An Iron Age Village
|The Iron Age of the Foulness Valley has been the lifetime study of Professor Peter Halkon, providing a wealth of detail about this period in our area. Peter has authored several publications – popular and scholarly – and we recommend these to you – see the bottom of this page for details. These and a variety of other sources have been used in preparing this page.
Seaton Ross sits between the finds of iron working in the Foulness valley and the finds of chariot burials in Pocklington – and we actually have a significant iron age ‘curvilinear’ enclosure in the village – almost certainly an iron age village. The sandy ridge that Seaton Ross sits on was an active part of the iron age landscape of East Yorkshire.The early iron age in the Foulness valley was cold and wet and there is little evidence of farming. People may have retreated into higher areas.
By the middle iron age (~800 BC), there was severe waterlogging in the Foulness valley caused by a marine incursion, which created a tidal inlet in the area now known as Wallingfen. As a result water tables rose and a wetter freshwater landscape was created. Amongst many other effects, this would have resulted in more extensive flooding of the Everingham Carr depression.
The Arras Culture / Parisi
The iron age people populating our landscape were special. They were of the Arras culture – the name coming from a farm near Market Weighton that was first excavated by William Watson(!). The Arras culture was broadly identified with the pre-Roman tribe known as the Parisi – because of some similarities with tribes near Paris. In particular they used square burial barrows and also went in for chariot burials – presumably of the chieftains. The chariot burial recently found near Pocklington is an outstanding example of these.
The Foulness valley Iron Industry
An important characteristic of the Foulness valley was the iron industry. This has been extensively studied by Professor Halkon and there is also a good website (which, unfortunately, misses the iron age crop marks in Seaton Ross). The iron was produced from bog iron lining the River Foulness as it passed alongside the sandy eastern banks. There is extensive evidence of iron working sites there. In order to sustain the iron industry large tracts of managed woodland must have remained along the Foulness valley.
It is also believed that the lower reaches of the Foulness were navigable by the boats in use at the time: The Hasholme logboat and the (now destroyed) South Carr Farm logboat provide evidence for this. The Hasholme boat is preserved in the Hull & East Riding Museum and well worth a visit – as is the rest of the museum. The Valley of the First Iron Masters website has videos showing the boat. The boats could have been used to transport the iron goods around the Humber estuary, the east coast of England and even down the coast to cross the North Sea.
There is crop mark evidence of settlement and agricultural activity throughout the area (see larger scale map below). Because the buildings and other boundaries were of earth, wood and wattle and daub, there is almost no other evidence.
The crop markings are on the raised sandy ridges of the area – including where Seaton Ross is located. These sit slightly higher than the marshy woodland to the west and the wetlands/lake of Everingham Carr to the east.
In Seaton Ross, around Lady Well (a natural spring) in the fields at the south end of the village, lies a complex of curvilinear enclosures (i.e. with curved and straight markings) – one of the few found in this low-lying area.
Similar enclosures that have been excavated locally have at least one roundhouse in the largest enclosure. Here the largest enclosure (top left in the map above) has an area of about 1.7 acres and could have comfortably held up to a dozen roundhouses. Again in similar settlements, an area is set aside for burial – and indeed there are round barrows in the Seaton Ross settlement, although they may be of earlier date. Although really only a guess, enclosures of this size could have housed a population of around a hundred.
There are no obvious defensive structures to this settlement – unlike the hill forts found elsewhere in iron age Britain. The Parisi chieftains must have kept the peace for their people.
It is likely that there would have been significant deforestation of the soil of the sandy bank to accommodate mixed agriculture, with cereal cultivation an important component. However, at that time livestock played an important role in farming, with cattle, sheep and pigs the main parts of the diet. Droveways and enclosures were used to help move stock across the landscape – especially to water. The nearby lake of Everingham Carrs would also have provided waterfowl, eels, reeds for roofing and other resources for this community.
This community probably survived through to the Roman occupation in 100 AD and seems to have been incorporated into a Roman Villa farmstead – see The Romans.
References and Publications
|Peter Halkon (2022) Exploring Pocklington’s Past – An Introduction to the Archaeology of Pocklington and District . 20 page booklet £5 on eBay
Peter Halkon (2013) The Parisi: Britains and Romans in Eastern Yorkshire. 304 pages. ~£20 on Amazon UK
Peter Halkon (2019) The Arras Culture of Eastern Yorkshire – Celebrating the Iron Age: Proceedings of ‘Arras 200′ Royal Archaeological Institute Annual Conference, 2017 – 216 pages ~£46
Peter Halkon (2008) Archaeology and Environment in a Changing East Yorkshire Landscape – The Foulness Valley c. 800 BC to c. AD 400. PhD Thesis. 250 pages. ~£48 on Amazon UK
Note: The books on the Parisi and the Arras Culture are also available on Kindle at lower prices – follow the links.
|Peter Halkon & Jim Innes (2005) Settlement and Economy in a Changing Prehistoric Lowland Landcape: An East Yorkshire (UK) Case Study. European Journal of Archaeology Vol. 8(3): p225–259
Peter Halkon (2011) Iron, Landscape and Power in Iron Age East Yorkshire. Archaeological Journal. 168 p133-165
Valley of the First Iron Masters website. Peter Halkon, University of Hull
The image at the top of the page is a reconstruction of outlying round huts at Aldborough Roman Site. (ref Reference: IC002/001) from the English Heritage Reconstruction and Artwork Collection.