Archaeologists believe they have found the first pre-Roman planned town discovered in Britain. It has been unearthed beneath the Roman town of Silchester or Calleva Atrebatum near modern Reading. The Romans are often credited with bringing civilisation to Britain – including town planning. But excavations have shown evidence of an Iron Age town built on a grid and signs inhabitants had access to imported wine and olive oil.
Prof Mike Fulford, an archaeologist at the University of Reading, said the people of Iron Age Silchester appear to have adopted an urbanised ‘Roman’ way of living, long before the Romans arrived.
“It is very remarkable to find this evidence of a planned Iron Age layout before the arrival of the Romans and the development of a planned, Roman town,” he said. “Indeed, it would be hard to see a significant difference between the lifestyles of the inhabitants of the Iron Age town and of its Roman successor in the 1st Century AD.”
He said they seem to have been drinking wine and using olive oil and a fermented fish sauce called garum in their cooking, all imported from abroad.
Silchester is famous for the most complete Roman town walls in Britain. After the Roman invasion, the town was used by its military, and there is evidence that Roman buildings were very swiftly built on top of Iron Age structures.