The settlement was established around 500 BC when the last traces of Northamptonshire wilderness were cleared for farming. From about 400 BC until around 100 BC, the settlement grew into a village with clusters of roundhouses, shelters and livestock enclosures. These buildings would have housed extended families working as both farmers and craftsmen. At its peak, the village contained around 100 circular buildings spread across five sites, all of which were grouped around approximately 100 acres of enclosed valley pasture.
Farming in the Iron Age
The findings show that the pasture was used for common grazing and since there is little evidence of grain storage pits or other structures, it is probable that that livestock farming was the mainstay of the local economy. Remains of cattle, sheep, horses and pigs were uncovered, but the highest proportion of bones were those of cattle and horses. Iron Age animals were much smaller than those of today and the team estimates that the cattle would have been a similar size to the Dexter breed, while the horses were around the same size as Exmoor ponies.
It is likely that the arable fields were on the fringe of the village and carbonised remains show that spelt wheat, which was widespread in Britain at the time, was the prevalent cereal crop. The earliest remains found on the site have been radiocarbon dated to 510-370 BC. Since wild seeds were mixed with the grain, it is likely that the wheat fields also contained many natural plants such as buttercups, rye grass and ragged robin.
Remarkably, it seems that Iron Age arable fields looked very similar to those of today, as did the hedgerows and woods. Charcoal found in hearths and ovens, shows that fuel included wood from trees such as oak, ash, lime, Wych elm, hazel, willow, birch, hawthorn and cherry.
Looking at this Iron Age system of managed fields, pasture, woods and hedges, it is clear that the people who lived and worked on the DIRFT site hundreds of years before the Romans arrived in Britain, created the rural landscape that has remained into the present day.