A home from 2,000 years ago: the Iron Age roundhouse excavated by archaeologists in a Northamptonshire village

By Culture24 Reporter | 14 January 2016

An Iron Age roundhouse is at the centre of a settlement from more than 2,000 years ago excavated in Welford

A photo of an archaeological excavation taking place around a brownfield iron age house
Nine trenches were dug at a site in Welford in 2015© ULAS
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.

A photo of an archaeological excavation taking place around a brownfield iron age house
Structural evidence and two enclosure ditches were later revealed© ULAS
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.

A photo of an archaeological excavation taking place around a brownfield iron age house
The artefacts date from around 2,000 years ago© ULAS
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.

A photo of an archaeological excavation taking place around a brownfield iron age house
© Archaeologist Nathan Flavell, of the University of Leicester, records the Iron Age features
“The northern enclosure was a very regular rectilinear shape on site, and was probably an annexe to the earlier enclosure.”

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.

A photo of an archaeological excavation taking place around a brownfield iron age house
This reconstruction is based on a roundhouse excavated at Enderby, near Leicester© ULAS
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.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

A photo of an archaeological excavation taking place around a brownfield iron age house
© ULAS
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.
Latest comment: >Make a comment
Thanks for news of the this fantastic discovery. With the advent of modern technology more of these sights are coming to light. Castell Henlleys is a superb archaeological site to visit.
>See all comments
    Back to article
    Your comment:
    DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted at www.culture24.org.uk are the opinion of the comment writer, not Culture24. Culture24 reserves the right to withdraw or withhold from publication any comments that are deemed to be hearsay or potentially libellous, or make false or unsubstantiated allegations or are deemed to be spam or unrelated to the article at which they are posted.
    British Archaeology Awards logo

    Events

    • 1 mile
    • 2 miles
    • 3 miles
    • 4 miles
    • 5 miles
    • 10 miles
    • 20 miles
    • 50 miles
    • Any time
    • Today
    • This week
    • This month
    • This year

    advertisement