duropolis Iron Age settlement
A new kind of Iron Age settlement
Investigating an enigmatic set of cropmarks
Investigating an enigmatic set of cropmarks has revealed a major new prehistoric settlement in Dorset. Miles russell and paul Cheetham describe how their search for Late Iron Age activity led to Duropolis.
Until 2012, our excavations at Winterborne Kingston, Dorset, were focused on an early Iron Age banjo enclosure and a later Iron Age ‘Durotrigian’ burial ground (CA 281). Quite where the people laid to rest in this cemetery had originally lived remained unknown. Then, in the exceptionally dry spring of 2012, something emerged in the fields to the immediate south of our site: a veritable ‘rash’ of pits, ditches, and lesser features. This was an exciting discovery – a previously unknown and apparently very large area of prehistoric occupation was sketched out in the ripening crop. Could it be what we had been searching for since the start of the project: the settlement that had existed during the crucial years running up to the Roman conquest?
In search of the Durotriges
The Durotriges Project had been set up to investigate the transition between the late Iron Age and Roman period in Dorset. During the first six years, an early Iron Age banjo enclosure, a later Bronze Age settlement, a late Roman villa, a subRoman farmstead, and cemeteries dating from the late Neolithic, early Bronze Age, late Iron Age, and later Roman periods were all investigated. Unfortunately, there was one major omission in this otherwise excellent sequence of occupation and burial data: an omission that was, given the nature of the Durotriges Project, rather critical. We had not yet found a later Iron Age settlement.
The appearance of the cropmarks therefore came at an opportune moment. Checking with local metal-detectorists Clive Gibbs and Ian Darke, who had first drawn our attention to the area in 2008, they confirmed that the cropmarks
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