Stanwick, North Yorkshire, England

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Wheeler, Mortimer (1890—1976) archaeologist and broadcaster


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Extensive Iron Age oppidum of 300 ha, extensively surveyed and excavated by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1951–2 and more recently by Colin Haselgrove between 1981 and 1986. The site is believed to have been the principal settlement of the Brigantes in the last few centuries bc and up to and after the Roman conquest.

The massive defences were built mainly in the mid 1st century ad, perhaps incorporating elements of earlier small enclosures. The focus appears to have been around the present‐day church, in The Tofts, and in the northern part of the site. Equally important is the fact that the northwest entrance into the main occupation area was elaborate and massive in a way that was perhaps more to impress than frighten. This, coupled with the presence of imported Roman goods (including wine amphorae and tableware) suggests that the rulers of the Brigantes at this time were both powerful and well connected in international trade.

The great defences of Stanwick were only used for a short time. By the late 1st century ad they had fallen into disuse and the internal settlements abandoned. Historically, this coincides with the Roman conquest of the region, although it is always difficult accurately to match historical events with archaeological evidence. It is believed, however, that in the mid 1st century ad the leader of the Brigantes was a man named Venutius. He was anti‐Roman, although his wife, Cartimandua, was pro‐Roman. In ad 69 the Emperor Vespasian tried to establish Roman rule in northern England and the Brigantes rose in open revolt. Cartimandua sought safety outside her kingdom. An energetic governor Petillius Cerialis campaigned vigorously against Venutius between ad 71 and 74, and completed the conquest of the area soon after.


C. Haselgrove, P. Turnbull, and R. L. Fitts, 1990, Stanwick, North Yorkshire, Part I: Recent research and previous archaeological investigations. Archaeological Journal, 147, 1–15

Subjects: Archaeology.

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