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The Past Life of Cressing Temple


Apart from a few worked flints there is little trace of Stone Age people on the site. Excavations show that the small stream at the bottom of the valley was once a broad flowing river and for this reason it would not have been a good place to live. However by the time that bronze tools had replaced stone ones (about 4000 years ago in Britain) the river had silted up and the land become fertile meadow.

Bronze Age

Site plan showing excavated features.

Evidence of the activities of the Bronze Age peoples comes from finding their pottery in silted up ditches and back-filled pits. We find that there are a series of parallel ditches running across the site; one under the Wheat Barn, one under the Fountain and another running through the site of the chapel. Beside them are dozens of tiny stake holes representing hurdle fences to keep animals in.

We have a picture of small groups of organised farmers, creating fields for crops and stockades for their animals. As yet we have no evidence for the type of buildings they lived in but a seething pit was discovered in the middle of the site.

Cooking in the seething pit.

Seething pits were dug in the ground and filled with water. Large, smooth stones were then heated up in the fire and when hot dropped into the water to boil it. Food could then be simmered in cooking pots without the danger of getting burnt. Also it is far safer to have a seething pit inside a shelter than a roaring fire!

Iron Age

As iron technology spread throughout Europe and reached England about 700BC the pace of life at Cressing began to change. The old field systems were deepened and new, large roundhouses were built. Times were unsettled and conflict a part of every day life. The Iron Age people who lived at Cressing built a very deep ditch with a high bank around their settlement and turned it into a fortress. The hub of their community was built in the top eastern corner of Dovehouse Field as we know it today.

Features found in Dovehouse Field.

Their lifestyle can be visualised from the artefacts they left behind them buried deep in the ditches and post-holes. The quality of their workmanship was high and objects were prized and revered. The large well made pottery vessels were looked after and if they were broken they were repaired and re-used until finally being ritually killed and buried in the ground.

The Iron Age diet was varied and environmental analysis shows that they ate all sorts of meat from hunted and farmed animals but the mainstay of their diet was wheat. This was so important to their economy that when Cunobelin minted his first coins around the beginning of the first millennium he showed a horse on one side with an ear of wheat.

Cunobelin was known to the Romans as Britannicus Rex and as leader of the Trinovantes and Catavellauni tribes enjoyed a healthy trading relationship with roman Europe. However he died before the invasion of England leaving his sons to battle against the might of the Roman Empire. Its impact was felt greatest in East Anglia when Claudius marched his army, headed by elephants, into Colchester to claim the land.

What did the Romans ever do for Us?





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