Two Iron Age 'aggregated' settlements in the environs of Leicester : excavations at Beaumont Leys and Humberstone
bookposted on 2011-08-26, 10:25 authored by John Thomas
Two excavations on the outskirts of Leicester at Beaumont Leys Lane, Beaumont Leys, and Manor Farm, Humberstone, have revealed two areas of Iron Age ‘aggregated’ settlement closely associated with long-lived linear boundaries, on opposite sides of the Soar valley. The occupation at Beaumont Leys dated to the Early Middle Iron Age and consisted of a spread of post-built roundhouses, four-post structures and stock pens. A range of finds including pottery, animal bone and quernstones was recovered. Several ‘exotic’ artefacts hint at the wide-ranging contacts of the settlement. Limited environmental information suggested that the inhabitants were predominantly involved with livestock farming. Occupation at Manor Farm, Humberstone, consisted of a sequence of large stock enclosures and a linear spread of ‘open’ settlement adjacent to a boundary ditch. This site significantly extends to the west the Iron Age settlement area first revealed in 1998 at the neighbouring Elms Farm. The settlement was evidently long-lived, with occupation beginning in the Early Middle Iron Age and continuing into the Late Iron Age, finally coming to an end in the late 1st century BC or early 1st century AD. An area in excess of 13 ha was occupied, making Humberstone the largest Iron Age settlement yet found in Leicestershire. The scale and longevity of the occupation is reflected in the finds, including the largest pottery and animal bone assemblages from contemporary sites in the East Midlands. The environmental data suggest that the settlement lay in a largely cleared landscape, with areas of open grassland and probably fields nearby, but also some woodland in the vicinity. Although the inhabitants were involved in mixed farming, an emphasis on pastoralism is suggested. The site was also involved in various craft activities such as metalworking, weaving and bone-working and, like Beaumont Leys, was part of a wide network of trade and exchange. Together, the two settlements provide evidence of occupation through much of the Iron Age and present a rare opportunity to study sites of similar character in proximity. The similarities are most evident in the close relationship between the occupied areas and the linear boundaries against which each settlement developed, whilst the long duration of occupation has permitted analysis of changing architectural styles, patterns of consumption and deposition of material culture through the Iron Age.
CitationThomas, John (Ed.) Two Iron Age 'aggregated' settlements in the environs of Leicester: excavations at Beaumont Leys and Humberstone, (Copyright © 2011 University of Leicester Archaeological Services).
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