the Late Iron Age/early Roman oppidum at Colchester

Today (31st January), the Silchester Environs Iron Age Project at the University of Reading posted a Tweet about their conference on the 22nd April 2017. This is the Late Iron Age Oppida Conference 2017, which is ‘A review of recent and current research into Late Iron Age British towns and their landscapes’ –Ā see . (An ‘oppidum‘ (plural, oppida) is a defended settlement.) Trust director Philip will be presenting a paper at the conference about the oppidum of Camulodunum at Colchester. The other speakers will talk about the oppida at Bagendon in Gloucestershire; at Stanwick, North Yorkshire; at Arundel, West Sussex; at Ham Hill in Somerset; Calleva at Silchester in Hampshire; and oppida in Hertfordshire. A conference is the interface between commercial archaeology and academic archaeology – the Trust is a commercial archaeological field unit.

Philip’s paper is titled ‘The Catuvellauni and the Trinovantes at Camulodunum or not, and more….’, by Philip Crummy of the Colchester Archaeological Trust. The abstract of the paper is quite long and detailed *. Philip will be talking about the Trust’s archaeological fieldwork projects within the area of the oppidum in the past 20 years, including sites within the old garrison and a recent site at Stanway.

The Trust has been conducting archaeological fieldwork projects within the old garrison ahead of redevelopment since 2000, and we are still conducting fieldwork projects there. For example, we are currently engaged in an archaeological watching brief at the Flagstaff House complex (now ‘Arena Place’), just round the corner from our HQ. Our recent fieldwork projects there and elsewhere within the oppidum have produced new evidence and Philip will be presenting this at the conference, along with new interpretations about the oppidum. CAT Report 412 is the Trust’s detailed report on our excavations within the old garrison between 2004 and 2007.

In CAT Report 412: ‘… Virtually the entire Garrison forms part of a historic landscape dominated by the major Late Iron Age defended settlement (oppidum) of Camulodunum ([Figure] 1.2). The defences of the oppidum were formed by a series of dykes, ie monumental bank and ditch boundaries. The dyke marking the eastern side of Camulodunum, Berechurch Dyke, extends across the south-eastern part of the development, turning to the north-east well south of the town centre.
The area to the north of the dry valley adjoins the Roman legionary fortress and town of Colonia Victricensis ([Figure] 1.2) … This part of the Garrison includes substantial portions of Colchester’s Romano-British cemeteries and portions of the medieval suburbs, which are largely ecclesiastical in character.
To the south of the valley … Extensive cropmarks and linear features indicate the presence of Late Iron Age/Romano-British fields and droveways …’.

The Trust’s archaeological fieldwork projects within the old garrison have been funded by Taylor Wimpey, and conducted by the whole unit.

The images show the area of the oppidum (image from the Trust’s popular book City of Victory – the story of Colchester, Britain’s first Roman town) and Figure 1.2 from CAT Report 412, the Late Iron Age/early Roman oppidum, between the River Colne and the Roman River, with its defensive dykes, roads and major droveways, and the principal sites, including the area of the old garrison.


Cam map x














oppidum C R 412 x





* Philip’s abstract reads ‘… This presentation will consist of a brief overview of the work on the site of Camulodunum since the publication in 1995 of Camulodunum 2 by C F C Hawkes and Philip Crummy. Much has happened since then, with the excavation of a string of relevant sites in the area. These mainly consist of:
a) a group of Iron Age and Roman enclosures at Stanway (since fully published as a Britannia monograph);
b) field systems and dyke at the substantial Colchester Garrison site;
c) the Late Iron Age and Roman farmstead at Abbotstone on the fringes of the oppidum;
d) the central part of Gosbecks (now the Gosbecks Archaeological Park);
e) enclosures and round-houses on the site of part of the Fiveways Fruit Farm, Stanway; and
f) the eastern side of the Sheepen site which turns out to be dominated by Claudio-Neronian occupation but with indications of activities as early as the latter part of the 1st century BC.
Issues considered will include:
a) the nature and date of the origin of the oppidum and its relationship, if any, to the few Middle Iron Age round-houses which have been recognised recently over a wide area;
b) the relationship between the Catuvellauni, the Trinovantes, and Camulodunum; and
c) Camulodunum in the Roman period …’.