Chapter 5: The Iron Age

The Iron Age, like the transition from Stone to Bronze, was probably again a slow infiltration from the east. The evidence for the Iron Age in our particular area is exceedingly sparse. There are no Iron Age forts or like structures here, although aerial photographs taken by Mr. Tony Pacitto have revealed some unusual enclosures not obvious from the ground. The Iron Age blends into the Roman period, so our Iron Age is confined to the time before 55BC, the date of the first Roman attempt at an invasion of Britain. The use of iron in Britain can not be dated much before 250 to 100BC.

There are three discoveries in our parish which may date from either the pre-Roman Iron Age or from the Roman Iron Age. They take the form of bee-hive querns. The first quern was described by Mr. R.H. Hayes in the Ryedale Historian, and was found in the track leading to Cold Harbour. It was bedded in the metalling of the track. The farmer had never seen anything like it before. The second quern, which has since disappeared, stood until recently on the parapet of the external stone stairway at the main entrance to Gilling Castle. Enquiries were made to try to establish where it was found, but none of the residents of the castle knew. The third quern was found in the garden of Manor Farm, Grimston, and it is significant that the find site was only ¼ mile from the Roman Road, i.e. Malton Street.

A fourth quern was found between Cawton and Layersthorpe on the Ebor Way by Mr. T. Robinson. This has since disappeared. At Cawton, in a field near the green lane over to Syke Gate Farm, aerial photographs taken by Mr. Tony Pacitto suggest an enclosure less than a hundred yards square. Examination on the ground revealed nothing except a small piece of green Cistercian ware. To the south of this, nearer to the present road, there was evidence of burials. The date of these items is undetermined.

The people who lived in this area during the Iron Age seem to have arrived about 500BC. They were of a culture known to archaeologists as the La Tène Culture, named after the site discovered and investigated in Switzerland. They came from a district of France near Paris, corresponding to the present departement of France called the Marne. These people were different from the large tribe of the Brigantes who dominated the north of England and southern Scotland. When the Romans came they called them the Parisi, and their territory consisted of the East Riding of Yorkshire as far as the A19. They were characterised by their custom of chariot burials and burials in square graves. There is I understand evidence of square graves near Slingsby, which may establish their jurisdiction at least as far as that place.

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