BEFORE THE ROMANS – Part 1
Back in prehistory the site was a gentle north west facing hillside that sloped down to the River Churn. Perhaps the oldest feature is the small long barrow, this being the fenced off area between the amphitheatre and the Waitrose roundabout. Generally long barrows were constructed in the Neolithic or New Stone Age period (4,500 – 2,000 BC). This barrow was excavated in the C19th when human remains were found. There have been no more recent archaeological investigations so without the application of current practice there is uncertainty about the history of this feature.
The long barrow was undisturbed by the Roman builders who constructed the Fosse Way, which ran between the long barrow and the amphitheatre. The long barrow was also not touched by the building of the amphitheatre so it appears the Romans respected the site.
At the start of the First Century Britain was inhabited by numerous Celtic tribes. This area was home to the Dobunni. These were an Iron Age tribe who lived across what we now know as North Somerset, Gloucestershire, parts of Worcestershire and Warwickshire. They were farmers who lived in small villages that tended to be concentrated in fertile valleys. By this time they had abandoned their hill forts and, instead, larger settlements, known as oppida, were growing. Locally an oppida has been excavated at Bagendon.
The Dobunni were farmers, traders and craftsman. The finds of gold and silver coins minted by the tribe are an indication of trade across the country. From about 50BC, the Roman Empire had a significant trade with Britain, with the local tribes supplying slaves, cattle, gold and hunting dogs in return for wine and olive oil.
However there is no evidence of the Iron Age on the Amphitheatre site.
In AD 43 a Roman army of 40,000 troops crossed the Channel and the history of Britain was changed dramatically.
So here endeth part 1, complete with cliffhanger. The Romans have arrived, but to find out what happens next, you will have to tune into part 2. Will Philius Mitchellius get the Roman arches chariot repair shop back from Maximus Branningus?