Britain in the year AD 1

At the start of the first millennium AD, in the years just before the Roman conquest, many parts of Britain were undergoing important changes. In south-eastern England people began to cremate the dead and bury them in graves, as can be seen at Aylesford and Welwyn Garden City, and styles in eating, dress and appearance also changed. The inhabitants of this area adopted a lifestyle very similar to that of the people in neighbouring parts of France.

By AD 1, south-eastern England was ruled by powerful kings who had close contacts with the Roman Empire. Kings such as Tincommius (Tincomarus), Tasciovanus and Cunobelinus are known from their coins - the first coins had been in use in this part of Britain from about 150 BC or earlier. The kings ruled from royal centres such as St Albans, Colchester, Chichester and Silchester.

However, these changes in lifestyle did not take place in other parts of Britain. The Iceni in Norfolk and parts of Suffolk had very different way of life to the people of south-eastern England. They did not adopt the new ways of eating, nor did they bury their dead. Instead, important people invested their wealth in fine metal chariot harnesses and in torcs. This area is known for its hoards of torcs, such as those found at Snettisham and Ipswich, whereas torcs are rare in other parts of the country.

The contrast between the Iceni and the peoples of south-eastern England mirrors similar differences between other peoples and tribes throughout Britain at this time. Many fine decorated metal objects are found in some areas and distinctive and showy jewellery such as torcs or massive armlets were worn, but these are rare in other parts of Britain. In some areas people lived in villages, in others they lived in small isolated farms or even, in the north of Scotland, large stone towers called 'brochs'.

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