For decades the structure of Iron Age societies in Europe has been debated on the basis of varying interpretations of the same evidence—primarily artefact typologies and settlement morphology. At the heart of the problem is that the social models for Iron Age Britain are predicated by the notion of population stasis punctuated by migration episodes or events. However, prehistory was not static; the prehistoric world was a mobile one where connectivity and the intensity of contact in intercultural encounters provided the mechanism for cultural transmission and change. The movement of people, goods, and ideas has been fundamental in making people and societies what they are, but the nature, intensity, mechanisms, and extent of these connections has varied greatly in time and place. Understanding modes of mobility is key as mobility can be both physical and social, temporary and repeated, and disruptive and connecting.
In this website you will find information on research into Iron Age settlements, artefacts, animal remains, and human remains from across Britain. Some of the data will derive from traditional archaeological analyses, while others will come from high-tech scientific studies. Each site or project presented will have its own associated research questions and aims, but it is hoped that by bringing them all together here that a picture begins to develop about how Iron Age people lived and interacted across space and through time.
When studying the connections between people and groups, the site is most often the spatial point at which all subsequent data is analysed. The ‘site’ can range from a monumental settlement (Maiden Castle, Dorset pictured) to a small farmstead. More importantly though it could be a single find spot, which is so often the case for artefacts reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (England and Wales) or Treasure Trove (Scotland). It can even be an area in the landscape – such as a rock outcrop or source for clay or metal that was exploited in the past.
The traditional approach to constructing Iron Age chronologies has been based on often complex artefact typologies. Ceramics and metalwork are two key artefacts that are used. Brooches are especially interesting as they form a key ‘dateable’ artefact class spanning the entire Iron Age period. And while brooches present stylistic distinction that varies through time, they also provide the single-most widespread and continuous record of cultural connectivity with the European continent.