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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Dr Tom Moore

Moore, T. (2017). Beyond Iron Age ‘towns’ Examining oppida as examples of low-density urbanism. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 36(3): 287-305.

Author(s) from Durham


The question of whether Late Iron Age oppida in Europe were truly ‘urban’ has dominated debate over these sites since the nineteenth century. Oppida have been surprisingly absent from comparative urban studies, however, despite increasingly nuanced perspectives on the nature and diversity of the urban phenomenon. In particular, Roland Fletcher's implication that oppida might represent part of a broader alternative form of low-density urbanism has been largely overlooked, by Iron Age scholars and urbanism specialists alike. With the complex nature of many oppida now becoming increasingly apparent, I suggest it is a pertinent time to assess Fletcher's claim and examine whether oppida can be convincingly compared to low-density urbanism elsewhere in the world and, if so, what implications this might have for understanding Iron Age societies. This paper argues that oppida do indeed display aspects of low-density urbanism and that this is likely to be due to the negotiated nature of power in Iron Age societies.