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...told by the Ilchester Museum

Ilchester in the Iron Age

While there has probably been human activity in Ilchester since before the English Channel formed and cut us off from mainland Europe, the earliest  archaeological evidence only stretches back a couple of thousand years BC (or BCE as we now have to say!).

Ilchester was settled by the Durotigians, a celtic tribe in the Iron Age from 600 BCE to the early part of the first century CE. Evidence of Round Houses has been found and a Durotrigian coin can be seen in the Museum.

The site of Ilchester overlies an outcrop of Jurassic limestone and limestone clay on top of which sits alluvial deposits and flint gravel. This raised the site above the winter marshes and floods making it a good place for a settlement.

The Durotrigian lands stretched from West Hampshire through parts of Wiltshire and South Somerset.  The Iron age fort of Ham Hill lies to the south west of Ilchester, Compton Dundon to the north east and that of  Cadbury Camp to the south east. They were on the borders of lands held by the Dobunni tribe to the north, the Belgiae to the east and the Dumnonii to the west.

Ilchester was sited at a point where all these territories met and an 'oppidum' was built on a site to south of Ilchester. The oppidum, first noticed during a period of flooding, is 'D' shaped with the straight side formed by what is now a stream, but then was a river giving access to the site.  The site was excavated in 2009 and there is evidence that the oppidum was a summer camp used by the tribes to meet on neutral ground probably to solve disputes, trade and socialise during a period of instability prior to the Roman invasion.

No Roman artefacts have ever been found on this site strongly suggesting that when the Romans arrived, not long after their invasion in 43CE, the oppidum, fell into disuse as it would have posed a threat for the tribes to have met and planned insurrection!