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The First People in the Thames Valley
in the Berkshire part of the Thames Valley


Iron Age Warrior & Round House -  Nash Ford Publishing

 

  • Before Saxon times, Berkshire did not exist; but there were always people living and working in the same area, the Valley of the River Thames.
  • People first came to live there around 10,000 years ago, in the Stone Age. Much of the area was then covered by woodland and was good for hunting animals to eat.
  • They moved around the area on tracks like the Icknield Way and the Ridgeway. Some of the earliest hunters lived near Thatcham and Kintbury.
  • About 6,000 years ago the people started to cut down some of the trees and set up farms. They buried their dead in stone chambers (rooms) under long mounds called 'long barrows'. There is one at Inkpen, one at Lambourn and a famous one at Ashbury called 'Wayland's Smithy'.
  • About 1,000 years later, people started to use Bronze to make tools and weapons. Hoards (buried collections) of bronze axes have been found at Yattendon and Ashbury. The famous Moulsford Torc (a neck ring) also dates from this time, but that was made of gold.
  • Archaeologists have found the remains of villages from this 'Bronze Age' in Berkshire. The people lived in small thatched round houses and some chiefs built small hillforts like Uffington Castle and Ram's Hill (both in Uffington).
  • We don't know much about their religion, but they did carve a big White Horse into the hillside at Uffington and seem to have worshipped their dead ancestors.
  • They buried their dead under round mounds  (called 'barrows') - like the famous 'Seven Barrows' at Lambourn. The biggest one in Berkshire is at Finchampstead. It is 30 metres in diameter.
  • Sometimes these were built near a cursus. This was a very long enclosure with a big earth bank and ditch. It was probably used for religious ceremonies. There was one at Drayton, near Abingdon.
  • About 3,000 years ago, people started using iron instead of bronze. This period is called the 'Iron Age'.
  • Houses were still thatched and round, but bigger. The people worshipped many pagan gods and adopted Celtic ways. They seem to have thrown their dead and their weapons in the River!
  • Some Iron Age chiefs built or enlarged hillforts with big banks and ditches. They kept people and food stores safe in times of war. There were 22 hillforts across the county.
  • In the 1st century bc, lots of people from a Celtic tribe called the Belgae fled from Northern Gaul (France) to Southern Britain. They had been fighting the Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar.
  • A group called the Atrebates (pronounced At-ree-bart-ays) settled in the Thames Valley and down towards the South Coast. Their Royal village was at Silchester. It was called 'Calleva' in those days. This is now just over the county boundary in Hampshire. They had a famous king called Verica.

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