An Iron Age roundhouse is at the centre of a settlement from more than 2,000 years ago excavated in Welford
These footprints of an Iron Age roundhouse, spanning nine metres in diameter and found by archaeologists at a housing development site in the Northamptonshire village of Welford, reflect the commonest type of home built more than 2,000 years ago: constructed in timber, its wattle walls would have been covered with daub under a conical thatched roof.
An outer drainage gully surrounded the house, where scored ware pottery from the middle Iron Age and several querns and honestones were also found near the entrance, believed to date from between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC.
Timber uprights, placed in a perimeter of post holes, would have supported the roof, and hazel or willow would have been woven between the walls and added between the rafters, with a sturdy Ring Beam securing the very top.
Either reed or straw thatching was held in place by more hazel or willow. The conical roof allowed rainwater to run off easily, and any smoke from a hearth could escape through the thatching.
Wayne Jarvis, of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, says the two enclosures, excavated near a main road, were related to one another.
“The southern example was the earlier of the two, of a D-shaped form, with a large entrance on the east side,” he explains.
“The northern enclosure was a very regular rectilinear shape on site, and was probably an annexe to the earlier enclosure.”
© Archaeologist Nathan Flavell, of the University of Leicester, records the Iron Age features
The trenches were dug using large mechanical excavators. After the topsoil was removed the darker soil colours showed where ditches, posts and pits had been dug into the ground.
The size of the ditches suggest they would have had banks with fences and formed a barrier – probably to keep livestock under control. Fragile cooking pots were thrown into the pits, which would also have been used for rubbish and storage.
Animal bones recovered show that the farmers who lived here would have kept cattle, sheep and pigs. Tiny fragments of burnt barley and wheat seeds have been detected in sieved soil samples, as well as sections of grinding stones, used to produce flour.
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Three Iron Age sites to see
Bodrifty Iron Age Settlement, Penzance
In this area of enclosed moorland are the remains of an Iron Age (600 BC - AD 43) settlement, consisting of the ruins of eight roundhouses within a low enclosing bank. The site was excavated in the 1950s and a wider area surveyed In 1985. Some Bronze Age pottery was found, indicating occupation.
Castell Henllys Iron Age Fort, Pembrokeshire
A prehistoric promontory forts dating to around 600BC, this has been the site of excavations for 20 years and is home to several reconstructed thatched Iron Age buildings.
Museum of the Iron Age, Andover
Danebury Ring, an Iron Age hillfort, was excavated by Prof Barry Cunliffe between 1969 and 1988, becoming one of the most intensively studied sites of the British Iron Age (750 BC to the Roman invasion 43AD). The museum has life-sized models and reconstructions, as well as finds from the excavations creating a picture of how people farmed, fought, worshipped and died more than 2000 years ago.