Claydon Pike by David Miles and Simon Palmer
WHAT was the impact of the Roman invasion on the ordinary inhabitant of lowland Britain? In recent years, the Oxford Archaeological Unit has been investigating the fertile (and threatened) gravels of the River Thames. Their most surprising results, uncovered at a number of sites such as Barton Court Farm (see CA63), has been that the major changes came, not with the Roman invasion, but in the previous century, when the so-called "Belgic shuffle" took place, and many, if not most of the Iron age farms changed their position. Now, however, in the latest and largest excavation, directed by David Miles and Simon Palmer at Claydon Pike in the upper Thames valley, a rather different story is being revealed.
Certainly the Belgic shuffle took place there, as elsewhere, and the settlement moved across the small stream to a new site 200 yards away. However, around AD 70 a further change took place; the Roman military moved in, and the site seems to have become a sort of depot, possibly for taxation purposes. The excavations are still only half way through, but it is time to consider the story so far.
Claydon Pike lies in the heart of England, half way between Fairford and Lechlade, in the fertile valley of the River Coln, a tributary of the Thames. The area is being quarried for gravel, and the gravel pits, when completed, will join up to form an inland lake, 10 miles long: nice for sailors, horrifying to archaeologists. The parish boundary between
Lechlade and Fairford runs through the site, separating the Roman from the Iron Age settlements: is this significant?
The excavations began with the Iron Age settlement, excavated in 1979/80. This consisted of three clusters of houses set on three slight
The Iron Age settlement at Claydon Pike consists of three groups of round houses each on its own 'island' in the marsh. Note how the parish boundary between Lechlade and Fairford runs along the stream that separates the IA settlement (shown here) from the Roman settlement in Fairford parish (shown overleaf).