Settlement Boundaries: The Examination of Social Change in the Late Iron Age – Roman Transition – Nick Garland (UCL)

The physical boundaries of Early Roman towns were markedly different from those of their Late Iron Age predecessors. This can be demonstrated in West Sussex, where the linear and discontinuous earthworks of the Late Iron Age Territorial Oppida developed into a Roman Military encampment and then into the stone walls of the Roman Civitas capital of Noviomagus Reginorum.

Rome amalgamated their provinces through co-operation and symbiotic relationships and therefore, significant areas in Late Iron Age Britain retained their importance post-Claudian invasion. While Roman culture appears to have been absorbed by the British elite, the extent to which the rest of society changed is debateable. This raises the question: did British society as a whole really change to a great extent across this period?

In both Iron Age and Roman studies boundaries have been used to examine social change, whether for individual houses or larger scale domestic and agricultural enclosures. They  reflect multiple perspectives, whether it is related to political or individual status, community co-operation, religious practice or social exclusion. These boundaries may have represented the social structure of the inhabitants of these settlements and reflects how that structure alters over time.

Through Landscape Archaeology, combining spatial analysis and phenomenological observations, we can examine boundaries to determine their physical and social significance to those who built and lived within them. By interpreting these boundaries through time and space we can start to understand the scale of social change between the Late Iron Age and Early Roman periods in Britain.


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