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The use of radiocarbon and Bayesian modelling to (re)write later Iron Age settlement histories in east-central Britain

By William Derek Hamilton


This thesis focuses on the use of radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modelling to develop more precise settlement chronologies for later prehistoric settlements over an area extending from the Tees valley in the south to the Firth of Forth in Scotland and bounded by the Pennines to the west. The project has produced a corpus of 168 new radiocarbon dates from nine sites and used these, together with dates that were already available for another 10 sites to develop new chronological models for 18 settlements representative of different parts of the study area.\ud The results of the modelling underline the dynamic character of later prehistoric social organization and processes of change in east-central Britain over a period of several centuries. A widespread shift from nucleated settlements to dispersed farmsteads apparently occurred over a period of no more than a generation on either side of 200 cal BC, with a subsequent move back to open sites in the period following Caesar’s invasions in 55/54 BC. It is not yet clear why the settlement pattern became more focused on enclosed settlements around 200 cal BC, but whatever the cause, this seems to form a single archaeological horizon all the way from the Forth to the Tees.\ud The shift to open settlement around 50 cal BC seems, however, to be tied to new economic forces developing in the region as southern England becomes more focused on economic and diplomatic relations with Rome in the century leading up to the Roman occupation of northern England shortly after AD 70.\ud Questions of duration are also explored, related more specifically to the lifespan of settlements and even of individual structures or enclosure ditches. These questions lead to ones of tempo, whereby the cycle of rebuilding a roundhouse or redigging a ditch is examined

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2011
OAI identifier:

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