Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

When the Iron Man Was King. New Dig Uncovers Fresh Evidence of Old Settlements

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

When the Iron Man Was King. New Dig Uncovers Fresh Evidence of Old Settlements

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor

IRON Age communities were thriving in what is now south east Northumberland, archaeologists have learned. Earlier this year one of the most complete Iron Age settlements to be excavated in the North East, which consisted of around 50 roundhouses in an enclosed two-hectare area, was unearthed by the Tyne Wear Museums archaeology team at Banks Mining's Delhi surface mine on the Blagdon Estate near Seaton Burn.

Now more excavations by the team in advance of opencast mining at Banks's nearby Shotton site have uncovered a further Iron Age settlement, dating from around 2,300 years ago.

A similar settlement was found in advance of development at Brunton in the Great North Park on the edge of Newcastle.

Also found at Shotton was a line of pits, similar to those discovered in digs at Blagdon Hall and Dinnington in the same area. Archaeologists say these pit boundaries date from 700BC to 500BC and represent the first major division of the landscape into farming units.

"We are getting a picture of a grid of these settlements about a kilometre apart. What is exciting is the density of settlements in the area," said Paul Bidwell, head of archaeology at Tyne Wear Museums. The pit alignments go on for miles. The whole of the landscape is divided up and it really is quite densely populated. It suggests a highly organised society with people's landholdings being respected. This is all a new and important picture."

Mr Bidwell said that the settlements had complex histories, with changes and alterations stretching over hundreds of years. But many of the settlements go out of use around the time of the Roman occupation.

He said: "Why this should be so is the big question we are hoping to follow up. It may be that the population is being cleared out by the Romans for four or five miles in front of Hadrian's Wall. …

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