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Raised Celtic Settlement May Be Aftermath of Boudica’s Rebellion

Raised Celtic Settlement May Be Aftermath of Boudica’s Rebellion

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An Iron Age village that was deliberately destroyed in England might have been torched in response to Queen Boudicca´s legendary rebellion against invading Roman conquerors.

Constructed with wattle-and-daub panels lodged between wooden posts, and topped with a conical thatched roof, roundhouses were built in Britain from the Bronze Age, throughout the Iron Age, and into the Sub-Roman period. An ancient Celtic defensive enclosure of more than 17 roundhouses has been discovered at Cressing, near Braintree in Essex, England, and evidence suggests it was deliberately torched then abandoned during the late First Century AD.

However, this was far from a clean-cut excavation. The archaeologists found that the site had become a ritual center where votive offerings were made for several centuries after its destruction. Embarking on an ancient path, winding backwards, deep into time, the archaeologists eventually arrived at the doorstep of England’s most famous mistress of war - Queen Boudica.

Queen Boudica

Queen Boudica. Credit: matiasdelcarmine / Adobe Stock

Legacy of The Celtic Queen of Freedom

Queen Boudica (also spelt Boudicca or Boadicea), is a famous Briton folk hero who led the Celtic Iceni tribe in a rebellion against the invading Roman Empire, around 60 AD. According to the Roman chronicler Tacitus, with her daughters positioned on war chariots beside her, the famous female military general delivered a speech clarifying that she was not fighting to save her wealth but to ¨avenge her lost freedom, her battered body, and the abused chastity of her daughters”. Tacitus, The Annals, Book 14, Chapter 35)

Claiming the old Celtic deities were on her side, the female warrior fought for the freedom of her tribe and she ultimately reached legendary status having been murdered by the Romans, or possibly by poisoning herself before they reached her. Now, Andy Greef from Oxford Archaeology East has told the BBC that this year´s discovery of an ancient Celtic enclosure at a planned housing development, was clearly an important ¨high-status¨ place, and they associate it with the aftermath of Boudica´s rebellion.

Charting the Celtic Village That Would Become A Sacred Site

At the closure of the 2020 dig season at the Celtic settlement, the archaeologists announced their discoveries are ¨the most significant¨ assemblages of late Iron Age pottery discovered in Essex in recent years. According to the BBC, the excavators at the site recovered over 100 brooches, 10 Iron Age coins, dozens of Roman coins, hairpins, beads, finger rings and a lovely copper alloy cockerel figurine. But this is where things got complicated.

An ¨avenue-like¨ entrance was discovered leading into the settlement, but evidence suggested that it had continued to expand ¨after the Roman invasion in 43 AD.¨ However, the researchers were sure that the settlement was abandoned after it was destroyed. And furthermore, no Roman burials were discovered at the site, yet ¨votive offerings¨ were made linked to ¨the cult of the Roman god Mercury¨ all the way through to the end of Roman occupation in Britannia in the 4th Century AD.

So, who was using the abandoned Celtic village? And for what? Greef and his team suspect a ¨Romano shrine¨ had been erected on the historical site that continued to attract people long after it was destroyed ¨in reprisal to Boudicca´s revolt¨. And cementing their suspicions, the enclosure is situated near to a Roman road, so it was easily accessible.

The remains of the Celtic settlement in Essex

The remains of the Celtic settlement in Essex. Credit: Oxford Archaeology East

England's Celtic-Romano Upsurge

2020 could rightfully be described as a seriously Celtic-Romano month for the researchers over at Oxford Archaeology East. On the 4th December I wrote an Ancient Origins news article about the team's excavations at a large sacred site and Roman villa complex in England, that was ¨despiritualized¨ then repurposed as a tile and brick workshop. And this 1,600-year-old Roman industrial site, at Priors Hall Park in Corby, was also discovered prior to the construction of new homes.

When Oxford Archaeology East excavated this site, it was also dated to between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD, which means it was functional at the same time as the high-status Celtic enclosure featured in this article. In both cases Roman invaders had changed the original uses of the sites, so together, they represent the subjugation, and overwriting of Celtic culture by Roman invaders in England.

Top image: Celtic warrior woman. Credit: captblack76 / Adobe Stock

By Ashley Cowie



EW's picture

I came here to post the same thing.  I kept waiitng for the author to talk about the raied (to build up) village.

However, I disagree with you on one point.  It’a not a mnior nitpick.  The wrong word changes the whole context of the article.  But since English isn’t everyone’s first language, I can see what easy mistake it is to make.  Oh, the complexities of the English language.

Jeff Smith's picture

Minor nitpick: I suspect you mean razed, not raised, unless the city was elevated.

Jeff Smith

ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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