Iron Age societies in the Severn-Cotswolds : developing narratives of social and landscape change
The Severn-Cotswold region occupies a pivotal position in Iron Age studies, lying at the interface between the well-studied regions of Wessex, the Upper Thames Valley and the Welsh Marches. In contrast to them, the Severn-Cotswolds has continued to be neglected despite the rich potential demonstrated by earlier surveys and excavations. This study sets the Iron Age of the Severn-Cotswold region in a national context. Both the older material and the mounting new evidence from rescue excavations are examined and interpreted in the light of recent theoretical advances. Aerial photographs have been used to enhance understanding of unexcavated sites which, alongside a database of excavated sites, provide a morphological framework to assess variation in settlement form and social organisation. The material culture and exchange networks of the later 1(^st) millennium BC are also assessed within a wider social context stressing the need to incorporate production, exchange and deposition when studying Iron Age societies. This material is used to construct a narrative of social and landscape change identifying the complexity of community reactions to wider cultural developments. It is suggested that a radical transformation in the form and organisation of settlements took place at the beginning of the later Iron Age, reflecting changes in social organisation and a greater emphasis on defining the household. Examination of the settlement and material culture evidence suggests complex social networks developed in the later Iron Age. It is against this background that the emergence of new settlement forms and communities in the late Iron Age needs to be understood.