University of Leicester
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Social transformations from the Middle Bronze Age to the Middle Iron Age in Central Southern Britain

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posted on 2012-03-30, 10:57 authored by Andrew Stewart Tullett
The Later Prehistory of Wiltshire is included within social models built on the neighbouring counties of Dorset (Sharples 1991a) and Hampshire (Cunliffe 1984a) or general accounts of southern Britain (Barrett 1980b; Brück 1999a; Hill 1995a; Rowlands 1980). These focus on hillforts, bronze or independent farmsteads. Utilizing the wealth of new data accumulated by developer funded work, this study re-examines the evidence using a landscape scale approach influenced by community studies. It reveals that current approaches fail to explain the evidence from the study area. Towards the end of the Bronze Age, there is a trend towards transhumance with seasonal, pastoral camps and linear earthworks. Coinciding with the fall from grace of bronze as social mediator, animals became one way through which relations were negotiated. The trend continues into the Earliest Iron Age when large midden sites around Pewsey indicate the exploitation of iron deposits. The middens become centres of craft production for these transhumant communities and facilitate the growth of a broad affinity across the region. The supremacy of the middens lasts as little as 200 years before new sources of iron, continental imports and recycling cause many to be abandoned. However, the contacts made between communities at these sites facilitate the mobilization of the labour required for hillfort construction. The rational for their construction varies according to the prevailing social and economic needs but most of these goals are achieved by the Early Iron Age when most are abandoned. The developed hillforts of the later Middle Iron Age are different to their forebears, sit within an otherwise unsettled landscape and indicate a rise in the level of conflict along the western margin of the area.


Arts and Humanities Research Council



Haselgrove, Colin; McFadyen, Lesley

Date of award


Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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