Iron Age pottery and society in East Anglia

Project team

  • J.D. Hill, Research Manager



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This long term project has concentrated on reconstructing the ways Iron Age societies in Eastern England were organised and how they changed in the centuries leading up to the Roman Conquest. It also aimed to develop new ways to interpret pottery from prehistoric sites to consider broader social questions.

A key part of the project has been the detailed study of pottery recovered from archaeological excavations to consider different aspects of how Iron Age communities were organised. Case studies from excavations by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit at Haddenham and Wardy Hill have provided evidence to consider pottery production and exchange, cooking and eating, along with issues of identity. The large amount of pottery from Haddenham V which came from unusually well preserved house floors and farm yard surfaces, has allowed a detailed study of archaeological site formation processes, considering issues of breakage, rubbish management and deliberate ritual deposition.

Other aspects of the research have looked at larger issues. The changes in pottery production over these periods have been considered.  The potter’s wheel was introduced to this region in the first century BC.  Research has considered this innovation in the context of changes in cooking, eating and drinking.  It has suggested that is was these changes in the meal that were more important than technological change, and provided the demand for exotic pottery, wine and beverages seen in parts of Eastern England in the Late Iron Age.

Finally, another aspect of this research has been to consider the broader nature of how Iron Age societies in East England were organised, along with how and why they changed through the Late Iron Age and into the Roman Conquest period.

Cooking pots. Iron Age

Cooking pots. Iron Age, about 300 BC-AD 43 from Cambridge and Glastonbury, England.


J.D. Hill, 'The dynamics of social change in Later Iron Age Eastern and South Eastern England c.300 BC to AD 43', in C Haselgrove and T Moore, Later Iron Age Britain, (forthcoming, in Press)

J.D. Hill, ‘Are we any closer to understanding how later Iron Age societies worked (or did not work)?’ In: C Haselgrove (ed.), Les Mutations de la fin de l'age du fer; Celts et Gaulois IV Bibracte 12/4, (2006), pp. 169-80

J.D. Hill and P. Braddock, ‘Iron Age pottery’, in: C. Evans and I. Hodder, The Haddenham Project Vol 2: Marshland Communities and Cultural Landscapes (MacDonald Institute Monographs 2006), pp. 148-94 (plus other smaller contributions)

J.D. Hill with L. Horne, ‘The Iron Age and Early Roman Pottery’, in C. Evans (ed.) ‘Power and Island Communities: Excavations at Wardy Hill Ringwork, Coveney, Ely’, East Anglian Archaeology 103 (2003), pp. 145-84

J.D. Hill, ‘Not just about the potters wheel; Making, using and depositing Middle and Late Iron Age pottery in south east England’, in A. Woodward and J.D. Hill (eds.) Prehistoric Britain: The Ceramic Basis  (Oxford, Oxbow Monographs, 2002), pp. 143-60

J.D. Hill, ‘Pottery and the expression of society, economy and culture’, in A. Woodward and J.D. Hill (eds.), Prehistoric Britain: The Ceramic Basis, (Oxford, Oxbow Monographs, 2002), p 62-74. ISBN 1 84217 071 6

J.D. Hill, C. Evans and M. Alexander, ‘Hinxton Rings; A late Iron Age cemetery at Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, with a reconsideration of northern Aylesford-Swarling distributions’, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 65 (1999), pp. 23-275