Urban defences of ancient town found

First Edition

ONE OF Britain's oldest towns has been identified by archaeologists in Oxfordshire, writes David Keys. Excavations by the Thames at Abingdon have uncovered the remains of massive urban defences dating from the late first century BC. So far 220 yards have been identified with a further 330 yards being tentatively located.

Archaeologists believe that the town covered up to 82 acres and was protected by the rivers Thames and Ock on the south and south-west, and by 1,650 yards of earthen ramparts on the north, north-west and east. Excavations suggest that 30-60 per cent of the enclosed area was densely populated and that the Iron Age town had a population of up to 1,000.

The defences consisted of a bank 11 yards wide and eight feet high and a ditch 14 yards wide and eight feet deep.

Within the town there appears to have been a market area, and manufacturing areas involved in metalworking, pottery and boneworking. It probably functioned as a frontier trading centre for the British Dobunni tribe which inhabited what is now west Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Avon and part of Wiltshire.

The town, founded around 500BC, was ideally situated for lively inter-tribal trade, being located on the Thames at the boundary of three tribal kingdoms - those of the Atrebates, the Catuvellauni and the Dobunni.