Where Have All the People Gone? A Puzzle from Middle and Late Iron Age Essex

posted on 15.11.2015 by Paul R. Sealey

A survey of 211 Iron Age roundhouses from twenty-five settlements across Essex shows a steep Late Iron Age fall in numbers from a Middle Iron Age peak. It cannot be explained by the replacement of the roundhouse with an architectural form that left little trace in the ground because the roundhouse remained a living architectural tradition until the late Roman period in the county. Nine of these twenty-five settlements were abandoned in or before the Late Iron Age, but have next to nothing in the way of pre-conquest artefacts that could have come from houses of that date which had not survived. The fall in roundhouse numbers is interpreted as a population contraction of at least 50 % over the period c. 125–25 BC. Political upheaval may have been partly responsible. No environmental changes could be identified as contributory factors. Population retreat in the county explains the dearth of Late Iron Age settlements and the absence of large cemeteries.