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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)


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Publication details for Professor Richard Hingley

Hingley, R. (2006). The deposition of iron objects in Britain during the later prehistoric and Roman periods: contextual analysis and the significance of iron. Britannia 37(1): 213-257.

Author(s) from Durham


Central to this paper is the meaning of the actions that lead to iron objects being found in archaeological contexts of later prehistoric and Roman date. It is argued that the placing of iron objects within the physical landscape reflects upon the changing nature of society at this time. In Iron Age studies, many deposits in rivers, bogs and in the pits, ditches and post-holes of settlements are now interpreted as `special' material buried for significant reasons, through acts that are often called `structured deposition'. This approach has had a deep influence on the excavation and post-excavation of Iron Age settlements and is now coming to influence the study of the deposition of artefacts on Roman sites. This paper develops the idea that much of the later prehistoric and Roman ironwork found on settlements and elsewhere was deliberately deposited for what might loosely be called `ritual' or `religious' motives; for much of this period the proportion of the artefacts lost accidentally was possibly quite small. Artefacts in other materials also require comparable study, but, while work that integrates the examination of items made from different materials on individual sites is important, this paper focuses upon iron due to its potential significance as a highly symbolic medium.