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The round barrows at Lexden nr Colchester:
The largest round barrow at Lexden nr Colchester was excavated by archaeologists in 1924 and was found to contain the burial of an high status individual, the skeleton of a man "wearing mail armour and a cloth of gold", along with several other interesting artefacts including a bronze table. It is thought to be the grave of the Catuvellaunian king Cunobelinus who died c.40 AD, this belief being due to local folklore as legend would have it "he was buried with a suit of armour and table fashioned out of gold". As many of the grave objects recovered were Roman - they could be dated – so it would appear that this is indeed the grave of king Cunobelinus (or Cymbeline). The Old King Coel (or Cole), of nursery rhyme and myth.
Another account of the two Lexden tumulus’ at Colchester gives details of the artefacts found inside the largest barrow including the cremated remains of a male skeleton. The smallest barrow is situated quite nearby and is believed to be the grave of the Trinovantes king Addedomarus, though rather unfortunately for archaeologists and historians alike - the smaller of the two barrows has failed to provide any further clues, or answers about the occupant buried here as the grave was ransacked many years earlier.
Grave Goods; Lexden Barrow:
The round barrow at Lexden stood amongst the Iron Age dykes that were the defences of the town of Camulodunun. Inside the burial mound lay a vault approximately 2m depth 8m square, it contained the remains of cremated bones of an adult male and female. The Romanised artefacts found with this burial are considered to be one of the most important collections in British Iron Age history. The grave goods are as follows: bronze figurines of Cupid, a wild boar, a bull & a griffin, several ornaments, fittings, decorative sheeting, (thought to belong to an oak chest, that has now perished), a pedestal, and what is thought to be a lamp stand, a wooden box and a casket, a Bronze Age Palstave axe wrapped in cloth; which when buried was already over a thousand years old, plus gold chainmail, complete with buckles, hinges and studs made from silver, decorative silver mounts shaped like corn stems, trefoils & bars, a silver medallion with a bust of Augustus, gold tissue, stitched pieces of leather, a number of iron fittings and nails, the remains of a folding chair, (similar to the one found in Bartlow, Barrow IV, in Cambridgeshire) pieces of broken pot & amphora sherds. Sadly this barrow had been ransacked over the years and many artefacts were either broken, or completely destroyed and without doubt some of the most valuable objects have long since been removed.
History of the Trinovantes Tribe:
Camulodunun means "fortress of the war god Camulos". Former capital of the Trinovantes, who were the first tribe based in Britain to establish important trade links and friendship with Rome - in a treaty dating back to Caesar's invasion of 54/55 BC.
I am currently researching the history of Camulodunun, the ancient capital of the Trinovantes, this study will cover the amalgamation (or unification) of the two tribes under the rule of the Catuvellaunian king Cunobelinus in c. AD 10 – 40, who was succeeded by his two sons Togodumnus and Caratacus and Rome’s separation of the two kingdoms after the Roman invasion and subsequent surrender of the southern British tribes in AD 43.
Hillforts of the Trinovantes
It is believed by some that the two great fortresses of Verlamion (St Albans, Hertfordshire) and Camulodunun (Colchester, Essex) had both previously belonged to the Trinovantes before they both came under control of the Catuvellauni.
Ambresbury Banks and Loughton Camp history:
Ambresbury Banks is one of two ancient earthworks in Epping Forest. It is believed that both Ambresbury Banks and Loughton Camp were built circa 500 BC and were used as animal folds in times of attack from other tribes, or as look-out posts and boundary markers between the two neighbouring tribes of the Trinovantes and the Catuvellauni. Evidence suggests that they were in use until after the Roman invasion.
The earthern banks enclose over four hectares of land. When first built the banks would have been about three metres high and the ditches outside them three metres deep. These would have been built by hand with wooden or bone tools used to scrape the soil.
According to local legend, Ambresbury Banks was the site of the defeat and death of the great British Queen Boudicca (Boadicea), at the hands of the Romans in AD 61. In recent years, that story has been disproved but Ambresbury Banks still retains a mystic and majestic atmosphere. Source: Public Information Board Epping Forest
The Trinovantes established their tribal capital at Camulodunun around 25 BC. The name means “the fortress of Camulos”. Camulos the Celtic god of war was worshipped widely throughout the Celtic world. Camulodunun was defended by a series of massive earthworks covering an area of 32 square kilometres. The huge defensive enclosure was a statement of great power and wealth of the Trinovantes rulers.
The Trinovantes tribe south eastern territory consisted of the county of Essex including the North Thames area of London and also south Suffolk. The meaning of their name is “the vigorous ones”.
The Catuvellauni occupied the areas of modern day Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and parts of south west Cambridgeshire. The name Catuvellauni means “the people superior in battle”. Their tribal capital moved from Welwyn to Verlamion in c.15 BC.
Mandubracius’ Father ? (c.? – 54 BC)
Virtually nothing is known of this king of the Trinovantes except the fact that he was killed by the Catuvellaunian king Cassivellaunus, and had a son called Mandubracius.
Cassivellaunus (c. ? – 54 BC)
The Catuvellauni king Cassivellaunus was elected leader of the British resistance by the war council during the two invasions of the Roman emperor Julius Caesar in 54/55 BC.
Despite being driven back on the first occasion Caesar triumphed at the second attempt and successfully negotiated a peace treaty on behalf of the exiled Trinovantes Prince Mandubracios, reuniting him with his kingdom.
Mandubracius (c. 54 BC - ?)
Following the death of his father Mandubracius fled to Julius Caesar asking for assistance. Caesar duly obliged forcing the Britons to surrender; their leader Cassivellaunus king of the Catuvellauni signed a peace treaty in which he agreed not to attack the Trinovantes and their rightful king Mandubracius.
Addedomaros (c. 30 BC – c. 15 BC)
Very little is known of this king of the Trinovantes, but the wide distribution of his coins across south-east Britain indicates that during his rule the Trinovantes had become an extremely powerful and wealthy force in the south east region enabling them to extend the borders of their kingdom even further.
Addedomaros moved his civic centre east to Camulodunun c. 25 BC. Some 30 years later the Catuvellaunian King Cunobelin(us) took over the kingdom of the Trinovantes and their former seat of government at Camulodunun (Colchester) following the unification of the two tribes - preferring it to the former tribal centre of Verlamion (now St Albans) - which became the 2nd capital.
Tasciovanus (c. 25 BC – c. 5BC )
Tasciovanus king of the Catuvellauni and grandson of Cassivellaunus, continued the war against his Trinovantes neighbours temporarily establishing himself as ruler of both tribes until he was finally defeated and pushed back inside his tribal borders.
Dubnovellaunus (c. 15 BC – AD 5)
Dubnovellaunus was the last in a succession of Trinovante kings, and ruler of the Cantiaci (of Kent). The Catuvellauni king Cunobelinus attacked Camulodunum seizing the throne of Dubnovellaunus, fearing for his life he managed to escape to Rome to plead with the emperor for help.
Cunobelinus (AD 5 – AD 40)
Cunobelinus king of the Catuvellauni and son of Tasciovanus was the most successful and the most powerful of all the rulers of Britain. During the early years of his reign he conquered Camulodunun the tribal centre of the Trinovantes, expelling the king Dubnovellaunus. After establishing his new tribal capital at Camulodunun - he eventually extended his rule over much of south eastern Britain.
Rex Britannorum King Of Britain: Cunobelinus or Cymbeline.
Cunobelinus: Most scholars believe that the name Cunobelin means “hound of Belinus” (from the Celtic God Belinus) ie: The God’s faithful follower. Although the first part of the name could be Germanic in origin, 'Cuno' in Germanic/Teutonic means 'kin of', so the name Cunobelin could actually mean: son of the god Belinus.
The Roman/writer historian Suetonius refers to King Cunobelinus as “ Rex Britannorum”, meaning “King of Britain”, he was in fact the only British sovereign to have this title bestowed upon him and no doubt worthy of this status, it is a great pity that he was unable to unite all the tribes of Britain into a single fighting force, because in my opinion if he had managed this, the Roman occupation of Britain would have been thwarted.
A significant amount of coins bearing the name: Cunobelinus were found in North Kent, Hants and Sussex, (to mention but a few places) this adds further credibility to the belief that the extent of his Catuvellaunian Kingdom was much larger than as first thought. Scholars suggest that Adminius (one of Cunobelinus’ sons) had control of North Kent, whilst Cunobelinus’ brother Epaticcus was thought to have been in control of the northern Atrebatic Kingdom.
In 39 AD Adminius fell out with his father and fled to Gaul, where he managed to gain help and support from the Roman emperor Gaius Caligula who was very keen to intervene in British affairs, but the planned Roman invasion was temporarily aborted due to internal problems within Rome itself.
The continual Catuvellaunian pressure exerted upon the Atrebates tribe and their King Verica, together with the actions of both Epaticcus and Adminius, proved to be Cunobelinus’ undoing, as these events brought about the downfall of his powerful kingdom and led to the eventual Roman invasion and subsequent occupation of Britain by the forces of the Roman emperor Claudius in AD 43.
Epatticus (AD 5 – AD 25)
Catuvellaunian Prince and brother of Cunobelinus and a second son of Tasciovanus, extended the Catuvellauni kingdom further by gaining control of land in central southern Britain and the upper Thames valley regions.
Adminius (AD 9 – AD 41)
Adminius, eldest son of Cunobelinus was given Kent to govern but internal conflicts arose as a result of his greed and in AD 40 after a heated argument, Adminius fled across the water to plead with Emperor Caligula for Rome to intervene.
Togodumnus (AD 40 – AD 43)
When Cunobelinus died he was succeeded by his sons Togodumnus and Caratacus. Between them they successfully ruled the kingdom of their father – and later elected as joint leaders of the British resistance (by the tribal war council) against the Roman invading forces in AD 43. During a battle with the Romans Togodumnus was fatally wounded and later died of his injuries.
Caratacus (AD 40 – AD 51)
With Togodumnus dead Caratacus fled the battle scene and managed to escape to the Silures (of Wales) and with the help and support of the local British tribes he continued the resistance campaign against the Romans for a further eight years. Until AD 51 when the Romans finally broke through, although members of his family were captured Caratacus escaped fleeing north to the Brigantes tribe seeking sanctuary under queen Cartimandua but she betrayed him to his enemies. After his capture he was taken in chains to Rome to appear before the emperor Claudius to answer for his actions – whereupon he delivered such an impressive speech that he won his freedom.
The mystery of the name Trinovantum / Trinovantium.
There can be no doubt that the region we now know as London was part of the kingdom of the Trinovantes tribe. To some people Trinovantum is also a name associated with the former tribal territory and kingdom of the Trinovantes, which was comprised of what is now the modern day county of Essex as well as the London region - north of the River Thames. Although London is the legendary capital of Celtic myth - it was actually Camulodunun (now Colchester) not Trinovantum which was the ancient capital of the Trinovantes, and Geoffrey of Monmouth seems to have invented the name of “Trinovantum” for London; which was perhaps a product of a very over-active imagination, however, he may also have acquired the name from a much earlier written source. It's like renaming Thetford as Icenivantum, or Veralamium - Catuvellaunum, - thus naming ancient tribal capitals after their tribal name. Moreover it is possible that Trinovantum could have been the original capital of the Trinovantes tribe, or even its second capital.
Julius Caesar’s account - 54/55 BC
In the first century BC, Julius Caesar's description of the region around London, suggests the presence of an elaborate, rich and well-organised tribal civilisation. It's population was "exceedingly large", and "the ground thickly studded with homesteads". It is believed by most historians that a people known as the Trinovantes settled on the territory to the north of the London region.
Extract from a publication of a (well known) London historian Peter Ackroyd.
"It is believed that the Romans founded their new settlement in the valley between the the two hills of Cornhill and Ludgate - a valley where the River Walbrook created a natural division between the two, and where the previous Iron Age settlement had once stood. However, if there was indeed an original Iron Age site - its archaeological content would have been completely destroyed - virtually disappearing under tons of Roman cement, and the foundations of the much later London buildings".
I agree that evidence of Iron Age activity in the area is very thin and scattered prior to the Roman town, but who knows, perhaps one day when some of the old buildings of London are being refurbished / renovated they might find some concrete evidence of some former Iron Age settlements. NEWSFLASH. Recent excavations of the London Olympics Park site in Hackney have revealed evidence of an Iron Age settlement. To find out more - click on this link to view the article: http://www.contractjournal.com/Articles/2009/03/05/65473/4000-year-old-axe-among-olympic-archaeology-finds-photos.html
The Stanway excavations & the doctor burial.
During the 1990’s an Iron Age cemetery site for the Trinovantes elite was discovered 3 miles southwest from Colchester at Stanway near Gosbecks. Excavations showed that the cemetery was in use right up to the Boudican revolt.
Archaeologists found the remains of several wooden chambers/tombs which were placed within large rectangular-shaped enclosures; these were accompanied by secondary burials, perhaps the graves of noble princes who were members/relatives of king Cunobelin’s royal family. It appears that the occupants of the graves entourage of close relatives and retainers had joined their masters in death.
Most burials contained a wealth of high-status objects which experts were able to date, which also gave significant clues as to the identities of the royal grave occupants. The vast majority of them seem to post date the Roman conquest, they include a warrior buried with his sword and shield, a man of great learning - determined by his inkpot, and a doctor who was interred with a collection of surgical instruments together with a strange looking set of rods and rings as well as a gaming board with glass counters.
Dating of the grave contents indicates that these Britons had lived during the time of Claudius’ invasion of Britain. So whilst Togodumnus and his brother Caratacus were fighting the Romans to the west – these members of the royal family decided to remain in Camulodunun and “rough it out” under the rule of their Roman oppressors – which wouldn’t have been too much of a hardship for them - as they were already well educated and Romanised to the extent that they played Roman board games and could also read and write in Latin quite fluently.
Gosbecks and Gryme's Dyke Colchester:
Gosbecks the Archaeological Park, on the south-western fringe of the town, is the original site and former seat of the Trinovantes (& Catuvellaunian) royal household and its most famous king Cunobelin (Cymbelin), Rex Britannorum, king of Britain. Following the Roman invasion the native centre at Gosbecks flourished despite being closely watched over by a Roman fort that housed a garrison of 500 soldiers. Nearby stood the Roman amphitheatre - the largest of the five theatres built in Britain which could seat up to 5,000 people. The finest bronze statue from Roman Britain known as the ‘Colchester Mercury’ was found during excavations of a nearby Romano-Celtic temple complex site. The Gosbecks site is now a preservation area and open to the general public.
Gryme’s Dyke: parts of the Iron Age bank and ditch system still survive to this day and can be found to the western side of the town. This is all that remains of the original giant earthworks that defended the ancient Trinovantes settlement of Camulodunun.
This bank and ditch formed part of the defences of Camulodunum, the pre-Roman Colchester, and the capital of the joint Kingdom of the Trinovantes and Catuvellauni tribes and their ruler Cunobelin. Camulodunum covered some twelve square miles and was bounded on the north, south and east by the Roman River and the River Colne. The Lexden earthworks form a section of the great system of defences which made up the western boundary between the rivers. They are thought to have been constructed early in the first century AD. The Romans invaded Camulodunum in 43 AD and later made it their first capital city in England. The Saxons thought the banks and ditches were the work of the devil, which is why they named the outermost rampart Gryme’s Dyke, still the most impressive of these rare Iron Age survivals today. (Source: English Heritage Public Information Board)
Clare Iron Age earthworks of
Erbury or Clare Camp
All around you are large banks and deep ditches forming a D-shaped enclosure that is over a thousand years old. The Anglo-Saxons named this defensive enclosure Erbury meaning ‘the earthen fort’. We are not sure if they built it, or if it already existed from an earlier time. It may be the work of Iron Age people two thousand years ago. We do know that in the 1040’s Clare belonged to a nobleman called Ǽlfric son of Wihtgar. He administered the whole of west Suffolk on behalf of Queen Emma wife of King Ǽthelred the Unready, and Erbury may well have been his base. (Source: English Heritage & St Edmundsbury Public Information Board)
On the Common Pasture can be seen the ramparts of an Iron Age fort. Skirting the fort on the North and the West, is a medieval track, perhaps a drovers’ way, along which sheep were driven. Within the fort to the South West, faint surface markings show where the Norman (and perhaps Saxon) manor house used to stand. Also on the site are the remains of three quarry pits which were dug by the Normans to extract flint for the castle and church buildings. (Source: English Heritage & St Edmundsbury Public Information Board)
© Sheshen Eceni 2013
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