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Creating Society and Constructing the Past

Social Change in the Thames Valley from the Late Bronze Age to the Middle Iron Age

Alex Davies
Publication Year:
293 pages, Illustrated throughout in colour and black and white. 35 tables, 151 figures (46 in colour), 76 graphs and 18 colour maps. With additional material online (appendices)
BAR number:


This book gives a new account of society and social change in the upper and middle Thames Valley from the Late Bronze Age to Middle Iron Age, 1150-100 BC. A model is developed from social anthropological case studies setting out expectations on how societies are structured based on certain material manifestations. Patterns are found within the wide range of types of evidence that are integrated and synthesised. This includes settlements, house forms, metalwork, pottery, human and animal remains, monuments, landscape boundaries and special deposits. The main interpretation offered is that Late Bronze Age societies were fluid and unstructured by either social status differences or lineage identities, whereas Early Iron Age communities were more concerned with ancestral genealogy and inter-generational inheritance. By the Middle Iron Age, communal aspects of ritual practice and material practice were largely replaced by local and household concerns in which smaller groups displayed increasing autonomy from each other.

Alex Davies completed his PhD at Cardiff University. He is interested in all aspects of the Bronze Age and Iron Age of northern and western Europe, in particular, how the combination of different types of evidence can reveal the composition of society and identity, and the use of ethnography in the interpretation of prehistory. Another research focus for him is the social and material change in the Bronze Age/Iron Age transition.

‘(T)his book presents a new and stimulating way to consider archaeological evidence, and a thesis against which further data can and should be tested.’ Tim Allen, Oxoniensia, Volume 85, 2020

‘(T)his is an impressive attempt to deal with the huge quantities of data arising from developer-led work in the Thames Valley, and assimilating many different strands of evidence into a coherent theory. Similarly, his ideas are thought provoking and may indeed hold merit for understanding the different social systems in play during this time.’ Andy Valdez-Tullet, Archaeological Journal 176 (2), 2019

‘In this exciting volume, Alex Davies demonstrates the value of looking beyond a single period to investigate change and continuity over a thousand years or so in the Thames Valley.’ Edward Biddulph, Current Archaeology 346, January 2019

‘A highly original and exciting approach, which opens up a new understanding of social relations in later prehistory. … Makes a huge contribution to our understanding of land use and society in British prehistory.’ Prof. Mike Parker Pearson, The UCL Institute of Archaeology

‘This is an exciting and welcome new study. … An original contribution, well situated in good data with fresh ideas and a new critical insight.’ Dr Jodie Lewis, University of Worcester

‘Very few surveys have been so comprehensively analysed and this will become a benchmark for future work on later prehistory. … It has the potential to be a major contribution with very great significance.’ Prof. Niall Sharples, Cardiff University

Table of Contents (B637_9781407316062_ToC.pdf, 146 Kb) [Download]

Introduction (B637_9781407316062_Introduction.pdf, 354 Kb) [Download]