Pre-history gives way to the Romans
The Iron Age (800 BC to AD43) saw the introduction of working
with iron, a stronger and more durable material than the copper
alloys used in the preceding Bronze Age. During the later
Bronze Age and Iron Age, the Fens east of Peterborough continued to
grow wetter. Reed swamps gradually enveloped the old burial
mounds perched on the fen edge and small fen islands, and
eventually the Flag Fen timber platform was submerged. The layers
of peat, clay and silt laid down in wet conditions protected these
remains, hiding them from view until modern times.
Iron Age people worked the landscape more
intensively than their predecessors; their ploughs could cope with
heavier soils and their settlements were larger and more numerous.
Around Peterborough were clusters of timber-built, thatched, round
dwellings surrounded by small fields or paddocks. Such 'open'
settlements used mixed farming methods, relying heavily on
livestock such as cows and sheep. However, discarded animal bones
found at an Iron Age settlement site in the Fengate area in the
1970s showed that wild animals such as deer and otter, and wildfowl
including swan, pelican, crane and stork, were caught in the
Late Iron Age Britain was divided into distinct tribal areas or
kingdoms. Peterborough lay between the Catuvellauni to the south
and the Corieltauvi to the north, with the Iceni to the east. After
their arrival on the south coast in AD43, the Roman army pushed
Southern tribes such as the Catuvellauni and Iceni
generally adapted more readily to Roman rule than those of the
north. In AD60, however, when Rome attempted to exert greater
control over their 'client kingdom', the Iceni revolted. Led by
Boudicca, the Iceni and other tribes 'had no thought of taking
prisoners or selling them as slaves but only of slaughter, the
gibbet, fire and cross.'
The main north-south route of eastern Roman Britain, Ermine
Street, ran through the Peterborough area. Another major Roman
route, the Fen Causeway - actually a system of roads, causeways and
canals - ran across the fens from Norfolk. A fort was built to
guard Ermine Street's crossing of the Nene at Water Newton, and a
larger fort was constructed at Longthorpe. It is possible that it
was from the Longthorpe fort that the ill- fated Ninth Legion set
out to relieve Boudiccas siege of Colchester. Tacitus, the Roman
historian, describes their infamous defeat and the survivors' hasty
retreat to the safety of their fortification.