The Brigantes group got together during the summer of 2011 when we were involved in the first dig at Whirlow. It was exciting to uncover evidence of Iron Age settlement and activity on our patch. Finding remains of ditches and habitation inevitably led us to wonder who these people were.
Nearly five years on, we don’t have a definitive answer. The two major contenders are the Brigantes and the Corieltauvi. One of the problems is that our region is a border area between the two and it is likely that the line moved backwards and forwards over time.
Our main focus is on the Brigantes whose centre of influence is to the north with one of their major settlements being at Stanwick not far from Darlington. One interesting point locally is that the Iron Age hilltop enclosure in Ecclesall Woods, being on the edge of a steep ravine, has some of the hall marks of a southerly look-out point for the Brigantes and if that is so, that would place Whirlow just inside Brigantian territory.
The Brigantes interest us for many reasons not least because they were described by Ptolemy in his Geography as commanding a territory which stretched 'from sea to sea' .
In 43AD, when the leaders of a number of important tribes met with Claudius, several of the more southerly tribes entered into a very close relationship with the Romans. Cartimandua was queen of the Brigantes at that time and she agreed a ‘client’ relationship with Rome. Cartimandua remained in control of her lands and people, with Roman support when needed, and Brigantia provided a buffer zone between the settled south and the north. The Brigantians paid taxes mainly in slaves, hunting dogs and horses. This pact, with some ups and downs, held for 25 years which seems quite an achievement.
Amongst other things, the two excavations so far at Stanwick ( Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1950/2 and Professor Colin Haselgrove in 1988/9) have recovered evidence of Roman artefacts, possibly diplomatic gifts, which predate the AD 43 meeting. These finds imply a relationship of some kind between Rome and Brigantia before the conquest.
We have wide ranging interests in the group and the breadth of the topic allows us to work together and separately on many aspects of life in the Iron Age
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