Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 217–228 | Cite as

A re-analysis of agricultural production and consumption: implications for understanding the British Iron Age

  • Marijke van der Veen
  • Glynis Jones


Patterning in the carbonized seed assemblages from Iron Age sites in Britain has led to the development of several explanatory models. The most influential of these, by Martin Jones, proposed that grain-rich assemblages represent producer sites and weed-/chaff-rich assemblages consumer sites. The assumptions underlying this model and the method of constructing the diagrams are discussed and a new approach is put forward, stressing the need for appropriate levels of analysis and interpretation. It is concluded that a predominance of grain-rich samples is far more likely to be an indicator of the scale of production and consumption, than a means of distinguishing between the two. A review of the evidence from Iron Age Britain indicates that grain-rich site assemblages primarily occur in the south of the country, and frequently co-occur with pits, used for the storage of surplus grain. Moreover, such pits are concentrated in hillforts. It is proposed that the grain stored in such pits may have been used in large communal feasts and that the hillforts functioned as locations for feasting.


Agricultural production Consumption Iron Age Britain Scale of production Storage pits Feasting 



We are grateful to D. Miles-Williams and J. Skinner for producing the illustrations.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Archaeology & Ancient HistoryUniversity of LeicesterUniversity RoadUK
  2. 2.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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