South Cadbury Environs Project
West and, particularly, East of Cadbury Castle, the south of locality 4 and perhaps to a lesser extent, locality 5 continued to be areas of activity. For the latter there is slight but compelling artefact evidence for activity, most dramatically associated with ditches surrounding a narrow ridge. The pottery distribution, taking Cadbury 4 plain ware as the marker, shows a retraction of settlement to within these three core areas.
During the Early Iron Age it has been suggested that there was a marked diminution in activity across southern Britain which, although apparent in the South Cadbury study area, should not be overstated. The firing quality and components of local pottery visible under a hand lens ('inclusions') can provide a rough guide to the period of manufacture but characteristic forms and decorative motifs are far more reliable. It is fortunate that during the Late Bronze Age the dominant, calcite-based, fabrics were very distinctive to the point where sherds composed of it are diagnostic. The reverse is true for the Early Iron Age during which fossil shell was the dominant inclusion, a characteristic shared with some local pottery of the Neolithic, Middle Bronze Age and Middle Iron Age periods.
Test pit evidence for Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age activity
Test pit evidence for Early to Middle Iron Age activity
Analysis shows that while we have distinctive forms from most prehistoric periods the survey work has generated very few belonging to the Early Iron Age. Excepting a few sherds in the South Cadbury valley and in locality 1, the only finds definitely belonging to the period are from the interior of Cadbury Castle and from the spur immediately to its west. The project’s methodology is neither fine enough nor sufficiently extensive to assert that it has identified the full extent of Early Iron Age activity but it is probably fair to say that it has characterised the general pattern.