An Iron Age Tribal Centre

The Iron Age town of Calleva preceded the Roman town and was located on the same site, covering over 32 hectares. A low bank is evidence of the Iron Age defensive earthworks.

Calleva seems to have been established between about 20 and 10 BC, perhaps as a planned settlement of people from the north-west of Gaul (modern France), centred around the town of Arras and the tribe of the Atrebates.  A low bank is the only evidence remaining today of the Iron Age defensive earthworks.

The Iron Age town

The Iron Age town was a thriving defended settlement, with buildings arranged on an organised layout. It extended over most of the area of the later Roman town. (Drawing by Peter Urmston)

The town became a major processing and trading centre. Locally manufactured goods, such as horse and chariot gear, were exchanged for metals, grain, slaves and other commodities from across southern Britain. In turn these were passed to the Roman world in exchange for luxury foodstuffs and manufactured goods.

After the Roman conquest, the territory of the Atrebates retained some autonomy until the late first century AD. At this time, the Iron Age grid of streets and lanes was replaced by a regular grid laid out on a north–south and east–west orientation.

There would have been a number of cemeteries situated outside the town. Only one, containing cremation burials, has been found through excavation.


The text and pictures on this page are derived from the 'Heritage Unlocked' series of guidebooks published in 2004. We intend to review, update and enhance the content in the near future as part of the Portico project, whose objective is to provide information on the history, significance, research background and sources for all English Heritage properties.

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