The Upper Thames Valley, around Oxford. Iron Age sites excavated by the Oxfordshire Archaeological Unit are underlined.
After Little Woodbury:
Village and Farm in Iron Age Oxfordshire
The most elaborate of the Iron Age sites excavated so far is that on the Ashville trading estate, on the western outskirts of Abingdon. It lies adjacent to the MG car factory, and was discovered by field walkers from the Abingdon Archaeological Society, just before the construction of an industrial estate. The excavations have already been published by Michael Parrington in the CBA Research Reports series.
The Ashville site was a village of the Middle Iron Age, a collection of round houses cutting and intercutting one another, and continually shifting, just like the houses in a medieval village. The overall impression, however, is one of circularity, for the straight ditches that cross the site all proved to be of a later period. The village was undefended, for the bank to the north, postulated as a defensive earthwork by the excavator, is now known to be part of a medieval field system.
The excavations revealed a number of periods. The earliest consisted of two Bronze Age ring ditches, though interestingly the barrows that these had enclosed had been completely ploughed flat before the beginning of the Iron Age. (There are a number of instances of this phenomenon which surely implies that barrow burial went out of fashion in the earlier part of the Bronze Age.) The earliest Iron Age phase appears to have been a single hut with a large number of associated pits, though some of those shown on the plan might belong to the following phase.
TH E excavations at Little Wood
bury in the 1930s established this as the typesite of the British Iron Age. In recent years, however, archaeologists have begun to realise that there is a wide variety of Iron Age settlement types, and that in each region these types must be studied by themselves. Dennis Harding in his pioneering study of The Iron Age in the Upper Thames Basin outlined some of the possibilities of the Oxford area, and showed that in addition to the well known defensive sites there were wide varieties of both ditched enclosures and open sites. In recent years, therefore, the Oxfordshire Archaeological Unit in the course of its investigation of threatened sites in Oxfordshire, has selected a number of Iron Age sites to elucidate something of this variety. No less than five have now been excavated, and with their help we can now perhaps begin to look at the different types of sites and their various dates in the Oxfordshire region.
The main Iron Age phase consists of 18 penannular gullies; but how many of these were occupied at any one time? Many of them intersect, and the excavators calculate that at the most only seven could have been occupied simultaneously. It could have been considerably less, for they fall into three groups and may represent a settlement of three houses many times rebuilt. There are also a large number of storage pits of this phase, all of which contained considerable quantities of carbonised grain.