|18 August 2011
Britain's first Iron Age planned town discovered
Beneath the Roman town of Silchester or Calleva Atrebatum near modern Reading (Berkshire, England) lies the first pre-Roman planned town discovered in Britain. Recent excavations have shown evidence of an Iron Age town built on a grid and signs inhabitants had access to imported wine and olive oil.
Prof Mike Fulford, an archaeologist at the University of Reading, said the people of Iron Age Silchester appear to have adopted an urbanised 'Roman' way of living, long before the Romans arrived.
"Indeed, it would be hard to see a significant difference between the lifestyles of the inhabitants of the Iron Age town and of its Roman successor in the 1st Century AD," he said. He added they seem to have been drinking wine and using olive oil and a fermented fish sauce called garum in their cooking, all imported from abroad.
After the Roman invasion, the town was used by its military, and there is evidence that Roman buildings were very swiftly built on top of Iron Age structures. Prof Fulford believes that shortly before this, the town may have been taken over by the British Iron Age chieftain Caratacus - a leader of the Catuvellauni tribe - as his stronghold.
As for the fate of the Roman town, a scorched layer within the archaeology suggests that it was actually burnt to the ground, and seems to have been abandoned for about 20 years. It is possible that this destruction was carried out by the Queen of the Iceni tribe, Boudicca, or at least at the time of her anti-Roman rebellion in 60 - 61 CE. If these theories are correct, then within a single generation Silchester went through a period of turbulent evolution from a prosperous and sophisticated Iron Age town, to being under direct Roman army control to being burned to the ground and deserted.
Edited from BBC News (18 August 2011)
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