Flint tools have been
found all over Worcester, but there is little other evidence from
the city area until later prehistory. The many flints from Gorse
Hill and from the level gravel terraces of St Johns, dating from
the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age, show that these areas
were at least regularly visited by prehistoric people, and they
probably had settlements there, though these have not been found.
Whittington Tump dominates the approach
to the city from the south-east and the M5. Archaeologists disagree
as to whether the tump (also known as Crookbarrow Hill) is natural
or artificial - perhaps a massive burial mound. What is certain,
however, is that it has been a focus of attention for thousands
of years. The site has never been excavated, but prehistoric flints
and Roman coins have been found there.
A burial mound was excavated in north Worcester
in the mid-19th century. The ‘Perdiswell Barrow’ was probably originally
Neolithic or Bronze Age (a Neolithic arrowhead was found here) but
the best known find from the site (though not necessarily from the
barrow) was part of a torc or neck collar of Iron Age date. Torcs
are usually associated with high-status individuals, and this was
a very rare find, made of iron and bronze.
It seems that the Roman town was sited in
a place which was already settled. Remains of banks and ditches,
probably dating to the late Iron Age, have been found on development
sites close to the Cathedral, and it is thought that there was a
defended enclosure or fort here covering c. 8 hectares (20 acres).
Pottery and boiling stones were also found in this area, indicating
occupation, while a horse- burial found underneath the present day
Crowngate centre has been radiocarbon dated to the period 150 B.C.
- A.D. 43. Across the country, many of these Iron Age defended sites
later developed into Roman towns.
This community would have lived within the
territory of the Dobunni, whose northern border lies along this
stretch of the river Severn, and would no doubt have been subject
to one of the much larger Iron Age communities living in the Malvern
hill-forts, or around Bredon Hill to the south (opposite the junction
between the M5 and the M50).
The Iron Age inhabitants would have made
good use of the river for transport of people, goods and materials.
However, perhaps more important for the siting of the settlement
would have been the location of a ford - the River Severn was tidal
past Worcester until the building of locks in the 1840s, and could
easily be crossed at low water.