View across part of the second homestead site. The later structural features and levelling deposit have been removed to reveal the ditches and other elements of the underlying stockpens. Photo: Beds C.C.
WHAT was the impact of the Roman Conquest on a typical Iron Age farmer? In the Thames Valley, the Oxfordshire Archaeo logical Unit has recently been investigating a variety of sites ranging from farms to small villages, as reported in CA 63. The results demonstrate not only the wide variety of rural settlements, but also suggest that a major change occurred in later Iron Age times when settlements assume a different character, and might be founded on new sites. These, and other developments seem to argue for the adoption of a new style of economy—one which in many ways anticipates what we know to have been the situation in Roman Britain. But how far are the results from the Thames typical of the general situation in Lowland Britain?
I n recen t year s a simila r programme has also been carried out in Bedfordshire along the gravel terraces of the River Great Ouse. A preliminary account of this work was contained in CA 47, but now work has been completed at one of the most important of these sites at Odell, where the likely "Belgic" and Roman successors to a previously known middle Iron Age rural settlement have been excavated. Odell is today a small village on the banks of the River Ouse, 15 Kms north-west of Bedford, and has recently been the scene of extensive quarrying. The recording of the archaeological remains was carried out between 1974 and 1978 by the Planning Department of Bedfordshire County Council, with district council support and Department of the Environment backing, as part of a continuing programme of rescue excavation at threatened sites in the county (see CA 47). The
ODELL A River Valley Farm by Brian Dix quarrier, Hall Aggregates (Eastern Counties) Ltd, part of the RMC Group of Companies, was most helpful. Among those who worked at the site were trainees from a nearby Borstal, students of local colleges and schools, as well as field staff on the government Job Creation programme. Half a dozen local housewives met every week to wash through the hundreds of bags of pottery the site produced.
The area is rich in prehistoric remains. In the 1950's another Iron Age site was recorded during gravel quarrying to the north of Harrold, a village 2.5 Kms to the west of Odell. This appeared to be a rural settlement of the Middle Iron Age, and it may therefore have been a predecessor to the Odell settlement. At Odell itself, while various earlier remains were noted, among them a ploughed-out barrow, the majority of the excavated features related to a farm which was established a generation or so before the Roman Conquest. The pottery associated with its foundation recalls many of the forms and styles of finish, as well as some of the decorative elements of vessels known from the central "Belgic" area, and with its use of grog, to counteract excessive shrinkage in drying and firing, obviously belongs to the same tradition . Subsequent ceramic