norfolk correlate best with some sites in Northern Germany, towards the border with Denmark.
This would have included Anglo-Saxon ancestors of my mother, that most likely rowed past the decommissioned Roman shore fort at Burgh, and perhaps moored at Reedham. It may have included Danish ancestors of her that a few centuries later settled the district of Flegg in East Norfolk. DNA shared on the Continent in places such as modern day Germany, Netherlands, France, Belgium, and Denmark reflects strongly in my ancestral DNA tests. Much of it may have arrived during these early medieval immigration events.
My direct maternal (mtDNA line) would most likely be in East Anglia or nearby by now.
500 years ago.
Exchange between South East Britain and the European Continent didn't end. It is possible that I had more ancestors arrive here from Normandy, Medieval France, and the Spanish Netherlands. However by 500 years ago, It is possible that most of my ancestors now lived in Tudor England. There would most likely still been a minority of later ancestors migrating from elsewhere, although I so far only see one great great great grandparent from Switzerland, in my genealogical record. It is likely that my direct paternal (Y-DNA line) ancestor was living in Southern England, and that my direct maternal (mtDNA line) ancestor was living in East Anglia. I trace his line back to the Oxfordshire / Berkshire border, and her line back 300 years ago to the village of Bunwell in Norfolk.
It is likely that the majority of my Tudor ancestors were living in East Anglia by now, particularly in the County of Norfolk. Many of the men would be transitioning from medieval peasant status to that of free rural labourers or some into farmers or tradesmen.
300 years ago.
It is highly likely that by now, all of my ancestors (except the Swiss line at Generation 6, arriving 160 years ago), lived in South-East England. The majority in Norfolk, East Anglia, perhaps as high as 77% East Anglian, also a cluster in the Thames Valley of Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and a smaller cluster around Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.
Their trades included agricultural labourerers, shepherds, horsemen, marshmen, smallhold farmers, watermen, carpenters, inn keepers, hawkers, etc. They were the English rural working classes of the 18th Century.
I was a small child in Norfolk. Born English, to a local East Anglian family. Yet look back at my ancestral timeline. My ancestry is from all over Europe, and even from across Western Asia, and before that from Africa. We are all cousins in one large global family. Much of my family timeline, will also be your timeline.